A Short Political History of Slingshots From Palestine to Kashmir

Published

Slingshots are one of this issue’s key objects dedicated to self-defense. From Palestine to Hong Kong and from Kashmir to Greece, they can be deemed as the weapon of the weak as Meriam Soltan attempts to demonstrate in this text along with an artwork drawn by Azza Ezzat to illustrate it.

Article published in The Funambulist 25 (September-October 2019) Self-Defense. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

Slingshots and stone-throwing have risen to the forefront of organized dissent in Palestine and Kashmir as tools capable of creating both authority and autonomy for protesters seeking to exist beyond the dynamics of occupation. They are key to understanding what it means to protest in some of the world’s most heavily militarized regions, and how resistance exists in environments where the very history of the land is weaponized against its people. Emblematic of resistance, the slingshot can offer insight into how the narratives it performs can impart protesters with the agency necessary to reject present injustice.

Long since weaponized to drive and justify the violence of settler-colonial worldbuilding, narrative has become a means through which the realities of entire regions have been actively rewritten and reformulated. In its particularly powerful political dimension, narrative is capable of bolstering military agendas to become more than they could have otherwise ever been. While brute force can conquer land, it is the support of narratives (and the ideologies they justify) that secures lasting control. Palestinians, in the face of crushingly disproportionate odds, have been able to sustain their struggle thus far through a similar commitment to narrative-driven politics. It is through the appropriation of one of Zionism’s most essential narratives, that of an Israeli David against an Arab Goliath, that Palestinians are able to stand their ground against systematically institutionalized violence. With the original justification for a Jewish State occurring through colonial narratives seeking to offset European responsibility for Jewish persecution in World War II, this narrative helped further consolidate international support for the occupation during the 1967 Six-Day War by weaving together a contemporary allegory of the intrinsically good settlers against the reigning evil of their Arab context.

With narratives of biblical proportions justifying the violence of the Zionist regime, it was not until decades later, in December 1987, that Palestinians were able to begin collectively challenging the global perception of the Zionist State through their own transformation of this very narrative, or rather, their performance of it. What would it mean to wield the very earth that has been so crucial to the fabrication of a Zionist State, a symbol of the dispossessed, as a weapon of the resistance? It was during this First Intifada that intermittent cases of stone-throwing gave way to a massive wave of protesters armed with slingshots against the insurmountable might of the Israeli army. So massively outgunned is the Palestinian resistance that the inevitability of defeat could only ever be actively challenged by a symbolism uniquely contextual to stone-throwing. Protesters, youth with arms stretched backwards, rocks held firmly in hand, gained unprecedented international media attention as they faced off with heavily armed soldiers retaliating with violently disproportionate force. While bringing stones to a gunfight is generally viewed as a nonlethal means of retaliation, the tactic was immediately criminalized by the Israeli government, and violators, many of whom are minors, faced up to 20 years in prison.