Shanti Sena Stories: Discussion of being stoned
2006 August 2
(I wrote the https://www.metapeaceteam.org/post/shanti-sena-stories-thoughts-on-being-stoned2006-january-6 reflection about April. In late July, the Hebron team decided to discuss the issue.
This is a brief record of what I recall.)
We agreed, with suggestions from several teammates, to structure our discussion in three stages: first, sharing our own feelings about being stoned; second, brainstorming on issues around stoning; third, completing the sentence, “If I were with you and we were about to be stoned, I would want…”
Our own feelings about being stoned:
Teammate A said, “My first stonings, in 2002, seemed playful. Settler girls threw water on us. Soldiers chased settler boys, who were laughing. The boys, and the stones they threw, seemed smaller… My recent stonings, in 2006, seemed more dangerous. No soldiers were present. The boys, and their stones, seemed larger. They threw harder, not playfully. I felt fear, chaos, confusion, doubt. We seemed disorganized, purposeless, ineffective…”
Teammate B said, “It’s very simple for me. I simply refuse to be intimidated. Nothing else matters. Yes, I feel fear. But I refuse to be ruled by fear. I do not hesitate when I see stones about to fly.”
Teammate C said, “I like B’s approach… I also feel it is essential to the Palestinians for us to prevent a total settler takeover of the streets. The Palestinians can not challenge the settlers, so if we don’t, they have no hope… As a girl, I was always protected by my four brothers. Now I feel protected by the CPT men. They take the brunt of the stones.”
Teammate D said, “I have not yet, in my eight months here, been stoned. But I fear it. I really need this discussion.”
Teammate E said, “I think about being stoned a lot. My approach has always been to think it through completely, to always be clear within myself about what I’m doing… But last week, I don’t know what happened after that really large stone hit my head. The visitor with me told me what happened, but I have no memory of it.”
Teammate F said, “I have a very clear, strong, deep sense that vulnerability and risk and suffering always work, though usually in unexpected ways. We never know all the effects of our suffering…”
Next, we began the brainstorming stage:
“Are we hoping to reach a clear policy tonight?”
“No, just to begin an on-going discussion and process.”
What about police force?
“I suggest force is not intrinsic to police work. My cousin was a bobby in England. His entire ‘force’ had no weapons whatsoever.”
“If we call on the police, we only want the settler boys to be accountable.”
(I wonder now, if settler culture is in fact lawless, and if Gandhi is right about states that do not ‘put down’ criminal disobedience, would we in fact be doing the settlers a favor?)
What about appealing to soldiers for protection from settlers?
“Is a soldier scolding, or chasing, settler boys acting as a soldier, or as a policeman?”
What about the difficulties of photographing settler boys while they are stoning us?
“I am training myself, in At-Tuwani at least, to carry a video camera around like part of my hand, with everything turned on except the record button. Video cameras are more versatile than still digital cameras. I can video with the camera at my waist, where it is not obvious, and without it blocking my vision (eg, of incoming stones). I can film instantaneously and continuously… It is much more useful.”
Are there other strategies?
“Sometimes I like to sit down and sketch in my sketchbook, even in vulnerable places. It helps to calm me, to get me in touch with my internal voice, my internal self.”
What about carrying a handout in Hebrew explaining our intentions?
“We might work on that with the rabbi of the local yeshiva.”
What about leading visitors into potential stoning without first discussing benefits and risks?
“No, we need to avoid that.”
“It is most important to refuse to be intimidated. I am slow and stubborn. Being slow is good…”
“The simplicity of this refusal to be intimidated appeals to me… And I was very drawn to what our visitor Brendan did when one of us was momentarily immobilized – turning to face the assailant, making eye contact, treating him as a human, refusing to dehumanize him… But I also want to be detached so I can take photos.”
How should we decide when, and when not, to risk stoning?
“Our decisions are never perfect… I always discover a better idea about 20 minutes after finishing every action.”
Many other comments were shared. Unfortunately, these are all I remember.
Finally, we began completing the sentence, “If I were with you and we were about to be stoned, I would want …”
Teammate F said, “I assume we are fully committed to nonviolence… I would want you to keep moving.”
Teammate C said, “I would want you to stay with me.”
Teammate B said, “I would want to know you well.”
Teammate D said, “I would want you to stay with me.”
Teammate A said, “I want time for questions or discussion, mine or yours, before the stones, so we are on the same page.”
I don’t recall teammate E’s response, for which I apologize.