Teen at centre of propaganda war

Ahed Tamimi being escorted into a military courtroom in Ramallah on Thursday. She has been held up by Palestinians and other supporters as a brave opponent of Israel's occupation of the West Bank.
Ahed Tamimi being escorted into a military courtroom in Ramallah on Thursday. She has been held up by Palestinians and other supporters as a brave opponent of Israel's occupation of the West Bank.PHOTO: REUTERS

Video shows Palestinian girl - with history of opposition - slapping Israeli soldiers

JERUSALEM • Ahed Tamimi is only a teenager, but has repeatedly been at the centre of the seemingly endless propaganda war between Israelis and Palestinians, with a video of her slapping soldiers the latest example.

Ahed, 16 and recognisable by her shock of blonde hair, has been held up by Palestinians and other supporters as a hero and brave opponent of Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

On social media, they have described the teenager as "worth a thousand men" while hailing her for her "bravery against villains who judge children".

A years-old photograph of her raising her fist at a soldier was widely published and led to her being received by then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2012.

She was also photographed wearing a Tweetie Pie shirt and biting the hand of an Israeli soldier in 2015 to try to stop the arrest of a brother.

But for Israeli officials, she is being made to star in staged provocations by her family, prominent activists who have been at the forefront of protests in their village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah. The latest incident led to her arrest on Dec 19, along with that of her mother and, the following day, her cousin.

On Thursday, a military court extended the arrests of Ahed and her mother until next Monday. Her cousin is to be released tomorrow if no new evidence is presented.

The three appeared in a video that went viral after it was recorded on Dec 15 in Nabi Saleh. It appears to have been filmed near the Tamimi house. It shows Ahed and her cousin approaching two Israeli soldiers and telling them to leave before shoving, kicking and slapping them.

The heavily armed soldiers do not respond in the face of what appears to be an attempt to provoke rather than seriously harm them. They then move backwards after Ahed's mother, Mrs Nariman Tamimi, becomes involved.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has commended the family's resistance against Israel's occupation, official news agency Wafa reported. Supporters have accused the Israeli authorities of arresting a teenager standing up for the rights of her fellow Palestinians.

But Mr Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and now a deputy minister for diplomacy, accused the Tamimis of using children as pawns. "This cynical and cruel use of children constitutes abuse. Human rights organisations must investigate!" he said on Twitter.

The incident occurred during a day of clashes across the West Bank over US President Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The violence since Mr Trump's decision has left 12 Palestinians dead, with most killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

Israelis are divided over the viral video, with some praising the soldiers' restraint and others saying it showed weakness and merited a tougher response.

Mr Bassem Tamimi, Ahed's father, describes her as "shy", but "someone who is mature enough to reject the occupation responsibly".

But he said he fears his daughter will be imprisoned over the latest incident, particularly because it has become "a case of public opinion" in Israel.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2017, with the headline 'Teen at centre of propaganda war'. Print Edition | Subscribe