Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi has been groomed from childhood by her anti-Israel activist parents, Bassam and Nariman, to violently provoke Israeli troops while being filmed. The purpose is to score propaganda points in the international media, targeting Israelis for opprobrium and creating celebrity for themselves, as well as to encourage other young Palestinians to follow her example of anti-Israeli violence.
Writing about a 2012 confrontation between Ahed and Israeli troops, CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal discussed the cynical exploitation of Ahed and other children put in harm’s way by their parents. She observed:
Rather than keeping their children at a safe distance from the often-violent clashes, the parents encouraged their children to play highly visible roles in the confrontation with the army…
…the Tamimi girls pulled off a photographic coup, as their parents had hoped. For this, they were rewarded with a meeting with Laila Ghannam, the Palestinian Authority’s Governor of Ramallah, and President Mahmoud Abbas, who congratulated them for their “bravery.”
But what if next time their parents send them out into a violent confrontation they are injured, or worse? This would be tragic — but think of the pictures and articles incriminating Israel in the next day’s paper.
Consider the most recent case of Ahed, now fully groomed at the age of 17 for dangerous confrontation, who has become a symbol to promote anti-Israel violence.
In December, Ahed was filmed by her mother, Nariman, as she slapped, kicked, shoved and shrieked at two armed Israeli soldiers who remained impassive throughout the attack. Her mother posted the video on her Facebook page, ending with Ahed’s filmed appeal for other Palestinians to physically assault Israelis for political reasons. She urged:
I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only way to achieve the result. Our strength is in our stones, and I hope that the world will unite to liberate Palestine, because [U.S. President] Trump made his declaration and they need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us, whether it is stabbings or martyrdom operations [suicide bombings] or throwing stones, everyone must do something and we unite in this way in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine.
Several days later, Ahed was apprehended by Israeli security officers and charged with aggravated assault against soldiers, public incitement to violence, and throwing rocks at soldiers and at passing cars. Her mother was later arrested and charged with assault and incitement, as well.
How has the story played out in the international media? Too many media outlets have abetted the actions of these radical activists by promoting their narrative and glorifying them, while minimizing or ignoring their public promotion of and participation in violence against Israelis. These journalists have played right into the Tamimis’ hands, providing them with the megaphone and publicity they seek to condemn Israel and market themselves as courageous heroes.
The offending media accounts seem to follow a template that echoes that of the Tamimis:
1) Present Ahed as a glamorous heroine against a powerful military.
Do not cite, quote or show Ahed’s public call to violence and if mentioning it at all, present it only as an Israeli allegation or charge.
2) Emphasize Ahed’s youth and place her among 350 Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons, presenting her trial as an example of Israel’s heavy-handed approach to relatively harmless Palestinian children.
Do not mention why these youth are detained and do not refer to their engagement in throwing rocks, molotov cocktails and other violence. Above all, avoid indicating that their actions or similar ones, including stone throwing, have killed or wounded Israeli men, women and children.
3) Minimize Palestinian violence in general, and Ahed’s in particular.
Do not refer to any terror attacks or murders by Palestinians, making sure to present their activities as a relatively harmless form of protest against Israeli occupation. Refer to Ahed’s aggression as an Israeli charge and/or cite her justification for the filmed assault.
4) Devote plenty of space to directly quoting or paraphrasing the Tamimis and their supporters. Present them as a family of determined and reasonable activists trying to resist Israeli occupation. Portray them as innocent victims of harsh punitive measures by Israel.
Do not cite or quote any of their incendiary anti-Israel libels, encouragement of and involvement in violence. Do not refer to Bassem and his clan’s anti-Israel propaganda campaign, which includes running a ‘news agency’ called ‘Tamimi Press’ that films and disseminates images and clips of the weekly riots organized by him in Nabi Selah. Do not challenge his recruitment and use of children as child warriors in his violent propaganda campaign. And do not mention that Bassem’s activities include indoctrinating 3rd graders in the U.S. to join Palestinian “freedom fighters.” Make no reference to the Tamimis’ advocacy for terrorism, by their relatives or otherwise.
5) Discredit Israel’s perspective as a “right-wing” or “radical” view that seeks to punish Ahed for humiliating Israel’s military and/or creating bad publicity for them.
Do not cite or legitimize the actual concern by mainstream Israelis about Ahed’s public aggression and incitement possibly resulting in more Israeli murders, as similar incitement has done in the past.
6) And don’t forget to romanticize Ahed’s hairdo.
This type of shoddy journalism favors sensationalism and emotion over truth and objectivity, with articles that omit essential, if inconvenient, facts and provides the radical Tamimis with the megaphone they seek. Below are several examples:
El Pais, the largest and most influential newspaper in the Spanish-speaking world, comes across as an avid advocate for Ahed, presenting her in several articles by correspondent Juan Carlos Sanz as a “symbol of resistance,” and “a small Pasionaria” (comparison to a Spanish Republican heroine during the Spanish Civil War), seen by her people as a “digital, native Joan of Arc.” She is referred to, in enthusiastic terms, as “the teenager with the red hair” who was “born for activism” and whose “defiance” reflects “the determination of a child raised in a family of activists.”
According to El Pais, Ahed’s crime lies in her recording “the abuses” of the Israeli military, described by the reporter as “the best armed force in the Middle East.” This emphasis on the military’s power extends to the addition of the adjective “heavily armed” when referring to “Israeli soldiers” as if there is any reason to emphasize that soldiers carry guns. Ahed’s father is cited to justify the girl’s assault, claiming that the reason Ahed lashed out was because she was “very affected” by the condition of her cousin, whose face was said to be “shattered” by a rubber bullet fired by Israeli soldiers.
Missing from the heroic portrayal of Ahed and her family is any mention of her public encouragement of violence. The fact that the violent outburst by Ahed, filmed and posted on Facebook, included the girl’s call for Palestinians to participate in violent attacks is concealed in the piece. Never does El Pais convey the threat posed to Israelis who are targeted by Palestinian assailants who heed the type of message Ahed sends.
Rather than convey the Israeli public’s legitimate apprehension about this threat, El Pais casts Israel’s opposition to Ahed’s actions as limited to right-wing “radicals” and those in “nationalist’ sectors who “defend at all cost the occupation of Palestinian territories.” Quoted, as a contrast, are the views of a leftist, Israeli poet who penned a poem championing and fawning over Ahed. His views are misleadingly suggested to represent the “other” – presumably less radical – “Israelis,” without any suggestion that the poet’s support for Ahed, a fringe perspective among Israelis, was widely denounced by mainstream Israelis across the political spectrum.
El Pais reflects the Tamimi’s narrative of themselves as heroic activists – “leaders of the movement that seeks the return” of Nabi Saleh land “snatched by settlers” – and as victims of Israel who jailed or arrested them. Their radical actions are concealed: There is no mention of Bassam’s incendiary blood libel (the anti-Semitic canard that Israel harvests the organs of Palestinians) posted on social media and condemned by the ADL, or of Nariman’s graphic map showing which organs to target when stabbing an Israeli soldier, posted on her Facebook page. Nor is there mention of her re-posted praise and glorification of the terrorist who brutally stabbed 13-year-old Hallel Ariel to death as she lay sleeping. There is no mention of the extended Tamimi family’s involvement in terror attacks against Israeli civilians, nothing about Uncle Nizar’s murder and burning of an Israeli civilian or Aunt Ahlam’s major role in the 2001 terrorist bombing attack of the Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria that killed 15 people, including 7 children, and wounded dozens more. There is nothing about how Ahed was raised with these relatives as role models, encouraged to emulate them.
While the El Pais journalist neglected to include these inconvenient details, he did not neglect Ahmed’s hair: He waxes eloquent about her head of “red” hair that “seems to emerge from a Botticelli canvas.”
Spain’s multimedia news agency and international wire service has abandoned any semblance of professional journalism in an article about Ahed Tamimi, the headline of which hails Ahed as “the teenager who turned into a symbol of Palestinian resistance.” If other media outlets have provided the Tamimis with a platform to level their allegations without probing or revealing any of their radical activities, EFE acts as a bullhorn for the Tamimis’ propaganda campaign, using the correspondents’ own language to amplify the Tamimi narrative.
Indeed, the piece comes across more as a hagiography than as a news report. It aggrandizes Ahed as a hero who “has given visibility to the situation of 330 Palestinian children imprisoned in Israeli jails.” It enumerates her supporters – “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” and “Irish artist Jim Fizpatrick,” as well as unnamed American “writers, artists and scholars, including Rosario Dawson or Angela Davis.” And in what seems like a vast overstatment, it claims she is compared on a “daily” basis to “Joan of Arc, Anne Frank and Nelson Mandela.”
Introducing Ahed as a teen with innocent pursuits – playing soccer, reading novels, preparing for college entrance exams, and seeking her mother’s company – the article glorifies her as someone who “displays a fortitude and seriousness out-of place in an adolescent who, in her spare time, plays soccer and choreographs dances to Rihanna’s songs with her cousin Jana.” Yet, the article relays, Ahed is victimized by the Israelis, whose concerns it relegates to sarcastic, scare quotes:
This young woman, deemed “too dangerous” for Israel to allow out until the end of her trial, does not know how much time she will spend in the Sharon prison, north of Tel Aviv, where she waits in a cell, along with other minors, for an Israeli military court to decide on the twelve charges brought against her.
The parents, as well, are portrayed in terms of how Israel has punished them:
Nariman, locked in the same center for five offenses…
Bassem, an activist and former prisoner of Israel, has not visited them because he can not get a permit to enter the country…
Nowhere in the article are Ahed and the Tamimis’ promotion of violence mentioned. Nor is there any reference to the family’s tie to terrorism. Instead their cause is conveyed by EFE reporters in language that could have been taken directly from Bassem’s self-promoting, propaganda script:
After the harsh experience of the second Intifada, Nabi Saleh [activists] joined the movement of “nonviolent resistance” in 2009, their protests peaking with demonstrations against the appropriation of a spring used by the residents of the village for generations, by the Jewish settlement of Halamish…
…Nabi Saleh became an icon, visited by activists and curious people from around the world who came to meet a family that is already part of the recent history of Palestine.
This script tells the story of a young Ahed facing a brutal Israeli military. As EFE recounts:
It is within this context that Ahed, then 9-years-old, comes face-to-face with the occupation: arrests, soldiers in the streets, water cannons with a nauseating odor, rocket grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets and even real ammunition of the sort that killed her 31-year-old Uncle Rushdi in 2012…
What about the deliberate placement of children like Ahed by their parents in the pathway of violence and danger? That is excused as a parental “decision” by the Tamimis to “help” their children “to process their reality.”
In an article that devotes so many words to justifying and glorifying Ahed and the Tamimis and amplifying their defamation of Israel, there is not a single Israeli quoted to give an alternate perspective, much less to hint at the violence encouraged by the Tamimis.
There is, however, plenty of room to extol Ahed’s “striking mane” of “long, blond hair.”
It is not only the Spanish-language media that plays directly into Tamimi’s hands. In multiple stories by various journalists about Ahed – at least a dozen reports online, radio and television within the past two months – the BBC has not strayed significantly from the pattern above. Many of the reports trivialize Ahed’s assault on Israeli soldiers and ignore her public call to violence. Others have included references to the incitement charge against Ahed but none have quoted Ahed’s message to Palestinians in its entirety or explained why it is seen by Israelis as incitement. For example, even in the most informative report, BBC correspondent Yolande Knell quoted only part of Ahed’s message, reinterpreting it to imply that she was not actually urging Palestinians to participate in violence, but rather blaming Trump for whatever consequences might ensue from his actions. Knell wrote:
At the end of the online video, Ahed calls for large demonstrations as “the only way to reach results”, but says US President Donald Trump must bear responsibility for any Palestinian violence, including [ed. also translated as “whether”] stabbings and suicide attacks.
Omitted from the BBC reporter’s telling is Ahed’s declaration to Palestinians that “our strength is in our stones” and, even more tellingly, the full message following Ahed’s blaming Trump for any Palestinian response: “whether stabbings or martyrdom operations [suicide bombings] or throwing stones, everyone must do something, and we must unite in this way in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine.”
Similarly concealed or whitewashed are the relevant details about the Tamimi clan’s promotion of violence and their propaganda campaign. The BBC reports instead quote Tamimi, link to his Facebook pages, and to favorable articles about him by Al Jazeera.
Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen’s contribution to the Tamimi narrative was to discredit the IDF’s charges against Ahed by creating a straw man that exaggerated them. The false implication was that the IDF considers Ahed guilty of “terrorism.” This was emphasized by BBC presenter Razia Iqbal questioning whether Ahed’s “slap” constitutes “terrorism.”
Of course, the IDF is not charging Ahed with terrorism. But by suggesting this, the implication is that the indictments against her are overblown and absurd. Bowen seeks out Oren Hazan, a controversial and volatile Knesset member, to act as a foil to Bassem Tamimi’s justification of his daughter’s assault. BBC journalist introduces Hazan as a “leading, right-wing Member of Parliament,” as if his pronouncements were representative of the IDF or Israeli government, and hides the fact that what the Parliament member is actually notorious for is his attention-seeking, extreme pronouncements and outrageousness, for which he has been repeatedly punished by the Knesset Ethics Committee. (Indeed, shortly after the taped interview, Hazan was suspended from the Knesset for six months for inappropriate name-calling in the parliament).
Moreover, Bowen amplifies Tamimi’s indictment of the Israeli military court proceedings by editorializing in his own words:
The chances are that Ahed Tamimi and her mother will end up with jail sentences. The Israeli military courts usually convict. The occupation has been going on for 50 years and it shows no sign of ending. Incidents like this indicate the level of tension and anger that’s often just below the surface. The question is how long before, once again, it erupts into much more serious violence.
What he omits from his filmed report is the incitement Ahed and her mother are charged with. Bowen does not discuss their promotion of violence. And while he emphasizes in an aggrieved tone that Ahed is only 16, he never challenges Bassem on his recruitment of children to become warriors in an armed conflict.
For more about the BBC’s role in the Tamimi’s propaganda campaign, see CAMERA’s BBC-Watch analysis here.
The Americans, too have jumped on to the Tamimi bandwagon with an AP story by Karin Laub entitled “Israeli military court to try Palestinian teen protest icon.”
Ahed is introduced in heroic terms as a “Palestinian protest icon.” Her youth is emphasized – “a teen …who turned 17 in jail last month” – and she is positioned as “one of an estimated 300 Palestinian minors in Israeli jails.” The implication is that Israel’s treatment of Ahed’s actions “as a criminal offense, indicting her on charges of assault and incitement that could potentially land her in prison for several years” is overblown: The reporter editorializes as she writes of “Israel’s full-throttle prosecution of Tamimi” and claims the case is about “what constitutes legitimate resistance to Israel’s rule over millions of Palestinians, already in its 51st year after Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in 1967.”
Laub finds no room in her article to quote or cite Ahed’s straightforward public encouragement of “stabbings,” “suicide bombings,” and “throwing stones.” The only references to Ahed’s incitement are as an allegation by Israeli authorities. Yet the reporter presents the Tamimi’s justification of the girl’s aggression, citing unnamed “supporters” of Ahed:
[They] see a brave girl who struck two armed soldiers outside her West Bank home in frustration after having just learned that Israeli troops seriously wounded a 15-year-old cousin, shooting him in the head from close range with a rubber bullet during nearby stone-throwing clashes.
The article does not include any similar detail about the mainstream Israeli view that sees Ahed’s violent example and public call for additional violence as dangerous actions, the likes of which have spurred so many other Palestinian teenagers to kill Israelis in the recent, so-called “knife intifada.” Indeed, there is no mention at all of these murderous attacks by Palestinians, incited by similar public messages instructing them to violently confront Israelis. Nor is there any reference to other Palestinian terror attacks and brutal violence that killed or maimed thousands of Israelis over the past three decades. Instead, the reporter minimizes Palestinian violence, reducing it to nothing more than “protests,” “throwing stones,” and “burning tires in the streets.” Painting Israeli authorities as the “arresting” aggressors and Palestinians as the “protest[ing]” victims, the reporter editorializes:
Another generation of Palestinians seems locked in a cycle of protests and arrests by Israel, three decades after Palestinians staged their first uprising, throwing stones and burning tires in the streets.
And while the AP article discusses inflammatory graffiti written in Hebrew in Ahed’s town, it avoids mentioning Bassem and Nariman Tamimi’s incendiary hate rhetoric. Instead, they are presented sympathetically as heroic and reasonable activists. Like Ahed’s public encouragement of violence and like Palestinian murderous attacks, Bassem and Nariman’s dangerous Facebook postings are concealed, as is Bassam’s international anti-Israel campaign. Seeking to influence American schoolchildren with inflammatory propaganda, Bassam urged American 3rd graders in an Ithaca public school to become “freedom fighters for Palestine” when brought to the U.S. in 2013 as part of an anti-Israel campaign sponsored by American supporters.
There is one thing the AP reporter does not forget to mention, and that is Ahed’s “curly mane” of hair.
According the United Nations,the recruitment and use of children during conflict is one of the six grave violations identified and condemned by the UN Security Council. Many view the Tamimis’ recruitment of their children as just such a violation, i.e. outright child abuse. But when it comes to Ahed and her cousins, too much of the international media, which regularly calls out such abuses, are silent. By promoting the Tamimis’ narrative and making their propaganda campaign a success, these international journalists and outlets are actually facilitating the use of children as pawns in a military conflict.