Last Sunday’s New York Times article on the culture of rock throwing among Arab youth in the West Bank is a political Rorschach test. Some readers felt the nonjudgmental tone of the article seemed to condone rock-throwing as a legitimate act of rebellion at an occupying army. “I cannot fathom how and why The New York Times can describe the stoning of people on the roads as a ‘rite of passage,’” wrote David Bedein, director of the Israel Resource News Agency.
Others felt the article did not go far enough in blaming Israel for the consequences of its actions. “This pseudo-anthropological investigation into the character and customs of the natives goes on with hardly any reference to the political realities” of occupation and resistance, writes Noam Sheizaf of the far-left Israeli web magazine +972.
In truth, Times reporter Jodi Rudoren chose to present the attitudes of the Palestinian subjects with little analysis or context — an abdication of the journalist’s role. “Rudoren simultaneously exalts and minimizes Palestinian violence (an impressive journalistic feat), romanticizing a culture that encourages violent and dangerous behavior by children,” writes Micah Stein, in the Liberal Zionist blog Open Zion.
And yet, writes Stein, Rudoren hit on a “kernel of truth”: “The intellectual and ideological core of the Palestinian resistance movement is hollow.… No matter that the practice is aimless and misguided in reality, a self-destructive habit and mindset passed down from father to son. In Beit Ommar, it remains a ‘rite of passage and an honored act of defiance.’ And that is precisely the problem.”
The article was thus useful to furthering the understanding of the troubled dynamic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It showed a Palestinian population rejecting the principles of nonviolent resistance, and parents urging their children to break the law rather than work constructively for peace. It’s a dynamic that must be changed before one can imagine a credible solution.