JERUSALEM — A short video clip of an Israeli soldier attempting to arrest a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in the West Bank has gone viral.
Soldiers chase youthful rock-throwers all the time in the West Bank — it’s what they do. It is the film loop of the 48-year-old military occupation of the Palestinian territory. What is equally revealing are reactions of the viewers and the dueling media spin.
The footage shows a masked Israeli soldier, with an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder, trying to subdue the boy, whom Israeli authorities accused of throwing stones. After the soldier grabs the kid and presses his head against a boulder, hard, a group of Palestinian women, including the boy’s mother and his blond-braided 15-year-old sister, surround and slap at the soldier, pull at his mask and clothes, and bite his hand.
The Palestinians saw righteous resistance. The Israeli right saw weakness.
The kid looked terrified, one side said. The soldier looked freaked out, the other said.
The pro-Palestinian left saw Israeli brutality, with some describing the attempted detention as “kidnapping.” The pro-Israel voices called the Palestinians a mob.
The Israeli defense establishment worried about low morale, poor training, draft dodging. An Israeli commander wondered why the soldier didn’t display a calm, commanding and decisive force, while the soldier’s father praised what he deemed his son’s restraint.
A top Israeli politician wondered aloud why the soldier didn’t shoot.
“We need to decide immediately that a soldier that is attacked is permitted to return fire. Period. I call on the minister of security to put an end to the humiliation and change the open fire regulations immediately!” Culture Minister Miri Regev wrote on Facebook.
A left-leaning Israeli daily newspaper, in an editorial, called the skirmish video “a perfect picture of the occupation.”
“An army that fights children and chases them as they flee is an army that has lost its conscience,” Haaretz wrote.
The ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, a former Israeli foreign minister, blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “the feeble and stuttering” response and for not backing the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, 100 percent.
Lieberman said the video broadcasts “helplessness on the part of the IDF and Israel.”
The headline on Breakingisraelnews.com, which offers the “latest news from a biblical perspective,” was “Horrifying Viral Video Shows IDF Soldier Beaten by Mob of Palestinian Women, Children.”
The edited video was shot Friday during the weekly protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, where clashes often occur between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters, led by the village’s Tamimi clan, usually supported by pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement activists. On the micro level, the village is fighting with a Jewish settlement over access to a nearby spring; on the macro, they want the Israelis to leave the territory and end the occupation.
Nabi Saleh is famous. The New York Times two years ago wondered aloud whether this is where the third intifada, or uprising, may start.
"The photos could have been published 30 years ago in 1985, or 30 years from now in 2045, when Israel will still likely be doing the same thing it is today," Seth J. Frantzman wrote in the Jerusalem Post.
The Mondoweiss report on the Friday protest was headlined “Brave Tamimi women of Nabi Saleh take down Israeli soldier assaulting injured child.”
Mondoweiss is dedicated to providing news and analysis on “the struggle for Palestinian human rights.” The Mondoweiss author called the Palestinian women “determined lionesses."
Pro-Israel voices call what happens in Nabi Saleh every week “the show,” an almost scripted confrontation. Only a relative handful of Palestinians come out in support.
Arutz Sheva 7, a right-wing news outlet in Israel, said the Friday incident was “proof that the army is having its hands effectively tied, both by increasingly restrictive instructions on how to handle violent Palestinian rioters, as well as by insufficient backup from the political echelons against legal campaigns by leftist NGOs targeting IDF soldiers.”
The soldier’s father told Israel’s Army Radio, “Anyone can sit in their living room and judge the soldiers.” The father, who was not named, said, “We are very proud of what we saw, proud of the restraint that he demonstrated, because without a doubt if women had been injured, it would have ended very differently."
A lot of Israelis felt sorry for the soldier, saying he was put in an impossible situation, dangerous for himself and the Palestinians. In another recently filmed incident, a rock was thrown at the car of a top Israeli commander. He exited the vehicle, and, according to medical reports and witnesses, shot the teenage stone-hurler as he was running away.
The viral Nabi Saleh video was taken by Bilal Tamimi, a local activist and the boy's relative. The girl with the braids is 15-year-old Ahed Tamimi, who frequently appears in videos of clashes at the village, confronting armed Israeli soldiers.
An earlier photo of Ahed shaking her fist at an Israeli soldier when she was 11 is famous — she was flown to Istanbul to receive an award and an iPhone from the Turkish president.
Some Israel supporters have described the videos of the clashes as "Pallywood propaganda" and have dubbed Ahed “Shirley Temper.”
The Arabic media had another word to describe the Israeli soldier: coward.