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Children real victims of propaganda war




The recent opinion piece published in Daily Maverick (13 August 2018) glorifying Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian recently tried and convicted by an Israel court, is an example of that formula. The writer, Mia Swart, is a non-resident fellow at the Qatar branch of a United States think tank who simply repeats the standard Palestinian propaganda claims, omitting central facts, and inventing or distorting others.

In Swart’s mythology, Tamimi exemplifies innocent Palestinian children who are subject to abuse. To create this image, the author follows the usual pattern of erasing the participation of Palestinian minors in terror attacks. In July 2018, a 17-year-old Palestinian stabbed Yotam Ovadia to death just outside his home, orphaning Ovadia’s two children.

Swart also fails to mention the Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks who are themselves children, like the 13-year-old Israeli boy stabbed while riding his bicycle by a 13-year-old Palestinian boy. Instead, she repeats the story of Tamimi as an ostensible example of a mistreated child.

Tamimi’s case does demonstrate the abuse of Palestinian children, albeit not in the manner intended by Swart. For the past decade, Tamimi has regularly appeared at the front of choreographed confrontations with police and soldiers. Family members and activist NGOs film her and distributed the emotive images on social media and beyond. In a Facebook Live stream late last year, Tamimi slapped a soldier and then called for stabbings and suicide attacks; she was subsequently arrested and brought to trial.

In addition to erasing this essential context, Swart, like other propagandists, omits any mention of the treatment of minors involved in criminal acts, including terrorism, in other democracies.

For example, for assaulting an officer, Tamimi would be subject to five years in jail in Canada, three years in Australia, and four years in Sweden. For charges of “incitement to terror”, she would face imprisonment of up to life in Canada, 10 years in Australia, and six years in Sweden. In a plea bargain, Tamimi and her mother (and coach) admitted guilt and each served eight months.

Expanding from the Tamimi case, Swart goes on to other accusations, including implying that Israel keeps 350 Palestinian minors in “administrative detention”. In fact, as of December 2017, two Palestinian minors were held – actually confirming that Israel adheres to the UN’s standard that this method be used only in “exceptional circumstances”.

Swart’s inventions parrot a group of radical anti-Israel organisations, chief among them one calling itself Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P). Swart may be an “expert” on some things, but is apparently unaware of the extensive connections between DCI-P, which is leading the campaign exploiting children, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terror group recognised as such by the US, Canada, the European Union, and Israel. The PFLP is responsible for numerous mass killings, including a 2014 massacre of six worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue. PFLP also uses children as combatants.

Also repeating DCI-P’s propaganda, Swart claims, without any evidence, that instead of prosecuting some minors involved in terror, Israel’s soldiers simply kill them “in cold blood”. Had she examined the details, she would have seen that almost all of the 15 Palestinian minors killed in confrontations with Israel’s security forces in 2017 were participating in violent, life-threatening clashes, including stabbings and car ramming attacks.

Many Palestinian children are taught to hate from a very young age, and they are regularly put in harm’s way by those whose primary goal is to fight Israel. Yet, those like Swart who claim to care about “the rights of the child” show no interest in or concern about the exploitation of these young Palestinians, thus putting children on all sides of the conflict in harm’s way.

  • Gerald Steinberg is a professor of political science at Bar Ilan University and President of the NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem based research institute.

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