Noam Sheizaf writes: The New York Times on Sunday published one of its most out-of-context items from the West Bank in recent years – and it has published many of them. The piece consists of a study of “the culture of stone-throwing,” which apparently has become part of Palestinian life, in the same way that Friday dinners are part of Jewish life or Sunday walks in Central Park are part of New York life.
The head of the paper’s Jerusalem bureau, Jodi Rudoren (who has written decent pieces in the past), traveled to the village of Beit Ommar (north of Hebron), where soldiers and settlers are being repeatedly attacked by stones for some unknown reason. In an effort to unveil the mystery, she meets a local settler who explains how bad things have gotten. “It’s crazy: I’m going to get pizza, and I’m driving through a war zone,” she is quoted as saying. On Thursday, some settlers were forced to shoot the natives on this very same road. How unpleasant!
After talking to some locals, the author manages to get to the heart of the matter:
The youths, and their parents, say they are provoked by the situation: soldiers stationed at the village entrance, settlers tending trees beyond. They throw because there is little else to do in Beit Ommar — no pool or cinema, no music lessons after school, no part-time jobs other than peddling produce along the road. They do it because their brothers and fathers did.
This pseudo-anthropological investigation into the character and customs of the natives goes on with hardly any reference to the political realities, except for a brief mention of a Palestinian claim that nearby settlements took one-third of the village’s land (note this same subjective tone in the quote above). The word occupation doesn’t appear in the piece (a quote from a Palestinian – “they occupy us” – is as far as it gets), nor does “resistance.” Stone throwing, the author explains, is aimed against “Israel” as a whole.
“Children have hobbies, and my hobby is throwing stones,” a Palestinian teen is quoted as saying in a statement that Rudoren takes at face value. Apparently, confronting the Middle East’s strongest army, getting arrested and occasionally being shot to death is a local Arab tradition, formed in the desert due to a shortage in swimming pools and piano lessons, and then passed on from father to son. [Continue reading…]