Mondoweiss

How a Palestinian girl from an occupied village emasculated the Israeli army

'Ahed Tamimi, right, confronting an Israeli soldier at her home in occupied Nabi Saleh on Dec. 15, 2017. Video of this incident became a giant controversy in Israel.

‘Ahed Tamimi exposed the brittleness of the IDFs’ supporters’ masculinity – and the true purpose of hasbara

Last Friday, as part of the ongoing operations of the Israeli military dictatorship in support of the settlers, an IDF gunman fired a rubber-coated bullet into the head of Muhammad Tamimi, aged 15, in the Palestinian village of Nabi Salah. The village has been holding a years-long struggle against the attempt of settlers, backed by the gunmen of the IDF, to overtake a water spring, and as a result it suffers an unusually oppressive regime.

The Israeli media did not pay any attention to an Israeli jackboot firing a bullet at the head of 15 years old. As everyone knows, daily events are not news. Nothing to report.

What happened afterwards, however, was extensively covered. Two gunmen appeared in the courtyard of the Tamimi family house (the Israeli media generally omitted the last detail). There they found themselves faced with a stubborn Palestinian girl, ‘Ahed Tamimi. Tamimi has a long record of fearlessly opposing the jackboots. The Israeli media likes to call these incidents “provocations”: As in the old American South, the provocation is not the general white persecution, but the very presence of a downtrodden person who dares to publicly oppose his persecutors. This is considered as acting “out of bounds.”

The established order is that the gunmen may shoot Tamimi’s relative in the head, and then invade her house. But facing the gunmen – that’s the provocation, as far most Israelis are concerned.

The video of Tamimi slapping IDF gunmen was taken on Friday, reached the Israeli media on Monday, and caused the supporters of the IDF to let out a long and mournful scream. The army’s pride was lying on the road, and a Palestinian girl threw it there. Thousands of Israeli man-children were screaming for vengeance. They said, repeatedly, that the proper function of a Palestinian girl in the presence of an Israeli gunman is to piss herself; their pride was mortally wounded when it turned out differently and an unarmed girl managed to drive away an Israeli gunman with yells and a few slaps – as you would deal with anyone invading your home.

There was a pronounced element of gender role reversal here – I frankly don’t think a Palestinian boy could walk away from such an incident without taking a bullet – and the man-children spent much of their sexual rage on the soldiers themselves: they were repeatedly called “gays” or “trannys”. Which, incidentally, gives you a good glimpse into the psyche of the army-loving men-children.

The first official line of the IDF was that the gunmen acted properly, but the howls about the wounding of the military pride penetrated this shell. A few hours after the video was made public, the IDF proudly showed it was the manliest of them all: Large forces of police and army raided, at four AM, the Tamimi house and detained ‘Ahed. The gunmen took care to document the arrest on video, and quickly released it to the Israeli media with an official logo. The latter published it quickly and prominently. The great IDF recaptured its honor from the hands of a Palestinian girl. Go, go, go!

And as Tamimi publicly humiliated the army, the system hastened to show this must not be done. ‘Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman, trying to find out where her daughter was held, was detained in the police station. Later, the army, displaying rare courage. Detained another family member involved in the incident. ‘Ahed Tamimi is now charged with assaulting a gunman, of which she is patently guilty, and detained until Monday.

The judge ruled Tamimi does not pose a risk, but the police demanded to keep her in custody in order to investigate other, unknown crimes, and presented the judge with a secret report. Tamimi’s attorney, Adv. Gabi Lasky, told me she intends to appeal the decision to a military appeals court.

The whole incident raises several points of interest.

To begin with, the IDF regularly detains two Palestinian teens a night, on average. Due to the riots of the past few weeks, the number is unusually high lately. Many of these arrests are video’d by the IDF – but it never released any such videos to the press, much less with an official logo. Tamimi’s publicized arrest was meant to show the public the IDF has taken some Viagra.

There’s a very good reason why such videos never see the light of day: The IDF Spokesman is a central arm of the hasbara effort, and its people know very well that a video showing a teen being dragged out her parents’ home and led away handcuffed by gunmen would be taken badly pretty much everywhere in the world.

This time the need to calm down the Jewish public made the IDF throw the hasbara effort under the bus.

Perhaps I should amend the last claim. The hasbara effort, despite pretending otherwise, is directed at Israelis and Jews living outside of Israel. It barely tries to reach other crowds. It is intended to convince the already-convinced that everything is fine, that they can keep sleeping peacefully without thinking of what they’re sending their children to do. Hence the mass hysteria surrounding Breaking the Silence: Acting as a Socratic fly, they insist on waking a sleeping public. The public does not want to know. The IDF will show that it can– with a mighty hand and outstretched arm– detain a teen. But if you point out there are thousands of detainees like her, and that this is actually regular activity, you’d be branded a traitor.

Anyone needing more proof that the hasbara campaign is a government-operated psy-ops against the Israeli public which funds it could get it in the new series of articles by media criticism site 7th Eye. Two days ago, it exposed the fact that the Strategic Affairs Office transferred hundreds of thousands of shekels to the largest Israeli daily, Yediot Ahronot, so that the paper would promote so-called independent reports, which were actually government propaganda. Yesterday it showed that the Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Ardan gave the television network Keshet some half a million shekels to promote hasbara content – again, masquerading as legitimate reporting.

At the same time, Erdan is doing his usually insufficient best to ensure his office would be exempt from public exposure. It’s tempting to think he is trying to shield some Austin Powers-like  maneuvers (akin to Shai Masot’s plotting to take down British politicians), but it’s far more likely Erdan simply doesn’t want the Israeli public to know how much money he spends on psyops against it.

The Tamimi and Erdan affairs both show: the goal of hasbara is not the world’s opinion but Israelis’. It is supposed to provide the public with more and more reasons to avoid asking questions about what is being done in its name.

Therefore, we must assume the IDF will insist on putting ‘Ahed Tamimi on trial. It has to look strong to the Jewish public, to show that it is definitely capable of punishing teens who dared to protect their homes. It will do so despite the damage to Israel’s image – because, as usual, Israel’s image is collateral damage when it comes to the IDF.

The trial will probably be held in closed session, as otherwise it may prove too embarrassing. But here is Tamimi’s chance to soar. In 1947, the British Mandate put an Irgun fighter, Dov Gruner, on trial for attacking a British position. He shocked his judges by refusing to admit they had any right to judge him. He told them that it is the right of every occupied people to rebel, even using violence, against its occupiers. Tamimi should tell her judges the IDF is as much an invader of her land as the British army was. That her judges may wield power, but never justice. In Gruner’s words,

“Nothing remains, therefore, of the legal standing of your regime. This regime, therefore, has only one element to rely on: brute force, they bayonet, and terrorism […] When the government of any country becomes unlawful, when it mutates into tyranny and oppression, it is the right of the citizens – no, much more, it is their duty – to fight this regime and bring it down.”

And Tamimi, changing Gruner’s words just slightly, could add: This the Palestinian youth are doing, and this they will do, until you are removed from this land and return it to its rightful owners.

When Gruner faced his judges unbowed, Winston Churchill was forced to tell parliament “this house must register the valor of this man, criminal though he may be.” It’s unlikely we’ll hear a similar statement from an Israeli Knesset member.

And even so: Courage, ‘Ahed, courage. To victory.