, JERUSALEM, ZZZ, Dec 28 – Ahed Tamimi is only a teenager, but has repeatedly been at the centre of the seemingly endless propaganda war between Israelis and Palestinians, with a video of her slapping soldiers the latest example.
Tamimi, 16 and recognisable by her shock of blonde hair, has been held up by Palestinians and other supporters as a hero and brave opponent of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
On social media, they have described the teenager as “worth a thousand men” while hailing her for her “bravery against villains who judge children”.
A years-old photograph of her raising her fist at a soldier was widely published and led to her being received by then Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2012.
She was also photographed while wearing a Tweety Pie shirt and biting the hand of an Israeli soldier in 2015 to try to stop the arrest of a brother.
But for Israeli officials, she is being made to star in staged provocations by her family, prominent activists who have been at the forefront of protests in their village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah.
The latest incident led to her arrest on December 19 along with that of her mother and, the following day, her cousin.
On Thursday, a military court extended the arrests of Tamimi and her mother until Monday. Her cousin is to be released on Sunday if no new evidence is presented.
The three appeared in a video that went viral after it was recorded on December 15 in Nabi Saleh. It appears to have been filmed near the Tamimi house.
It showed Tamimi and her cousin approaching two Israeli soldiers and telling them to leave before shoving, kicking and slapping them.
The heavily armed soldiers do not respond in the face of what appears to be an attempt to provoke rather than seriously harm them.
They then move backwards after Tamimi’s mother Nariman becomes involved.
Tamimi’s father argues that her blonde hair and Western dress have contributed to the attention she has received.
“If she was veiled and dark-skinned, would she have got the same attention?” Bassem Tamimi told AFP.
“The Zionist propaganda machine always depicts the Palestinian as dark-skinned and ugly, attacking the blonde victim, but now she is blonde.”
Regarding criticism of his family, Bassem Tamimi said “we don’t have to respond or defend ourselves,” calling it an attempt to distract from their cause.
– ‘Case of public opinion’ –
Since the incident, responses from either side could not be further apart.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has called her father and commended the family’s resistance against Israel’s occupation, official news agency WAFA reported.
Supporters have accused Israeli authorities of arresting a teenager standing up for the rights of her fellow Palestinians.
“The Tamimi women and girls are not afraid of soldiers. They are not afraid of jail,” Palestinian activist Issa Amro wrote on Twitter.
“They are devoted to the struggle until we all are free.”
Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and currently a deputy minister for diplomacy, accused the Tamimis of using children as pawns, however.
He alleged on Twitter that the family “dresses up kids in American clothes and pays them to provoke (Israeli) troops on camera.
“This cynical and cruel use of children constitutes abuse. Human rights organisations must investigate!”
The incident occurred during a day of clashes across the West Bank against US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Violence since Trump’s decision has left 12 Palestinians dead, with most killed in clashes with Israeli forces.
The Tamimi family says a relative was shot in the head with a rubber bullet during protests on the day the video was filmed.
Israelis were divided over the viral video, with some praising the soldiers’ restraint and others saying it showed weakness and merited a tougher response.
Bassem Tamimi describes his daughter as “shy”, but “someone who is mature enough to reject the occupation responsibly”.
She had in the past wanted to become a professional football player, but has since decided to study law to defend her family and village against an Israeli occupation that has lasted more than 50 years, he said.
But he said he fears his daughter will be imprisoned over the latest incident, particularly because it has become “a case of public opinion” in Israel.