The Tamimi masterclass on media manipulation

In a recent post that focused on Bassem and Nariman Tamimi’s cynical exploitation of their children as props for their efforts to provoke clashes with the IDF in order to ignite a “Third Intifada,” I noted that the Tamimis can usually rely on completely uncritical and indeed outright sympathetic media coverage of their activism. The most striking example of the cozy relationship that the Tamimis have cultivated with the media is perhaps the fawning tribute featured as a New York Times Magazine cover in March 2013, which was authored by American writer Ben Ehrenreich after he had been a house guest of the Tamimis for three weeks.

It is thus hardly surprising that by now, the Tamimis apparently feel free to tell the media any story that suits their purpose. Their complete disregard for facts and the ease with which they fabricate a story to bolster their image as righteous defenders of a noble cause was on full display in the wake of the widely covered recent attempt of an IDF soldier to arrest Bassem Tamimi’s 12-year-old son Mohammad (also known as Abu Yazan) for stone-throwing. As the viral video-clip showed, the fully armed soldier was beaten and bitten by a group consisting mostly of women and girls – prominently including Bassem Tamimi’s daughter Ahed – and the soldier ultimately released the boy from his hold and retreated.

Most parents watching this clip would probably shudder to imagine their own children in the place of Mohammad Tamimi. But according to a CNN report, Bassem Tamimi remained calm enough to film the attempt to arrest his son from a safe distance, explaining to CNN that he and his family “routinely” film “all of the protests to keep a record of the conflict there and collect what he says is evidence of Israeli abuses.”

One element that undeniably added to the emotional impact of the clip was the fact that Mohammad Tamimi had a plaster cast on his left arm. The various explanations offered by Bassem and Nariman Tamimi about how their son sustained the injury that required the cast reveal their mendacious modus operandi and their reliance on uncritical and sympathetic media coverage.

Before documenting the fabrications of Bassem and Nariman Tamimi in detail, it is noteworthy that their son’s previously injured arm not only added to the impact of the viral clip that showed an ostensibly frightened boy with one arm in a cast, but that it also greatly intensified the sense of victory felt afterwards by the family and their supporters. As the saying goes: one picture is worth a thousand words – and this widely shared picture with which the Tamimis celebrated their “victory” transforms the frightened and injured boy who was exhibited to the world as the victim of a brutal assault by a heavily armed soldier into a little superman who needs just one arm to toss the hapless soldier into the air.

Tamimi kids shatter IDF myth

As far as the Tamimis are concerned, it truly is child’s play to “shatter the myth of the Zionist army.” Needless to say, if the “Zionist army” was as brutal and trigger-happy as the Tamimis usually claim, their “heroic” son would have had two broken arms in the best-case scenario.

But how did Mohammad Tamimi, aka Abu Yazan, break his left arm? One journalist who apparently addressed this question to Bassem Tamimi reported:

“According to his father, the child in the video, Mohammed Tamimi, broke his wrist while fleeing an Israeli tank in his village, which was why he was wearing a cast.”

Apparently, the journalist did not notice that it would be rather unusual if the IDF drove a “tank” through the village and children would have to ‘flee’ this tank. It seems that the journalist did not question the claim and no evidence is offered to support it.

But the question of how Mohammad Tamimi injured his left arm also came up in an interview with Nariman Tamimi, the boy’s mother. She offered not only a completely different story [as highlighted below], but also used what will be shown to be a fabrication to justify the participation of her children in the regularly instigated confrontations with soldiers:

NTamimi story on broken arm

Again, no further evidence of the alleged attack on the Tamimi’s home is provided.

So did Mohammad Tamimi break his arm while fleeing an Israeli tank, as his father claims, or did he break his arm while sitting peacefully at home, getting hurt by tear gas canisters shot into the Tamimi house by the IDF, as his mother claims?

The answer suggested by checking the relevant Facebook (FB) posts of Bassem and Nariman Tamimi is: none of the above.

Nariman Tamimi’s story appears to be a complete fabrication, invented at the spur of the moment to justify why she would not only allow, but actually encourage even her youngest child to participate in regular protests that are designed to provoke clashes with IDF soldiers.

On August 25, at 7.40 PM (all times given are Israel time), Nariman Tamimi announced in a post on her FB page that her son Abu Yazan had broken his arm; a fairly literal translation of her post would read: “Abu Yazan is wounded, [his] hand is broken, a thousand wishes of get well, oh great one!”

About an hour later, at 8.46 PM, Nariman Tamimi posted a follow-up, including a photo, via mobile upload on her FB page.

NTamimi 2nd FBpost on broken arm

Curiously, the photo Nariman Tamimi chose to upload was several years old; it can e.g. be found in a post from November 2012 at the blog of the French branch of the notorious International Solidarity Movement. (The post also includes a video clip showing a small group of children – including Ahed Tamimi and her brother Mohammad – screaming at bemused soldiers and trying their very best to provoke them.)

2012 pic of boy and jeep

Why she chose to upload this old picture is anyone’s guess, but the text she added is fairly clear; again, staying as close as possible to the original, the translation would be:

“When you are wounded, your hand is broken, you put it in your shirt and put the edge of the shirt in your mouth and keep hitting the occupation with your pure stone – then you are my son, Abu Yazan, may Allah return you to me healthy, oh mother.”

The message Nariman Tamimi has for her son here is clear: never mind that you broke your arm while throwing stones at an army jeep, pull yourself together and keep throwing stones. This is a truly chilling glimpse of the ruthless pressure the Tamimis exert on their children.

Both of Nariman Tamimi’s posts elicited many responses, with people expressing concern and wishing a speedy recovery. In response to a question of what exactly happened, posted by FB user Sheerin Al Araj at 8.56 PM, Nariman Tamimi explained a little more than half an hour later, at 9.35 PM: “He fell while he was throwing stones at the jeep, and he broke his hand.”

NTamimi admits son threw stones

Just two minutes later, at 9.37 PM, Nariman Tamimi explained in another post:

“Allah be blessed, he fell when he hit a jeep; his hand broke, there was a possibility that it would be operated on, but Allah be blessed, the fracture returned to its place, it was put in a plaster cast, and he is going home.”

NTamimi 937 post

Shortly afterwards, another exchange indicates that even some admirers of the Tamimis began to feel they are overdoing it. At 9.46 PM, Sheerin Al Araj writes: “May Allah protect you, what is [it] going to be with you, stop, enough.” Nariman Tamimi’s rather chilling response two minutes later is: “Either victory or martyrdom; and everything is going to be OK.”

NTamimi Victory or martyrdom

At 10.24 PM, Bassem Tamimi shared his version of the incident on FB, uploading an image of his son with the cast, adding comments English and Arabic. The Arabic text says: “May Allah cure you Muhammad/Abu Yazan. In a confrontation with the forces of the occupation, tear gas canisters surrounded him, he fell and broke his hand. May you be healthy, oh hero!” Tamimi added in English: “today the IOF attacked the village of Nabi Saleh. during the clashes my son Mohammad was injured and broke his arm. free Palestine.”

Nariman Tamimi shared this post on her own timeline at 11.13 PM.

NTamimi share Bs version broken arm

Bassem Tamimi’s version was of course vague enough to allow both of them to fill in details and dramatize as needed when they were asked a few days later how their son had broken his arm. Bassem Tamimi chose to come up with the frightening scenario of a tank ploughing through the village, forcing his son to flee in panic; whereas his wife felt the need to invent the very different scenario of an IDF attack on the house, because she wanted to justify her insistence that it was best for her children to be sent out to confront soldiers.

Both obviously counted on the credulity of the reporters and didn’t expect to be asked for any evidence. Their son had a cast on his arm – who would doubt that in some way or other, a vicious act of the brutal “IOF” was to blame? How often have the Tamimis played the same game without being caught lying?

But worse than their lies and their shameless manipulation of the media – which, after all, love to be fed the kind of stories the Tamimis are eager to provide – is their ruthless exploitation of their children. It emerged in the comments responding to Nariman Tamimi’s post that this was already the second time that her son Mohammad had broken his arm, presumably under similar circumstances. But when a concerned friend suggested it was “enough” and time to stop, Nariman Tamimi defiantly responded “Either victory or martyrdom.” It is a terrible thought, but given the way the Tamimis have exploited their children so far, one has to wonder if they might ultimately consider the “martyrdom” of one of them a “victory.”

And make no mistake: the “victory” for which the Tamimis are fighting is not the peaceful co-existence of the Jewish State of Israel and an Arab-Muslim Palestinian state. In various interviews published on sites that oppose Israel’s existence as a Jewish state – such as the “hate-siteMondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada (from where an interview conducted by the notorious Max Blumenthal was even cross-posted on the website of the Al-Qassam Brigades), Bassem Tamimi has indicated that he is a determined proponent of the so-called “one-state-solution” that would absorb the world’s only Jewish state into yet another Arab-Muslim majority state.

* * *

This is a slightly edited version, including additional screenshots, of the piece recently published on my JPost blog.

Update: A recent YNet report illustrates that the Tamimis are not the only ones to freely fabricate stories: “A Palestinian source reported on Saturday that an Israeli had shot a six-year-old Palestinian boy;” however, an investigation by the IDF found that “the boy was wounded while playing with a gun owned by his brother, a Palestinian police officer.” The IDF suspected that “the family invented the story of an Israeli attacker to protect their older son and additionally to get a paycheck from the Palestinian Authority as victims of terror at the hands of Jewish settlers.”

6 responses to “The Tamimi masterclass on media manipulation

  1. This is the only footage released by the Tamimi Press showing a confrontation between Nabi Saleh villagers and the IDF on 8/25/15, the day that the Tamimi parents claim he broke his wrist. It shows some soldiers and jeeps on a road near an open field, and village children throwing rocks while some unseen adults talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkRop1bg91o

    • Thank you, very interesting — this could indeed be the incident in which Mohammad Tamimi fell and broke his arm. It shows very well how close the children & youngsters get to the IDF jeep in the apparent hope to score a “hit”, and how carelessly they run between cars on the road.

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