Ahed and Janna Tamimi cursing a senior IDF officer. (Ehud Amiton/Tazpit News Agency) (Ehud Amiton/Tazpit News Agency)
Nabi Saleh Tamimi

A closer look at the weekly clashes between Palestinian rioters and the IDF reveals a well-organized media industry run by one family which stages these incidents, now known as “Pallywood.”

The Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh and its inhabitants have recently risen to prominence again in the media thanks to the viral video of a teenage girl biting an IDF soldier who was trying to arrest her brother for throwing rocks.

The stars of the video are siblings Ahed and Mohammed Tamimi. Ahed, a 14-year-old girl, first became famous in 2012 after a video, allegedly depicting her facing IDF soldiers alone and shouting at them, went viral.

The 2012 video propelled the Tamimi family to international fame. Ahed and her little sister Janna were then showered with gifts by Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas and Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan. Additionally, Ahed and her family were invited to Turkey by Erdoğan, all expenses paid, and presented with a national bravery award.

Reviewing the records as far back as December 2009, when the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh began, one will always find a Tamimi sibling, be it Ahed (14), Muhammed (12) or Janna Ayyad (9) in the center of it all. Corresponding with the start of these well-documented demonstrations is the establishment of a private news agency called Tamimi Press.

The news agency and its related social media pages, blogs, internet forums and sites are owned and operated by family patriarch Bassem Tamimi and his brother Bilal, prominent residents of Nabi Saleh. Since 2012, the news agency’s social media presence has been mainly dedicated to promoting Ahed and Janna, who in turn generate the most interest from foreign media and NGOs.

Nabi Saleh IDF soldier

Palestinians attack an IDF soldier during clashes in Nabi Saleh. (Flash90)

Bilal Tamimi, who coordinates the Tamimi Press social media presence, said in an interview in 2011 that he holds a press card issued by the PA as well as another from the extreme left-wing Israeli B’Tselem NGO.

The subject matter of Tamimi Press reports and materials revolves predominantly around the regular Friday demonstrations in Nabi Saleh and the Tamimi children, who are the focus of the voluminous videos and photos.

In 2011, Bassem Tamimi himself was convicted and jailed for inciting minors to commit violent crimes when he was caught organizing the village children to march towards the neighboring Israeli community of Halamish and throw stones.

Premeditated and Orchestrated Performances

It is these rock attacks and violent marches towards Halamish that regularly prompt the IDF’s arrival at the scene. As soon as the soldiers arrive, witnesses report, the rock throwers, such as Mohammed Tamimi, retreat and are replaced by the unarmed, photogenic girls and other young children.

Bilal Tamimi Nabi Saleh

Bilal Tamimi in full press gear. (Ehud Amiton/Tazpit News Agency )

Ayelet Vardi, a New York-based journalist and filmmaker who attended such a protest in the village in March 2015, told Tazpit: “It was premeditated. It felt like an orchestrated performance. It seemed like the Arabs were intent on reaching the Jewish village. The IDF soldiers were just standing on the road that separates the two villages.”

Vardi described how the children then approached the soldiers and cursed them as photographers and cameramen waited to capture the soldiers’ reactions. “The children confidently kept on provoking, [and] some of them even started spitting on the soldiers,” she said.

In light of this weekly occurrence, the Tamimi family has been criticized and blamed for staging and instigating the events that fuel the publicity of their own news agency. Even a recent article in The Guardian reported that there “is evidence that the Tamimis are acutely aware of the value of such footage in their activism.”

“They [Tamimi family] are creating the very news items they sell to the world,” said Eliran Malki, an Israeli blogger who first researched the Tamimi family media business.

The latest Nabi Saleh incident is not the first time a Tamimi family member was the subject of his own news story.

Ahlam Tamimi, who is described by the Hamas military wing as their first female recruit, was a journalism student at Birzeit University and a part-time journalist for a Palestinian news channel in Ramallah. She is also the first cousin of Bassem Tamimi and a Nabi Saleh native.

Ahlam was part of the Hamas terrorist cell that executed the August 2001 bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, which claimed the lives of 15 victims. She was sentenced to 16 consecutive life sentences for her part in the terror plot.

In the 2007 documentary “Hot House,” chronicling the lives of Palestinian terrorists in prison, she is seen recalling how immediately after driving the suicide bomber to the restaurant, she hurried back to Ramallah to go on television and calmly report on that same bombing.

Interestingly, Ahlam’s image and quotes often decorate the T-shirts worn by Ahed Tamimi.

Currently, Bilal Tamimi is working on a documentary film titled “The Radiance of Resistance,” with Ahed and Janna as the focus subject. The project is supported by the independent Oregon-based AMZ Productions. Bassem is on a speaking tour in the United States.

By: Michael Zeff, Tazpit News Agency

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