The ‘Pallywood’ smear: Viral images of Palestinian boy’s brutalization brings backlash

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Israel’s defenders on social media are pushing a “Pallywood” narrative in reaction to the video gone viral documenting a soldier’s brutal treatment of a child in the occupied village of Nabi Saleh last Friday. Shortly after the UK’s Daily Mail publicized the incident, it revamped its headline, claiming Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi was a “prolific ‘Pallywood star’“and then claimed that “Questions have been raised over the authenticity …”  of the event and the proliferation of the video.

The UK’s Guardian got into the act: “a pressing question has emerged: what did the images show? The reality is as complex as it is unsettling and contradictory.”

And Ynet is all over the story, alleging the entire incident was staged.

The #Pallywood hashtag is prolific on Twitter. Here’s an example from infamous Israeli lawfare group Shurat HaDin:

Let us be clear about the media trend: Israeli hasbara is fighting back against the exposure afforded to activists as a result of last week’s embarrassing photos and video. No doubt the Tamimi’s are getting famous. But that is because they refuse to stop protesting the theft of their village land and spring. Denied any means of self defense, they dare to expose the world to the reality of their lives while the cameras are rolling. They have no guns or bombs, they fight with media and exposure. But the scenes they record are very real. And the whole point is to capture the violence they face, as a matter of routine, on camera. Rosa Parks also planned her heroic action on a Montgomery bus in 1955. But was it staged? Of course not.

It appears that some people are just now waking up to this reality. That these protests, like other protests and demonstrations throughout history, are intended to garner attention and change facts on the ground. If the cameras were not there, armed Israeli forces would still chase, capture, arrest and detain Palestinians, including their children. The point of the recordings for the Tamimi family is to get the message out to the world.

The reason the video went viral is that most people object to a policy of targeting, abducting and imprisoning children. But in Palestine, soldiers enter villages, sometimes in broad daylight, sometimes in the middle of the night, and take children away.  Here’s another example of grabbing a child in Nabi Saleh:

Are the soldiers being set up to star as villains in a “Pallywood” video? If so, one would think Israel should stop targeting Palestinian children. And stop invading villages in the middle of the night. But no. Ayed Abu Eqtaish, account­ability program director at Defense for Children Internation­al-Palestine (DCIP), told The Arab Weekly 700 children were put on trial in Israeli military courts in 2014.

The detention of each of those children is deeply painful for the families. The soldiers are the villains of the occupation. While the media tells us Israel only acts in reaction, the reason Palestinians protest in Nabi Saleh and Bil’in and other villages and towns across Palestine is in reaction to the theft of their land and water and to protest the conditions of life under occupation. They pay a price for this. Israel arrests children to suppress the non violent resistance to the theft of their land.

Oddly, this revelation is making big waves. That’s a good thing.

Armed Israeli forces target, chase and capture Palestinian children all the time, routinely. The country tries to suppress the news by arresting and attacking journalists and photographers. Or  breaking their equipment as documented in the Oscar nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras. A case of Pallywood meets Hollywood? You be the judge. Documentaries like Budrus and 5 Broken Cameras are not just art, they tell real stories about real events.

Even dead Palestinian children are suspected of acting in Pallywood videos. According to blogger Thomas Wicker,  20-year-old Salem Shamaly, executed by an Israeli sniper in the Gaza neighborhood of Shujaiya and caught on film by Joe Catron /International Solidarity Movement during the hours of a humanitarian ceasefire in Israel’s 51 day 2014 summer slaughter in Gaza, was another example of Pallywood. But let’s get back to the kids.

Jana Jihad
Janna Jihad (Photo: The Arab Weekly)

When Palestinian children are recorded they are particularly dangerous. For they run the risk of gaining recognition and an international following, and appearing as if (think about it) they are normal kids.

Last spring The Arab Weekly reported Janna Jihad, a 9 year old from Nabi Saleh, was rising to fame, “dubbed the youngest amateur journalist in the Palestinian terri­tories”.  Janna records her life on a mobile phone telling the story of her village through the eye of a Palestinian child: “From Israeli tear-gas to stun grenades, night raids and even losing friends, Janna’s child­hood is often interrupted with dramatic events in the village of Nabi Saleh.”

At the end of her videos Janna turns the camera on her own face and signs off “with her name like a professional.” She’s become popular on Facebook, many of her videos have gone viral. Little Janna Jihad circa 2011, confronted soldiers after her very good friend Mustafa Tamimi was killed by Israeli military forces. She saw him dead on the ground. Pallywood? Or real life. How is a parent to protect a child from an invading force whose leaders regard them as blades of grass, in the famous “mowing the lawn” metaphor for cutting down Palestinian resistance?

Janna Jihad told CNC news (video):

We want, we want the children to be like all the children in the world and we want to be free and we want to be like, with peace. And we don’t want anybody in our land and our country to be terrorists

Larry Derfner described the denial fiasco that swept the upper echelon of Israeli diplomatic and military defenders following the release of video footage of the killings of two Palestinian teens, Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher during the Nakba Day– a catastrophe for ‘Pallywood’ conspiracy theorists.

According to Defence of Children International/Palestine, in January 2015 alone 163 Palestinian children were abducted and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system, February – 182, March – 182, April – 164. And it continues month after month after month. Very few of those abductions, often harrowing scenes of children being taken from the arms of parents, activists or friends, are recorded on video. When they are, Israel supporters call it Pallywood. But make no mistake it is very real.

So why do they do it, the villagers and the Israeli military? Do the Nabi Saleh villagers pose a security threat to Israel, in their little village located deep in the West bank.  It’s really not that complicated. The village land and the village spring, like a lot of land in West Bank, is beautiful, resourceful and desirable.  So desirable Israel declared it an “antiquities site” to prevent Nabi Saleh residents from accessing the fields around the spring. Yet curiously, antiquities sites are not damaged by settlers, only Palestinians.

One way to deal with this issue might be to allow residents of Nabi Saleh access to their spring.

According to Brad Parker, International Advocacy Officer & Attorney for Defense for Children International Palestine, Palestinian children experience systematic and widespread human rights violations as a result of Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians. Yet the idea that Palestinian children have agency, are able to think for themselves, speak for themselves, tell their own stories in their own way, has created a completely abhorrent situation for Israel advocacy.

Hence, Israeli advocacy groups like UK Media Watch and CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) claim “activists often place their children in danger to score propaganda points” and the pliable media swiftly follows suit and completely revamps their coverage. The soldier “was ambushed by the young girl,” the Daily Mail claims. As if when a soldier came to take one of our siblings, we’d wave goodbye and say ‘See you in a few months honey’. These children did not choose to grow up under occupation. The Tamimi’s are recording their lives so that the world will listen. They are doing this to get your attention.

It’s true. This is what occupation looks like at night, there are hundreds of videos like this on the internet.

So where’s the Palestinian Gandhi? A few of them are living in Nabi Saleh. Gandhi would be a Pallywood star too, convicted of protest organizing and participating in illegal marches. Look at this headline: Nabi Saleh’s Bassem Tamimi convicted by Israeli courts based on coerced testimony from 15-year-old boy. Did that get the world’s attention? No. Bassem and his wife have just recently been arrested again. 

The jails are full of Palestinian village children who protest the confiscation of their land. Soldiers grab the children, torture and imprison them until they sign something in Hebrew against the leader organizing the protests. It’s either your land or your kids. So fun to be a Pallywood star! And these villages have the miserable fortune of being placed where Israel covets their land, where settlers are actively expanding illegal settlements against international law, and the soldiers are there to serve that expansion. That’s why they go to these villages.

Arab Weekly, Palestinian girl rises to fame:

The young girl told The Arab Weekly she used to jot down her feelings in a locked journal every night but then decided to turn to documenting her activities and emotions on video. She carried her mobile camera to Jerusalem and Ramallah talking about free­dom of prayers, arrests, suppres­sion of protests and Jewish settle­ments….

In her videos, she says Israeli attempts to suppress the protest will not dissuade people, but will inspire them to fight for libera­tion. “If we stop protesting, they will take the rest of the lands,” she explained.

However, Jana’s mother says the girl is sometimes afraid, “I don’t push her one way or the other. She’s free to decide if she wants to participate in the protest,” Tamimi told The Arab Weekly.

Getting ready for the Friday protest, Jana wrapped a black and white keffiyeh around her neck to cover her nose from a faint-causing gas as her mother asked her about her plans, “I don’t know, we’ll see,” she replied.

Bassem Tamimi, a leader of the popular resist­ance move­ment in Nabi Saleh and a distant relative of Jana’s, said his group was subject to criti­cism for allow­ing children to protest. He told The Arab Weekly that there is no safe place for children in the village in the first place.

“A tear-gas canister broke my daughter’s arm while she was sitting at home. We care more about our children than anybody else,” he said.

Palestinian parents teach their children about life because the occupation forces this life on them. If you think the Israeli military is caught up in a trap, being forced to arrest, detain, torture and imprison Palestinian children– it could simply change its policies.

While the Daily Mail, Shurat HaDin, Michael Oren, CAMERA and pro Israel trash sites like Algemeiner, and scores of others, feel no compunction about employing the slanderous term Pallywood, can you even imagine the reaction to the term Jewywood being referenced to Jewish suffering, death or Israeli propaganda for that matter?


(If you’re having difficulty sharing this article there is an alternate thread set up here ~ Thanks, A.R.)

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Since you can now get twenty years for stone throwing these arrests are even more a matter of life and death. Is it any wonder the Tamimi women fought as they did? To paraphrase one of the Israeli columnists if the IDF is tired of “starring” in these films maybe… Read more »

This is an outstanding story; thank you, Annie Robbins!

But when I try to “share” it on facebook, the headline and beautiful photo do not appear. Please fix this, if you can–this story should be shared as widely as possible.

These Pallywood claims are the response one might expect from desperate people.Zionists are beyond desperate.They are verifiably insane. What happened to those reports that claimed the soldiers commander ordered him to let the child go. What will these maniacs say when Israel arrests many of those involved in legitimate resistance… Read more »

Phan Nguyen has some great observations on the “Pallywood” smear on his twitter feed. He says he might write up a longer column on it and I hope he does.

I took a peek at the “UK Media Watch” link. Who should I spot down in their comment section but… normanF. I suppose it’s a better fit for him than the MW one!