Palestinian activist gets biggest media victory yet on eve of U.S. Speaking Tour.
Just a week before the prominent Palestinian activist leader Bassem al-Tamimi embarks on a month-long speaking tour in the U.S., he and his family attracted massive media attention when a clip of one of the clashes they provoked with the IDF went viral.
The Tamimis are used to sympathetic media coverage, including a fawning New York Times Magazine cover story in March 2013 on the family’s ambition to start a “Third Intifada”.
Bassem Tamimi is usually presented as an admirable organizer of “nonviolent resistance” who can count on the support of Amnesty International and who has been praised as a “human rights defender” by the European Union. By contrast, Bassem Tamimi’s views on the “right to resist” that he often invokes and the use of his children in his activism – including regular efforts to challenge the IDF into responding to provocations like rock-throwing – have so far largely escaped scrutiny.
Yet, just a few hours of research reveal many easily discoverable cracks in the carefully cultivated image of the Tamimis as peaceful activists and “non-violent” protesters.
Use of Children to Confront Soldiers as Cameras Roll
The Tamimis are best known for the 2012 video of daughter Ahed confronting Israeli soldiers for the cameras:
There is ample evidence suggesting that Bassem Tamimi’s interpretation of “the right to resist” goes beyond even such confrontations, and includes rock-throwing and the use of women and children as human shields for the rock-throwers, and there are even indications that both he and his wife may hold much more radical views that include the endorsement of terrorist groups and murderous terrorist attacks.
While throwing stones is hardly peaceful and non-violent, and Israelis have died as a result of such incidents, it might seem at first sight that Ahed was just amusing herself hurling stones at distant cars she could not possibly reach. However, as indicated, the photo is obviously cropped.
The original uncropped photo can be found at the website of photographer Haim Schwarczenberg, whose archive also provides an excellent documentation of the persistent efforts of the Tamimis to provoke clashes with the IDF.
As the uncropped original shows, Ahed was aiming her stones actually at three IDF soldiers walking just down the hillside she was standing on.
Again, one could argue that the stones she was throwing at them were unlikely to cause serious injuries, but when you scroll through the pictures Schwarczenberg posted for his February 6, 2015 entry on the “Friday demonstration in Nabi Saleh“, you will see that other teenagers present at the same protest used slings to throw rocks of considerable size and that the demonstrators (including Ahed Tamimi) did not spare any effort to provoke a clash with the soldiers. Schwarczenberg’s entry for the most recent demonstration even includes a picture showing a very young boy using a sling to hurl a rock.
Schwarczenberg’s post for the demonstration on February 6 is also noteworthy because it includes a short report from Bassem Tamimi himself, which contains the revealing admission that in the protests he organizes, “women and girls” are used “to shield the youths from the snipers.”
This admission is not only interesting because it shows that Tamimi obviously approves of the use of women and girls as human shields to protect rock-throwing youths, but also because it implies that he knows very well that Israeli soldiers try their best to avoid any harm to women and children.
In this context it is important to understand that Palestinians have long counted on the reluctance of Israeli soldiers to harm children in particular. As the prominent Palestinian cartoonist Nagi El-Ali gloated in an interview first published in 1985:
“I saw for myself how afraid the Israeli soldiers were of the children. A child of ten or eleven had sufficient training to carry and use an RBG rifle. The situation was simple enough. The Israeli tanks were in front of them and the weapon was in their hands. The Israelis were afraid to go into the camps […]”
That puts the recent incident that attracted so much media attention in perspective, because there is no doubt that Tamimi’s wife and daughter as well as their supporters who rushed to attack the soldier who was trying to arrest Mohammad Tamini for rock-throwing knew all along – primarily from their many previous attempts to provoke soldiers – that they were very likely to get their way and escape unscathed.
So it isn’t surprising that Bassem Tamimi can calmly defend the regular participation of his children in demonstrations attended by rock-throwing youths. A Jerusalem Post report quotes him as commenting on the recent incident:
“We have the right to resist. Our children are doing their duty and must be strong.”
As far as Bassem Tamimi is concerned, it seems that no child is too young to be trained to do his duty: on March 4, he uploaded a picture of three little boys struggling to block a road with large rocks.
According to a professional translator, the red caption under the picture reads: “Oh child, from whose shoes history is born when he walks [marches].” The comment added by Tamimi reads: “Oh, the generation of the coming victory, keep attacking, so that the homeland does not stay a hostage [pawn] in trembling hands” [i.e. probably the “trembling hands” of older people].
Now compare the photo above to a photo by a Times of Israel photographer just before the clash that made headlines recently. Once Again, children were used to set up roadblocks, just as Bassem Tamimi said was needed:
At one point the demonstrators blocked the road. Little kids, under the leadership of the adolescents, began to take large rocks and line them up in the middle of the street.
“They are blocking the army’s jeeps from driving up the road to come from behind later,” someone told me.
The protest then shifted to an adjacent hill, where adolescents and younger children threw more rocks at soldiers as adult villagers and activists watched and cheered.
There is no doubt that Bassem Tamimi is also very proud of his own dutiful children: after claiming in a recent FB post – uncharacteristically without any photographic evidence whatsoever – that “the IOF attacked the village of Nabi Saleh” and that his son Mohammad “was injured and broke his arm” during the resulting “clashes”, Bassem Tamimi posted several older photos and, calling his 11-year-old son “my hero,” encouraged him to “keep strong.”
A few weeks earlier, he also proudly shared an album of over 200 photos documenting the widely admired exploits of his daughter Ahed. This album is very worthwhile viewing, as the huge number of images that go back a few years provide an excellent documentation of the grooming of the photogenic Ahed for use in confronting Israeli soldiers for the cameras from an early age.
Both Bassem Tamimi and his wife Nariman also expressed their approval and admiration when Ahed posted the photo (above) that showed her throwing stones at (unseen) Israeli soldiers. Nariman Tamimi praised the image of her daughter as “awesome” (automatic translation from Arabic), while Bassem Tamimi posted an approving comment that, according to the somewhat garbled automatic translation, includes praise for her stone-throwing and “resistance.”
That Bassem Tamimi approves of the stone-throwing by his daughter is also evident from his “Like” for the subsequent response, posted by FB user Nana Hourriyah – who refers to the Tamimis as “family” in one of her own recent posts – and who responded to the photo of the stone-throwing Ahed: “i will come back soon and throw them with you.”
Advocate for Only Non-Violence?
In addition to advocating the use of children, it is questionable whether Bassem Tamimi truly is an advocate of non-violence, as his supporters present him to be.
Bassem Tamimi gave an arguably much more alarming “Like” to a response posted on February 15, when FB user Cost Andrian reacted to Ahed’s picture with the short comment “Good ahed,” illustrating his praise with an image promoting the Hamas-affiliated jihadist Al-Qassam Brigades.
It is noteworthy that at the time of this writing, this person’s FB page displays “Likes” that include the terror group Al-Qassam; the publicly visible posts are almost exclusively photo-shopped magazine covers glorifying terrorism, and this person’s FB friends include people who either are or pretend to be active Palestinian terrorists like this one – but also several Tamimi family members, including Bassem and Nariman Tamimi as well as their daughter Ahed and Bilal Tamimi, who is or was affiliated with Tamimi Press.
It turns out that Bassem Tamimi’s endorsement of the promotion of the Al-Qassam Brigades on his daughter’s FB page was not the only time he showed support for the terrorist group.
His FB page “Likes” (screenshot available) include a “Community” page entitled “Resistance is Our DUTY: Palestine Always In our heart” [sic!]. The profile picture of this “community” page shows masked men, the cover photo has Arabic writing in addition to “FREE PALESTINE” and, partly obscured at the bottom in red, “AL QASSAM BRIGADES.”
Among the recent posts on this page is a “Hamas Music Video” glorifying the Al Qassam Brigades.
By itself, Bassem Tamimi’s “Like” for this page could perhaps be dismissed as a hardly meaningful gesture that might have been suggested by a FB “friend.” However, together with the rather shocking “Like” for the promotion of the Al Qassam Brigades on his daughter’s FB page, it seems justified to ask if Bassem Tamimi’s interpretation of the “right to resist” perhaps also includes the “right” to engage in jihadist terrorism.
And indeed, there is additional evidence that the Tamimi family is supportive of terrorist attacks. On August 26, Nariman Tamimi shared a post that rejects the “Zionist” designation of several notorious female terrorists as such, insisting that they were instead (admirable) “rebels.”
At the time of this writing, the original post published on August 24 had garnered 1021 “Likes” and had been shared by 139 people, among them numerous Tamimis, though it can of course not be definitely ascertained whether they are related.
The individual photos from the post Nariman Tamimi shared can be seen here (click next); they include Ahlam Tamimi, Wafa Idris, Dalal Mughrabi and Leila Khaled.
Ahlam Tamimi is the unrepentant mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem that killed 16 Israeli civilians and wounded 130. It is unclear if Ahlam Tamimi is related to Bassem and Nariman Tamimi, but she used to be a resident of their village, and this proud murderer of 16 people, including several children, reportedly remains “much-loved” there.
Wafa Idris is known (and widely revered among Palestinians) as the first Palestinian female suicide bomber. She detonated her 22-pound bomb on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road in late January 2002, killing herself and one other person and injuring more than 100 others.
Dalal Mughrabi is known (and also widely revered by Palestinians) for her participation in the Coastal Road massacre of March 1978 that resulted in the killing of 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children; more than 70 people were wounded.
Leila Khaled made a name for herself by participating in several airplane hijackings in 1969 and 1970. She has become a celebrated icon for Palestinian “resistance” who has been frequently interviewed; earlier this year, she reportedly declared during a BDS-sponsored tour of South Africa that the terror group Islamic State “is a Zionist, American organization. Boko Haram is another Netanyahu. [Its leaders] are more Zionist than the Zionists… Beware the imperialists. They are vicious and they are collaborating with the Zionists to control the whole world…”
Bassem Tamimi’s upcoming US tour obviously provides the opportunity to ask him directly if he shares his wife’s view that these four women are not terrorists, but “rebels.” One could also ask him what message he wanted to convey when he clicked “Like” on a post promoting the Al-Qassam Brigades on his daughter’s FB page, and why he chose to “Like” another FB page promoting the jihadist terror group.
But perhaps it is not really necessary to ask such questions.
In the already mentioned tribute to the Tamimis and their village Nabi Saleh that was featured as a New York Times Magazine cover in March 2013, Bassem Tamimi made clear that in his view, “[t]aking up arms wasn’t … a moral error so much as a strategic one.” Reportedly, Tamimi and everyone else in the village “insisted they had the right to armed resistance; they just don’t think it works” and “they resented being asked to forswear bloodshed.”
But it is apparently not necessary to forswear bloodshed and condemn terrorist attacks against civilians in order to win support from Amnesty International and praise from the European Union.
And quite obviously, neither Amnesty nor the EU or the media are much bothered by the fact that a “human rights defender” like Bassem Tamimi would send his young children in an almost weekly ritual, year after year, to provoke soldiers that he regularly denounces as brutal and trigger-happy.
Update 9-7-2015 – Related post by the Author: The Tamimi masterclass on media manipulation.