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A Stone Against a Tank, a Tank Against a Child

Published by Foreign Affairs Bulletin by IDSA on

Faris Odeh, a 13-year-old Palestinian shown in the picture above, is seen throwing a stone at an Israeli tank.

A few days after the photo was taken, Faris was shot to death by Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian struggle and suffering continues.

A stone against a tank. A tank against a child.

On July 20th, 2015 the Knesset passed a bill that allows people, regardless of age, to be sentenced to 20 years of prison for throwing stones, if the intent to damage the car or harm its occupants can be proven. The same bill permits punishments for stone-throwers up to 10 years in prison without having to prove intent. In other words, regardless of your actions, you will simply be punished, or perhaps killed.

Stone-throwing is recognized as a longstanding icon of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s oppression, and symbolizes the famous Palestinian phrase – samidun – a deep meaning that is embedded in every Palestinian, assuring the enemy that they are steadfast, regardless of their military power.

“Today justice has been done. For years terrorists have been evading punishment and responsibility. The tolerance shown to terrorists ends today. A stone-thrower is a terrorist, and only a proper punishment can be a deterrent,” Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party said in response to the law’s passage, according to Haaretz.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime minister of Israel responded to the passing of the bill, saying “ it is part of a series of steps that the cabinet adopted as part of the fight against terrorism. There will be additional steps.”

A stone-thrower is a terrorist.

Israel is the first country in the world to tie terrorism with stone-throwing. Let’s define terrorism, before proceeding with a fantasizer. There is no universal agreement on the definition of terrorism. The importance of a unified terminology here should be necessary for a single comprehensive convention on terrorism. Terrorism has become a political label that allows “…to place enemies beyond the pale as opposed to a technical term, the purpose of which is to define certain criminal acts that violate the laws of war and for which the perpetrators can be held accountable.” Mouin Rabbani, Dutch-Palestinian Middle East analyst specializing in the Arab-Israeli conflict and Palestinian affairs.

Rabbani also stated that it has reached a point where Palestinians and Arabs in the Middle East, those of whom are participating in armed activities that aim to defend themselves, are labeled as terrorists. On the other hand, armed Israelis that specifically aim at harming and killing Palestinians are recognized as a “legitimate act of self-defense”.

The fall through for the United Nations not being able to make a distinction between terrorists and freedom fighters lead to people like Yelet Shaked and Benjamin ​Netanyahu ​having the power to​ misuse the word “terrorism”. Not having an agreed upon definition, “terrorism” has become the crux of the matter to meaningful international countermeasures. It has blemished the face of Palestinians to the world.

There have been some discussions on whether there is a possibility to have an existing or at least a partial, customary definition of terrorism. Therefore, the United Nations (Interlocutory Decision, 2011, para. 85) stated that t​here are three key elements to consider:​

  1. The perpetration of a criminal act (such as murder, kidnapping, hostage-taking, arson, and so on), or threatening such an act;

  2. The intent to spread fear among the population (which would generally entail the creation of public danger) or directly or indirectly coerce a national or international authority to take some action, or to refrain from taking it;

  3. When the act involves a transnational element.

Despite this being said, a stone thrower is considered a terrorist in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What should the Palestinians do when they observe Israel’s army entering Palestinian territories with tanks, demolishing homes, killing people, and building illegal settlements- which are flagrant violations of the international law according to the Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 recalls reports of the UN Secretary-General.

Enaam Udah is the mother who lost her 13-year-old boy Faris. She said: “We don’t send our sons to an easy death…but if this is fated by God, then I cannot change that.”

Faris is just one kid of many who lost his life by throwing a stone to reject the injustice, discrimination, oppression, apartheid, and physical and mental violence that the Palestinian people face on daily basis.

One should remember, one state’s terrorist is another state’s freedom fighter

— Serene Abdinnour is an Associate Editor at the FA Bulletin —