The weapons used by Palestinian terrorists against Jews are well known: suicide bombs, like the one that killed my daughter Alisa in 1995; knives, like the ones used to slaughter the Fogel family in Itamar two years ago; rifles, like the one used in the sniper shooting of the infant Shalhevet Pass in Hebron in 2001. Sometimes we forget that there is another terrorist weapon that can be lethal: the rock. This week, there were two reminders of that tragic fact.
One of the terrorists released by the Israeli government this week was Taktuk Ibrahim, who was serving a sentence of life imprisonment for his participation in the murder of a 24 year-old reserve soldier, Binyamin Meisner. In February 1989, Ibrahim and several fellow terrorists lured Meisner into an ally in Nablus, where they ambushed him and stoned him to death. Binyamin and his family had immigrated to Israel from Argentina. They lived in the town of Kiryat Tivon, where Binyamin was the star of the local water polo team.
By coincidence, on the same day that Meisner’s killer went free, an Israeli military court convicted one of the participants in the 2011 murder-by-stoning of Asher Palmer and his 11-month-old son, Yonatan. Ali Sa’ada and his friend Waal al-Arjeh, a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces, carried out the attack in September 2011. Three fellow terrorists helped with the planning. They decided to throw rocks from a moving car at an Israeli car traveling in the opposite direction, because the combined speed of the vehicles would significantly increase the damage they could do.
Their target, Asher Palmer, an American citizen, was driving on Highway 60, not far from his home in Kiryat Arba. Yonatan was strapped in a baby seat in the back. They were on their way to meet Asher’s pregnant wife when the terrorists struck. The rocks smashed through the front windshield, hitting Asher directly in the head and causing the car to crash, killing both father and son. A Palestinian passerby, Shehada Shatat, witnessed the attack. Instead of calling for medical assistance, he stole Asher’s wallet and gun, and fled the scene.
At least 11 other Israelis have been murdered by Palestinian rock-throwers. In 1983, Esther Ohana, 20, was on her way to her wedding rehearsal when the car in which she was riding was attacked by rocks, near Hebron. One struck Esther in the head, killing her. In 1990, a 4-year-old Arab boy was killed when he was hit in the head by a rock thrown by Palestinians who mistakenly thought the car in which he was riding was an Israeli auto. Eleven year-old Chava Wechsberg was a passenger in car traveling in the Gush Etzion region in 1993, when Arab rock-throwers attacked, causing the car to crash; Chava was killed.
Many other Israelis have suffered severe injuries from Palestinian rocks. In fact, not long before Binyamin Meisner was stoned to death in that Nablus alley, another young soldier, 20 year-old Dan Cohen, was permanently paralyzed after being struck in the head and neck by rock-throwers on the very same street.
Most Americans have no trouble recognizing the lethal danger of rock-throwing. Recall the case of three drunken teenagers who threw rocks at cars on the Capital Beltway in Washington, D.C., in 1990. Thirty drivers or passengers were wounded, including a girl who suffered irreversible brain damage. The attackers were convicted of “assault with intent to murder” and each sentenced to 40 years in prison. An editorial in the Washington Post at the time correctly asked, “What’s the difference between assault with a deadly weapon—a shooting—and assault with rocks that hit cars at potentially lethal speeds?”
There is no difference, of course, to any reasonable person. But there’s a very big difference to New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman and some of his colleagues. In an April 2012 column, Friedman endorsed what he called “nonviolent resistance by Palestinians”—and then listed boycotts, hunger strikes, and rock-throwing as examples of such “resistance.”
A New York Times Sunday magazine cover story in March 2013 glorified the Arab village of Nabi Saleh as a center of “unarmed resistance.” Amidst his cheerleading for brave young Arab “demonstrators” confronting cruel Israeli soldiers, author Ben Ehrenreich mentioned, in passing that “unarmed” activity includes throwing rocks or, as he put it, “throwing stones while dodging tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets.” The Times’s bureau chief in Israel, Jodi Rudoren, followed in August with a page one story depicting a heroic Arab teenager who seemingly has no choice but to throw rocks at Israelis—it’s a “rite of passage,” according to Rudoren. Her article was headlined “‘My Hobby is Throwing Stones.’”
Rock-throwing is not non-violent. It’s not unarmed resistance. It’s not a “hobby,” a word which conjures up images of playing chess or collecting baseball cards. It’s attempted murder. This week’s release of Binyamin Meisner’s rock-throwing killer, and the conviction of one of the Palmers’ rock-throwing killers, is a grim reminder of that.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney who lives in New Jersey. His daughter, Alisa, was killed in a Palestinian suicide bombing in 1995.