Yesterday, a short video went viral in Israel and the Palestinian Authority alike. It was shot this past weekend, and it shows Ahed Tamimi, a teenaged Palestinian girl, and her friend walking up to two IDF soldiers in Nebi Salah, not far from Ramallah, and assaulting them repeatedly, slapping the soldiers and punching one in the face. The soldiers, despite being armed, stand by and do nothing.
Was that the right response? Like everything else in Israel, it depends on who you ask. Haaretz, unsurprisingly, praised the two soldiers for their inaction. “Even not-nice girls don’t deserve to die,” wrote one of the newspaper’s columnists, adding that “by doing nothing, [the soldiers] proved that the IDF isn’t just the army of the occupation, but an army that can overcome its urges, to which I say hurray.” The paper’s publisher, Amos Schocken, agreed, taking to Twitter and called Tamimi “a heroine who is unwilling to succumb to the humiliation of an occupying army.”
Senior officials, including Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, were careful not to criticize the soldiers directly, but expressed their displeasure regardless. “Acting humanely must never come at the expense of deterrence,” Lieberman said, while others on the right argued that the incident will only serve to incite further violence. “They keep telling us that the damage we sustain in the media when our soldiers arrest a young woman is great,” wrote Aryeh Eldad, a former right-wing Member of Knesset. “But I argue that these images of our soldiers humiliated without responding fuel the engines of incitement and bring about a far greater damage.”
Meanwhile, the video is being widely shared on social media among Palestinians and in the Arab world at large, with Tamimi being called “the Palestinian Gal Gadot.” Her history, however, is considerably darker than that of the Israeli movie star: Tamimi has been provoking Israeli soldiers on camera since she was nine, and her violent forays have won her an audience with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president. Her relative, Nizar Tamimi, murdered an Israeli in 1993, and his wife Ahlam was the mastermind behind the August 2001 suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, in which 15 civilians, including seven children and a pregnant woman, were killed, and 130 people were wounded. Tamimi’s parents, Bassem and Nariman, are active on social media, sharing Hamas and Hezbollah links and spreading blood libels about Jews murdering Palestinian children to harvest their organs, and Ahed herself has expressed her support for terrorists who have attacked Israeli civilians. She was arrested yesterday by IDF forces and awaits her trial.