Since 2010, the Tamimi family have been targeted by Israeli authorities for its role in organizing protests against the Israeli settler-colonial project in Nabi Saleh, a Palestinian village of approximately 600 people located twelve miles north of Ramallah in the West Bank. For their efforts, the Tamimis have become well-known across Palestine, as well as within activist circles. But it was only after the arrest and detention in December 2017 of then sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi that the family became international icons of resistance. Since the arrest, protests have been held around the world, focused on Ahed’s situation but also generally demanding the release of all Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel.
Ahed Tamimi was arrested after a video spread online of her hitting an Israeli soldier. The incident occurred after her fifteen-year-old cousin, Muhammad Fadel Tamimi, was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier using a steel-coated rubber bullet at close range. To save his life, doctors were forced to place the teenager in a medically-induced coma and remove part of his skull.
Since Ahed’s arrest, other members of the Tamimi family have been detained, interrogated, and indicted, including Ahed’s activist mother (Nariman) and cousin (Noor). Family members from the neighboring village of Deir Nizam have also been injured or killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers, including seventeen-year old Musab Tamimi, who was shot in the neck in January.
On Monday, February 26, Israeli forces yet again targeted the Tamimi family by invading the villages of Nabi Saleh and Deir Nizam. According to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, ten members of the family, including five minors, were detained during a predawn raid, including the still recovering Muhammad Tamimi, who is awaiting major restorative surgery. The teenager was released on Monday afternoon following interrogation. As of Tuesday evening, others apprehended in the raid remain in Israeli custody.
According to locals, occupation forces conducted the night raid in order to collectively punish the two villages and silence its activists. It appears, however, that Muhammad Tamimi was particularly targeted. Shortly after his release from police custody, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the oPt (occupied Palestinian Territories), Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, wrote on Facebook that the young Tamimi had admitted his head wound was not the result of a rubber bullet shot by an Israeli soldier, but rather the consequence of a bicycling accident. Mordechai declared that, by claiming otherwise, the Tamimi family was guilty of lying and inciting against Israel.
The “confession” was extracted during a police interrogation of Tamimi, without the presence of his parents or legal counsel. Mordechai’s claims are also easily contradicted by official medical documents and surgical reports (including CAT scans of Muhammad’s brain), as well as eyewitness accounts. Tamimi has since explained that Israeli forces had beaten him, and that his medicine was stolen and withheld until he “admitted” to the bicycle injury. Because he was scared for his well-being, he did as he was told.
In coercing Muhammad to lie about being shot in the head, the Israeli government has made a sordid attempt to discredit the Tamimi family, sow confusion about the military’s actions, and ultimately absolve Israel of responsibility for Muhammad’s condition. It is part of a broader attempt to undermine the credibility of the Tamimi family, more generally. Only last month, deputy minister and MK of the center-right Kulanu party, Michael Oren, confirmed that he led a classified parliamentary investigation into the family in 2015, based on suspicions that the Tamimi’s are simply actors participating in a “very sophisticated” public relations operation commonly referred to in Israel as “Pallywood.” The investigation ended with “no unequivocal conclusion.”
Indeed, the threat the Tamimi family poses to Israel is not related to the country’s security, as is commonly argued by Israeli politicians and military personnel, but rather to its public image, especially in the West. The high-profile arrest of Ahed Tamimi, as well as the widely-circulated image of Muhammad Tamimi after his initial surgery in December, have led to pronounced international focus and criticism of Israeli practices in the oPt, particularly its treatment of minors.
While Israeli politicians push a “Pallywood” narrative – one in which all Palestinian complaints about Israel’s aggression and repression are depicted as fabrications – Mordechai’s stunt demonstrates that it is the Israeli government that is engaging in falsehoods.