JERUSALEM — Israelis call her ‘Shirley Temper’ and say she epitomizes ‘Pallywood,’ or Palestinian propaganda attempts to discredit Israel. Palestinians call her a hero, for fearlessly standing up to those who enforce the Israeli occupation of their land and those who terrorize her village.
Her real name is Ahed Tamimi. And a video of her confronting or provoking Israeli soldiers — depending on how you look at it — has gone viral.
Tamimi, 16, is a well-known Palestinian activist from a well-known activist family. She lives in the village of Nabi Saleh, in the occupied West Bank, where weekly demonstrations have become common scenes of clashes between Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli troops. The villagers accuse Israel of expropriating their lands in favor of the nearby Jewish settlement of Halamish.
On Friday, the army said, soldiers were in the village to contain a riot involving some 200 people, including the Tamimis. Some of the rioters, the army said in a statement, entered a nearby house and continued to throw rocks at troops. Then, it said, Tamimi and some women exited and started to “violently provoke” the soldiers.
Tamimi, her wild locks swept up in a hair band, can be seen on film slapping and kicking a soldier, as another young woman captures the exchange on her smartphone.
On Monday night, after the video was highlighted by Israeli news media, Israeli forces arrested Tamimi and detained her mother, Nariman, the army said in a statement.
Bassem Tamimi, Ahed’s father, wrote on Facebook that soldiers raided his home, confiscating cellphones and computers and taking away his wife and daughter. He said he has not spoken to the women since. A court hearing has been set for Wednesday.
The father said that during the Friday clash, the soldiers shot a 14-year-old boy, Tamimi's cousin, in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet, leaving him in a medically induced coma.
Footage of a defiant Ahed Tamimi being arrested was caught on camera. It is making the rounds on social media, too.
“This was a severe incident, when Palestinian women attacked an [Israel Defense Forces] officer and attempted to use social media as a platform to provoke the officers to respond,” said Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. He said police were continuing to investigate what had happened.
In an interview with Israel Army Radio on Tuesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said the young women “should finish their lives in prison.”
“The pictures are harsh,” Bennett said. “I trust that the incident will be investigated, the lessons will be learned, and those activists who attacked will be tried.”
He said attacking a soldier is a crime that carries a punishment of up to seven years in prison.
It was not the first time that Ahed Tamimi was filmed in a violent physical confrontation with Israeli military forces. In 2015, wearing a bright pink Tweetie Pie T-shirt, Tamimi was seen slapping and biting a soldier after he attempted to arrest her younger brother, whom Israelis accused of throwing stones at troops.
She was also the focus of media attention in 2012, when, wearing red pants, she stood screaming angrily at a soldier and stamping her foot.
Her regular spots in such videos have garnered her the nickname “Shirley Temper” from pro-Israel bloggers. They, like the Israeli police, say her actions are staged and a clear attempt to create a negative image of Israel. The term “Pallywood” is used to describe Palestinians attempts to win the public relations war against Israel by manipulating the media.
In the Arab world, however, Tamimi has become something of a star. She is seen as bold for fearlessly standing up to the soldiers. Following the 2015 incident, she was invited to a dinner with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and this past summer she went on a speaking tour in South Africa, the Jerusalem Post reported.
On Tuesday, her supporters called for her to be freed from Israeli detention, and a #FreeAhedTamimi hashtag was circulating on Twitter.