Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Video shows children determined to provoke in Palestinian propaganda war

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The West-Bank village of Nabi Saleh has become a battleground for local Palestinians and international activists. But this is no ordinary battleground, it is a battleground in a propaganda war. Based on what could now be called the "Bil'in model", every Friday a supposedly "non-violent" demonstration takes place, in which protesters intentionally confront and clash with Israeli soldiers in front of dozens of photographers, who document the soldiers' every move. The most disturbing aspect of these staged demonstrations is the involvement of Palestinian children in the weekly "production". A new video shows just how far Palestinian children are prompted to go in this effort to provoke a reaction by Israeli soldiers that can be used for propaganda purposes.

The poster-child of Nabi Saleh demonstrations is A'hd Tamimi. Her parents, Nariman and Bassem Tamimi, are Popular Resistance activists and the primary organisers of the weekly demonstrations at Nabi-Saleh, along with her uncle Naji Tamimi. A'hd received extensive media attention over a photograph showing her and her cousin, Marah Tamimi, restrained by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration in Nabi Saleh in August. It was published around the world, and was featured on page one of at least one Australian newspaper. "An Israeli soldier restrains a Palestinian girl crying over the arrest of her mother during a protest over land confiscation in al-Nabi Saleh," stated the photo's caption in the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. The full story behind that infamous photo was exposed in a previous blog post. Based on video evidence, it was demonstrated that the two girls, presumably manipulated by their parents, were evidentally involved in a staged confrontation with Israeli soldiers designed to provide emotive propaganda photos.

That story of manipulation and cynical use of children for propaganda purposes, often in situation compromising both their safety and psychological wellbeing, should have raised critical voices and condemnation. Instead, the Tamimi girls received praise and honours for their "bravery," and even had their picture taken with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after the incident, according to the Nabi Saleh Solidarity website.

Given the "success" of her last clash with Israeli soldiers, it is not surprising that recently, on Friday, November 2, A'hd had another go. This time she led a group of children to physically confront the soldiers, trying to provoke them to respond violently, while surrounded by Palestinian and foreign cameramen waiting to document even the slightest evidence of any misbehaviour by the soldiers. In videos of the incident, Ah'd and the other children can be seen raising their fists at the soldiers, pushing them, spitting on them, cursing and yelling abuse at them. According to Ynet, A'hd, roughly 10 years old, yelled at one of the soldiers in Arabic "...You're a traitor! I know you speak Arabic. Our soldiers are stronger than you! I'll smash your head," and after spitting at him, she added "I spit in your face. Go watch your mother instead of fighting little children. You're a traitor. You kill people to get money from dogs." The soldiers, in response, did nothing. A senior IDF officer told Ynet that "The soldiers are briefed on the fact that these protests are staged for the sake of provocation, so that they could be filmed acting violently and so that those videos could be distributed worldwide in an effort to harm the IDF's image. We make every effort not to fall for such traps, to exercise restraint and to use only crowd-control measures to disperse such protests."

This is a far cry from the innocent, victimised image of "peaceful" Palestinian demonstrators confronting "brutal" Israeli oppressors generally portrayed in the global media. A'hd's now-famous photo was intended to defame IDF soldiers for their treatment of Palestinian children, to imply that the Israeli were at best insenstive to, or at worst abusive toward, innocent children. But judging by her own actions, A'hd is not in the least intimidated by the soldiers or their potential reaction to her cursing, her pestering, her spitting, her pushing. She has no reservations about confronting them. Contrary to Palestinian claims about how supposedly brutal and violent Israel's "occupation forces" are, she obviously knows she has no reason to fear the soldiers. She knows these propaganda claims are completely false.

The reality behind the photos and videos, however, point to a much greater concern regarding children's participation in the Nabi Saleh demonstrations - which also applies to other demonstrations around the West Bank. According to Ynet, Israeli intelligence reports indicate that some Nabi Saleh children are actually getting paid by pro-Palestinian activists to confront soldiers. Meanwhile, some parents, like in A'hd's case, encourage such behaviour, and push their kids to take centre-state in potentially violent situations which they themselves instigate.

This phenomenon was also apparent in the manipulative film "5 Broken Cameras'" - whose Australian screening I reviewed in October. Despite the filmmakers best attempts to edit out anything not consistent with the narrative they want to present, the film captures the manipulation and the facade of "non-violence," which only serves to mask rock throwing and violent efforts to elicit "disproportionate" response from soldiers, to be captured on camera. The use and abuse of children in such circumstances is especially troubling. Participation in efforts to "provoke" soldiers into violence responses, in staged dramatic clashes, and in rock throwing - which is glorified and seen by many as a "rite of passage" - places them in dangerous, and completely avoidable, situations.

One would think that anyone with the best interest of Palestinian children at heart would discourage such practices and would, at the very least, refuse to reward such abuse by publishing the manipulative photos that the people sending children into potentially violent situations are trying to elicit.

Can't we at least agree that, whatever one thinks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, children do not belong on the front lines?

Or Avi-Guy