Saturday, November 14, 2009

Merciful Goliath

Over at even yet another blag there's a post with a picture showing Palestinians slinging rocks at Israeli soldiers. The title is, "David and Goliath, 21st century edition." I thought that picture was interesting, and I looked into it further. I was unable to find any reports that Israelis had killed those Palestinians. Why would they kill them? In most cases, soldiers respond with deadly force when attacked by deadly force. But the Israelis do not.

The sling is an ancient weapon, and was an instrument of warfare for centuries. Slingers, particularly from the Balearic Islands, were valued auxiliaries to the Roman legions. Slinging stones at an enemy is similar to hurling javelins or firing arrows. It is a missile weapon meant to kill and wound.

a missile leaving a sling could easily attain a velocity of 100 km/h, or about 28 m/sec. Vegetius wrote that sling missiles were more effective than arrows against soldiers clothes in leather, since they did not need to penetrate the leather in order to cause bruises. Should the soldier wear no protective clothing, the missile would penetrate the body easily up to a range of about 100 meters.
The fact that it is an old, primitive weapon, does not lessen its lethal possibilities when used today. The Israelis would be justified in killing Palestinian slingers out of self-defense. But they do not. Instead they respond with non-lethal weapons such as noxious gas, and accept the risk of damage and death from slung rocks. This is yet another of the many examples of Israel putting its own soldiers at risk, in order to minimize casualties among its enemies.

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