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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, Jana’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?

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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22 Responses

  1. annie on September 2, 2015, 1:57 pm

    hi everyone. for some reason we were having a problem with the share function of this post originally (not sure why). so it’s been revamped and should work better now. the last version wasn’t working on social media and we want it to get out there (so everyone could/should share it!) the older comments are here: >

    very sorry for the inconvenience, we don’t know how this happened and thanks for your support.

  2. amigo on September 2, 2015, 4:23 pm

    From a Haaretz article .No pay wall.

    “Wanted: Dangerous terrorist.
    Suspect name: Ahed Tamimi, aka “Shirley Temper.”
    Physical appearance: Slight.
    Accused of: Assault with intent (biting an Israeli soldier), manipulation of the world media.
    Age: 14.
    Known accomplices: Mohammad Tamimi, 12 years old, brother, walks around with cast on left hand.
    Be advised: Suspects may appear childlike, but they are in fact cunning and experienced. They are petite and unarmed but considered extremely dangerous.
    Last seen: Under and on top of an armed IDF soldier, one of them howling in pain.

    This weekend’s damning images from the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, in which a masked IDF soldier is seen trying to arrest Mohammad Tamimi (whose left arm had been broken in a separate incident), putting him in a chokehold and being interrupted by a group of women and girls, caused a worldwide media frenzy. In Vox, it was called “Israel’s Eric Garner moment”.

    In Israel, however, it was the soldier who was cast in the role of Eric Garner, who died in Staten Island after a police officer put him in what has been described as a “chokehold” – not the boy.
    read more:

    “Israelis, of course, are not monsters. A soldier choke-holding a crying 12 year-old looks just as bad in Israel as it does everywhere else. Outside of a few extremists, Israelis have no desire to see children hurt, rock-throwers or otherwise.

    Israelis do, however, have a longstanding and well-documented national obsession with convincing the world that they’re right. When faced with evidence of their country’s moral culpability, the cognitive dissonance that allows Israelis to maintain their moral superiority, even when the actions of their country are clearly immoral, goes into manic overdrive.”

    The article goes on to show how Israel and it,s hasbarats frame the soldier as the victim.

    Only problem with the article is the reference to Israelis.Clearly the author is only referring to Jewish Israelis.Presumably the opinion of the other 20 % is of no importance.

    • annie on September 2, 2015, 5:09 pm

      amigo, i read the vox article he referenced last night. it was good.

    • Marnie on September 3, 2015, 12:28 am

      “Israelis, of course, are not monsters. A soldier choke-holding a crying 12 year-old looks just as bad in Israel as it does everywhere else. Outside of a few extremists, Israelis have no desire to see children hurt, rock-throwers or otherwise.”

      Well they have to write that, don’t they? They can’t tell the truth because the truth is so God awful and then they’d have the fight the inenvitable onslaught of being labeled self-hating Jews, etc. There can only be one self-hating Jew at a time at Ha’aretz and that is Gideon Levy (sarcasm).

      I read somewhere in the last couple of days, not sure where, that the GoI will start recruiting high school age Israelis to combat “bad stuff” (my quote) about Israel on line, for a salary.

    • eljay on September 3, 2015, 7:56 am

      “Israelis, of course, are not monsters. A soldier choke-holding a crying 12 year-old looks just as bad in Israel as it does everywhere else. …

      Yup, a soldier choke-holding a crying 12-year-old while enforcing a decades-long occupation and colonization of land outside of his country’s (Partition) borders does look pretty bad.

      … Outside of a few extremists, Israelis have no desire to see children hurt … “

      1. So…hurt the children, just don’t let Israeli see it?
      2. The Israeli army would be hurting a lot less children if it stopped enforcing the decades-long occupation and colonization of Palestine and the Free City of Jerusalem. Where is the outcry from all but “a few extremist” Israelis to end the occupation and withdraw back to within Israel’s (Partition) borders?

    • piotr on September 4, 2015, 9:32 am

      Haaretz artcile is well meaning, but misleading. Eric Garner was a “domestic Palestinian” of NYC and he himself engaged in our domestic form of “Pallywood”, first breaking the law, then trying to emotionally distress defenders of the law, and when half-measures like complaining that he cannot breath did not work (obviously, the complains were fake, how he could complain without breathing), he caused his own death by becoming asthmatic and overweight. It took heroic and distressing effort by the government lawyers to put all facts together properly and remove blame from the foot soldiers of the law, but the psychological scars of all involved will remain forever. And then cunningly collected videos are used by our domestic “Fakestinians” to continue protests etc.

      Sadly, Haaretz writers know only the biased liberal reports on those facts.

  3. elephantine on September 2, 2015, 4:57 pm

    ‘Pallywood’ is far more than just a smear. It’s so incredibly offensive.

    • Dutch on September 3, 2015, 9:01 am

      I would add that it shows the fundamental racism of Israeli society and the extreme delegitimation of the Palestinians that has been going on for decades. It shows these habits are ‘normal’ and accepted in Israel.

  4. Michael Lesher on September 2, 2015, 9:41 pm

    We should be proud of these brave children and women who will not be cowed by the cycle of Israeli abuse and repression.

    As for why children have emerged in a central role in Palestinian resistance, the answer is quite simple. As the article details, Israel has targeted children in its repressive tactics. So the children must either resist or be endlessly victimized. As Amira Hass said some time ago, “Every occupation deserves its resistance.”

  5. echinococcus on September 3, 2015, 12:12 am

    I think just one reminder would solve the children participation controversy.

    Mohammed, the kid who had been in the soldier’s chokehold, had his arm in a cast because a couple days before he had been left “safe” at home, in his room, when the Tsahalistas shot a tear gas canister through the window, which ricocheted and broke the child’s wrist. It’s there in his mother’s interview.

    That much for leaving the kids at home. Nowhere is safe from Zionist mayhem anywhere in Palestine. Period. Not for grownups, not for kids and not even for corpses.

  6. b.grand on September 3, 2015, 1:44 am

    Their father is scheduled to tour US-


    Please contact [email protected] to have Bassem speak in your city during one of the dates below.

    September 7-8 Green Bay WI Healing America’s Wounds: A Moral Vision of Reconciliation Conference

    September 9-10 Notre Dame

    September 11-13 Chicago contact: [email protected]

    September 14 Woodstock, NY 7:00 pm RSVP to [email protected] for details

    September 15 New York City 6:30 PM The New School 6 East 16th, Room 1103
    contact [email protected]

    September 17 Ithaca, NY 5:00-7:30 PM Unitarian Church, church parlor 208 E. Buffalo St
    vegan Palestinian dinner 5:00, talk begins at 5:30
    contact: [email protected]

    September 18 12:00 PM Tompkins Cortland Community College, Cortland NY
    contact: [email protected]

    September 19-20 Pittsburg, PA contact: [email protected]

    September 21 7:00 PM Hosted by Amnesty International. Ocean City, NJ Location TBA

    September 23-27 Atlanta US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation Organizers
    contact: [email protected]

    September 27-29 Los Angeles contact: [email protected]

    September 30-October 2 Bay Area, California contact: [email protected]

    October 2-4 New Mexico contact: [email protected]

    October 5 Tufts University contact: [email protected]
    October 6 Boston contact: [email protected]
    October 7 Cambridge Friends Meeting House contact: [email protected]

  7. Bumblebye on September 3, 2015, 4:12 am

    UK Parliament petition – fewer than 5,000 to go before it cracks 100k! Signing has sped up again now the Bank Holiday weekend is over.

    • RoHa on September 3, 2015, 4:40 am

      Nip down to the pub and get 5,000 of your friends to sign it. Buy them a pint.

      • Bumblebye on September 3, 2015, 8:13 am

        It’s speeding along without me having to bankrupt myself – and I only rarely frequent pubs!

      • RoHa on September 3, 2015, 8:49 am

        So you just infrequent them.

        95,774 jumped to 95, 791 in the last few minutes. Your friends apparently don’t need the pints.

      • RoHa on September 3, 2015, 8:17 pm

        97,558 now.

      • Bumblebye on September 4, 2015, 7:20 am

        98,599. Be there by tea-time!

      • piotr on September 4, 2015, 9:44 am

        He rarely frequents pubs, but he is frequently raring to go there.

  8. Stephen Shenfield on September 5, 2015, 10:41 am

    Are the IDF soldiers who so regularly succumb to these provocations really just “set up as villains”? Isn’t it much more likely that they are actively collaborating with the enemy? Shouldn’t they all be suspended from duty and investigated for treason? For the sake of Israel’s security.

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