After viral video emerged of a soldier attempting to arrest a Palestinian boy, the Israeli press presents the official army version rather than the accounts of the villagers who saw it all happen.
By Leehee Rothschild
At the weekly demonstration at the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh last Friday a masked soldier tried to arrest 12-year-old Mohammad Tamimi. Mohammad’s arm had been broken and in a cast since the beginning of that week, when soldiers entered the village in a separate incident.
His sister, Ahed, his mother, Nariman, and another Palestinian woman eventually prevented the event. His sister and his mother, though, were beaten by soldiers and sent to the hospital.
Quoted extensively in the Israeli press, the army’s version claimed that the soldiers were not aware that Mohammad was a minor. It is something that would have been very difficult to miss, given that he is a pretty small boy. And I wonder how close a soldier would have to be to notice that the boy was in fact a child, and if he still wasn’t able to notice it when he had him in a headlock between his arms. I also doubt that realizing that the boy was a minor would have prevented the soldier from arresting him. The army has arrested Palestinian children before.
The report in the Israeli daily Haaretz starts with the army’s version and only afterwards describes, briefly, the events as seen by the village residents. That version is told by the activist Yonatan Pollack, but the reporter then returns to the army spokesperson.
The reporter does not mention that those involved were members of the same family, or that Mohammad was already injured, or that Ahed and Nariman were hospitalized after being hit by the soldiers. If the Haaretz writer had made just the slightest journalist efforts, she could have easily discovered these details.
The reporter from the popular news site, Ynet, inserts Israeli army statements alongside a number of paragraphs quoted from an article in the British Daily Mail on the events. They report that the Daily Mail’s coverage is biased against Israel, despite the fact that they heavily rely on it. The article’s headline, “A girl bites a solder: a violent demonstration in Judea and Samaria,” paints a picture in which the village residents are those who cause the violence while the soldiers are the victims of it. They describe the demonstration as violent and present as fact the army’s claim that Mohammad was throwing rocks just before the soldiers attempted to arrest him, despite the fact that this is actually disputed, and denied by the villagers.
They describe Ahed as winning fame for screaming at the soldier and attempt to portray her as violent and dangerous. Indeed, a girl standing and screaming in the face of an armed soldier is a recognized threat.
Ynet’s inability to see the Palestinians villagers through human eyes is also apparent in that they confuse Ahed’s name with “Bilal,” another participant at the Nabi Saleh demonstration. He filmed the viral video, but is an adult man, not a young girl.
The circumstances of the demonstration and clashes were mentioned nowhere in this reporting, nor was there any critique of the consistent violence toward the villagers.
The Haaretz report portrays just another Friday in the West Bank through the frame of the Israeli army spokesman. Ynet communicates to the Israeli public that “we are the victims and everyone else is anti-Semitic.” The important question they deal with is how the world will look see us, rather than the reasons as to why a soldier was trying to violently arrest a 12-year-old boy.
Leehee Rothschild is a political-feminist activist and an MA student in gender studies at Ben Gurion University. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.