A generation of Palestinians has grappled with it but has yet to come close to a definitive answer.
Nebi Saleh, December 21 – Some of the Palestinian people’s greatest thinkers gathered today to discuss whether an object such as a rock, brick, or firebomb hurled at Jews can truly be said to have been thrown if no video or photographic equipment was available to capture the event.
Theoretical physicists, quantum mechanics experts, philosophers, and other people of letters assembled in this hamlet today, the site of frequent clashes between residents and IDF soldiers, to debate the existential question. A generation of Palestinians has grappled with it, explained one participant, but has yet to come close to a definitive answer.
“The initial stirrings of this inquiry began with the First Intifada,” in 1987, recalled Hassan Berj, a quantum physicist. “Back then, folks conducted it mostly as a thought experiment, since the very notion of attacking Jews when no cameras were around to film the reaction was absurd. But through the years, there have been occasional instances in which it could have happened, given the uncertainties of battery power, camera angles, and visibility issues. So there is some practical value to the exploration. I feel like we’ve made little progress, unfortunately.”
Early attempts to resolve the paradox followed parallel ancient phenomena such as misconstrued Zen Buddhist koans that invite meditation over the sound of one hand clapping, or the age-old question of whether a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it makes any sound. But three decades of coming no closer to resolution has the thinkers wondering whether to alter their approach, noted philosopher Saeb Erekat.
“Some have argued that we could construct an experiment without cameras or other such equipment in the vicinity,” he explained. “But that opens up a host of ethical issues, and makes everyone uncomfortable. How can we justify, for example, expending all this effort and time on something not directly related to resisting Occupation? Few, if any, Palestinians would be swayed by attempts to explain how this could benefit them or the Palestinian cause.”
“At best, we could get grant money from some European agency or foundation to study the question,” he continued, “and siphon the money towards terrorism and personal enrichment, but we don’t need to go through the pretense of scientific inquiry to get money from those bodies. They’re happy to do direct funding of terrorism and anti-Israel agitation, so going through the whole application process and developing an experimental protocol would just waste everyone’s time.”
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