Trump Jerusalem Declaration Unleashes Violent Backlash in Arab World, Israeli Crackdown in West Bank

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A shorter version of this article was published at Middle East Eye a few days ago:

President Trump’s recent declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital unleashed a furious backlash both in the Arab and western worlds.  Muslim states met in Turkey and prepared a UN Security Council resolution, proposed by Egypt, which condemned the U.S. policy shift.    Though the U.S. ambassador vetoed the resolution, all Council members but one voted for it.  Then the UN General Assembly passed a similar proposal with 128 nations supporting it and only nine opposed.  Unlike a Security Council resolution, a GA resolution is non-binding.

In Palestine, there were protests throughout Gaza and the West Bank.  At least 15 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, including a Gazan who became a double amputee after an Israeli missile smashed his legs in 2008.  As he protested in a wheelchair, an IDF sniper killed him.  The military is now denying that it did so and implying that he died either in the ambulance on the way to the hospital or in the hospital itself.  This is a common approach the Israelis take to such incidents.  When their forces have murdered someone in cold blood they deny it till incontrovertible evidence shows otherwise.  They hope that by then, enough time has elapsed that the matter will fade from the world’s attention.

Mohammed al Tamimi, shot through brain with IDF rubber bullet

Palestinian Teenager Arouses Israeli Anger by Confronting Soldiers

In the West Bank, there was a weekly demonstration in the village of Nabi Saleh, where Israelis authorities have gradually stolen the land and water resources on behalf of the nearby settlement of Halamish.  This week’s protest was especially intense, after an IDF sniper again shot another protester.  14-year-old Mohammed al Tamimi, was severely wounded by a rubber bullet that entered his brain and caused severe injury.  He was put into a medically-induced coma and is eventually expected to make a recovery, though it’s unclear the extent of the long-term damage.

This NBC News report on the shooting repeats a serious misconception commonly advanced by Israeli forces in justifying the firing of such ammunition at children and teenagers:

Rubber-coated bullets are commonly used to disperse crowds. While considered nonlethal, they nonetheless can be dangerous.

Rubber bullets are lethal.  They routinely wound, maim and kill innocent Palestinian protesters.  Accepting the Israeli perspective on this matter constitutes journalistic malpractice.

After the shooting, the West Bank village erupted in anger and began throwing stones at the troops. They attempted to put a stop to the unrest by patrolling at the site of a home where protesters were gathered.  This aroused the anger of 16-year-old Ahed al-Tamimi, a veteran of many protests against Israelis forces.  Virtually, no mainstream media source reported on this incident as the precipitating one for what followed.

She ran outside her home and confronted two Israeli soldiers demanding that they leave the family property.  The troops refused.  At that point, Ahed escalated from demands that they leave to a physical confrontation.  One of the soldiers, as you can see at 0:59 of this video, then slapped her with his left arm.  Similarly, no mainstream media source has mentioned that Ahed was struck first before she responded to this assault on her.  In response, she lunged at the soldiers, trying to slap and kick them.  She did little damage and the soldiers essentially tried to ignore her.

There is only one reason for the soldier’s restraint. They were being videotaped.  They knew that if they arrested her or retaliated that it would be documented on film and the world would see.  So they chose the path of least resistance.

However, their refusal to act aroused a hornet’s nest of anger among Israelis, who saw ‘their boys’ as being beaten down by a mere girl.  It was humiliating, and the ultra-nationalists ruling coalition demanded punishment.  No Palestinian, let alone a girl, must be permitted to disrespect the might of the Israeli nation in such a fashion.

As a result, the IDF prepared a raid on the al-Tamimi home the next morning at 4AM.  Soldiers barged into her home, grabbed Ahed from her bed, put her in handcuffs, and hustled her to a waiting paddy wagon.  They also stole the family’s electronic devices including cell phones and computers, apparently hoping to document the “crime” Ahed had committed.

The girl’s mother followed her to the police station in order to protect her daughter.  Instead, she herself was arrested.  That morning, the police dragged Ahed to court where they demanded the judge extend her imprisonment.  Bassem al-Tamimi, her father, came to court in order to support her.  He then was also arrested.  This is the way a regime of bullies and Mafiosi rule.  They brook no opposition.  If you resist, you will be made an example of so that other Palestinians don’t get any ‘big ideas’ into their head to join the resistance.

Ahed’s detention has been extended for a week by the settler military court because the judge determined that she was likely to compromise the investigation of her alleged crimes:

Judge Lidor Drachman of the Judea region Juvenile Military Court said that while Ahed Tamimi did not pose any danger, concern that the teen would try and obstruct the investigation justified keeping her locked up until next Monday.

“Despite the provocative and outrageous behavior of the suspect, given the limited risk she poses in addition to her young age, I was prepared to release her into an alternative detention,” wrote Drachman.

However, he continued, he had changed his mind after being supplied with evidence that she was a serial offender and that releasing her would compromise the investigations.

“The confidential report submitted to the court indicates that…[she posed a] significant threat she would compromise the investigation.”

It’s also worth noting that the IDF maintains its own juvenile court.  Can you imagine any other western democracy in which the army was charged with prosecuting children?

Media Create Narrative that Divorces Israel-Palestine Conflict from Context

The Israeli media also joined the chorus of abuse against the al-Tamimis.  Israelis were so unnerved at the sight of a Palestinian teenager berating the cream of Israel’s army that they belittled her by calling her “Shirley Temper,” a derogatory reference to 1930s child film-star Shirley Temple.  Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and current MK, Michael Oren, implied in a tweet that Ahed’s curly blond hair must mean that she wasn’t really Palestinian or a true member of the family.  He tweeted that it was doubtful the al-Tamimis were a ‘real family.’  He added that the children, when they protested wore American clothes, which was another racist claim that these Palestinians were trying to manipulate a western audience to feel sympathy for their plight.  What did Oren expect the kids to wear?  A chador or burqa?

The offensive term, “Pallywood,” was also widely used, indicating that Israelis believe that Palestinians stage hoaxes to fool the world into sympathizing with them.  For the coup de grace, the Israeli legislator accused the al-Tamimi’s of paying their children to protest.

Washington Post falsely identified the girl in the center of this image, who is arguing with the IDF soldier, as Ahed al-Tamimi. Ahed is on the left and not arguing with him.

To be absolutely clear, this is fake news: charges with no basis in fact.  Yet because Oren is a Knesset member and loyal Likudist who is mouthing the racist smears of his fellow citizens, this is rhetoric that resonates in Israel.

Rarely did the Israeli or foreign press note that the near-murder of Mohammed al Tamimi had preceded Ahed’s physical resistance against the IDF patrol.  The media conveyed a narrative that removed critical context which would permit a reader to understand the full picture and how events played out.

U.S. media like the Washington Post and NY Times followed suit in using these racist terms in portraying the protest.  They justified this by claiming they were merely reporting on the sentiment inside Israel.  A wholly unconvincing argument.  The Post in particular displayed a picture purporting to show Ahed al Tamimi verbally confronting Israeli troops in an earlier protest.  However, the girl who is arguing with the soldiers is not, in fact, Ahed.  Though the latter is in the picture, she is not the one arguing.  Such graphic mistakes refute the purpose of the image, which was to show Ahed’s purported angry, confrontational style.

Israeli Journalist Uses Code Words Calling for Raping Palestinian Teenage Protester

As if this wasn’t bad enough, one of Israel’s major newspaper columnists, Ben Caspit, wrote a horrifying story in Maariv in which he praised the soldiers for doing their best under trying circumstances. He showed no such sympathy for Ahed.  In fact, he was quoted in an AP story saying:

“In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras.”

Social media platforms lit up in outrage at this not so subtle call for rape and torture against a teenage girl.  There were calls for Al Monitor, where Caspit’s work is regularly published in English, to fire him. I asked the management of Al Monitor whether they were reviewing this matter and whether Caspit’s comment met the outlets journalistic standards.  They had not replied as of when this piece went to press.

Misogyny and Occupation

These days the world has become more sensitive to the treatment of women in the workplace and in the media.  That makes Caspit’s comment even more glaring in its misogyny.  But we shouldn’t be surprised at this in the Israeli context.  As a society, Israel faces an epidemic of sexual harassment and violence against women.  Police routinely disbelieve female victims and are loath to prosecute such cases.

Though much of this may be attributed to general societal attitudes toward women, there is another important factor: Israel’s Occupation impacts the nation in ways both great and small.  The notion that Israel is a security-obsessed nation in which individuals must often sacrifice their rights on behalf of the greater whole, overwhelms the status of women.  They become casualties of the national security state.  Their advancement and rights are relegated to lesser status.

This is even more the case for Palestinian women.  If Israeli women are inferior to Israeli men, then Palestinian women are even lower.  They are the Blacks of Israel.  They are ripe for ridicule of just the sort I outlined above.

Israel’s heavy-handed approach, instead of quelling unrest, incited even more anger and violence.  So far, fifteen Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces protesting against the Trump declaration.  The latest to die was 17 year-old Mohammed Sami al-Dahdouh who was shot in the neck by Israeli troops in a Gaza protest at the border fence.  The bullet severed his spinal cord and he died earlier today.  Nearly 700 have been wounded in Gaza alone and 500 Palestinians have been arrested.

Trump’s Jerusalem Call Brings Violence Back Home

In addition, a U.S. Muslim convert was entrapped by the FBI, which encouraged his conspiracy to murder tourists at the San Francisco waterfront.  He told his ‘co-conspirators,’ who were really FBI agents, that he sought revenge against Trump for disrespecting the Muslim world and its holy city, Jerusalem.

Donald Trump’s ill-considered, provocative statement changing Jerusalem’s status was a gift to extremists throughout the Muslim world.  It has given them carte-blanche to retaliate against the President’s insult to Islam and the world’s Muslims.  While Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have all acted in ways that provoked the anger of Arabs and Muslims, none engaged in the blatant assault on Muslim religious values which Trump has done with his statement on Jerusalem.