By the time I began going to Nabi Saleh, I had spent about four years reporting on what I saw in the West Bank and Gaza, watching detachedly as my politics moved ever leftward. What I witnessed in that small West Bank village was the last straw.
A short video of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi slapping an Israeli soldier has dominated the Israeli media for the past week, and received prominent coverage internationally as well. Ahed, a Palestinian girl from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, makes a big impression with her eye-catching mane of blonde hair, the fierce, intelligent expression in her blue eyes — and her fearlessness.
One of the most striking aspects of the immense discussion generated by the video is the near-binary contrast between what Israelis and their advocates see, and what everyone else sees.
For Israelis, one of their soldiers was provoked, almost unbearably, but still managed to rise above the situation. For almost everyone else, the video shows an unarmed adolescent — who could easily, based on her appearance, be an Israeli teenager shopping at the mall — bravely confronting an armed soldier in her own village. Even without knowing the circumstances, a fully-grown man in combat gear and carrying a powerful weapon refraining from hitting a much smaller, unarmed adolescent girl, seems not remarkably praiseworthy but rather a response predicated on basic humanity and ethics.
The Israeli media has, for the most part, promoted the army’s narrative about the incident — of a restrained and mature soldier who dealt admirably with a difficult and stressful situation involving enemy actors.
In the segment below, Yaron London, the host of an eponymously named primetime news magazine program on Channel 10, mirrors the perspective of the army. London’s guests are Or Heller, the station’s military affairs correspondent, and Jonathan (Yonatan) Pollak, a veteran anti-occupation activist:
The conversation between the three men is salutary because it provides real insight into the mentality of mainstream Israeli society. First we hear Or Heller, an experienced military affairs correspondent, repeating the army’s narrative. He expresses pride in the soldiers, makes the claim that the Tamimi family...Read More