Tamimi trial revives global interest in ‘David and Goliath’ narrative

Demonstrators hold posters reading, ‘Release Ahed.’ Palestinian Ahed Tamimi is due to appear before an Israelimilitary court today, charged with slapping and punching two Israeli soldiers in December. The teenager hasbecome a hero for Palestinians struggling against military occupation. (AP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Tamimi trial revives global interest in ‘David and Goliath’ narrative

LONDON: She has just turned 17, but already she is a media darling. With her mane of curly hair and defiant expression, Ahed Tamimi has reawakened the world to the plight of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
Tamimi is due to go on trial on Tuesday in an Israeli military court, accused of slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier. The incident, which happened on Dec.15, might have remained below the radar as one of many such altercations in the occupied territories had Tamimi’s mother, Nariman, not filmed it and posted footage on social media, where it went viral.
The case has created a global media storm, with many references to David and Goliath helping to revive interest in the broader Palestinian struggle.
Tamimi was arrested along with her mother and cousin Nour, and despite her youth (she was 16 at the time and, indeed, is still a minor now), she was denied bail and has been in custody since.
Her trial was set first for Jan. 31 — coincidentally, her 17th birthday — then Feb. 6 and now, Feb. 13.
She has been hailed a hero for bravely standing up to the occupying forces in Nabi Saleh, the West Bank village squeezed between an Israeli settlement and an Israeli military checkpoint which is home to the Tamimi family.
The UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticized Israeli authorities for their handling of the case, while the EU has expressed concern over the detention of minors. Tamimi is one of an estimated 300 underage inmates in Israeli detention — an often-forgotten statistic until her case was highlighted by the media.
More than 1.7 million people have signed an online petition demanding her release and Tamimi’s father, Bassem, said he has welcomed “hundreds” of observers and supporters from as far away as Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, Argentina and Colombia.
He tells his daughter’s story, explains the reality of living under occupation and states his own political views, which include his preference for a single, bi-national state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
But to suggest that Palestinians are exploiting Tamimi’s story would be wrong, said Rosemary Hollis, professor of Middle East Policy Studies at City University in London and former director of the Olive Tree Scholarship Programme for Palestinians.
“To be sell-able and grab attention on social media, there has to be an element of appeal above and beyond the plain story of conflict, But there is no proof that this (Tamimi’s case) is being manipulated in a propaganda effort,” she said.
“This is a story that has been going on since 1967. There is a perception that people are fed up with it, especially when there is Syria, where the suffering is of another order.
“The media needs a hook because it gives people access to the broader story, but that doesn’t make this a conspiracy.
“In the past two years, the situation for Palestinians has worsened. The Israelis require the Palestinian police force to prevent acts of violence by any Palestinian against all Israelis, but they don’t trust them to do the job. So the Israelis conduct their own security raids and Palestinians live in constant fear of them.”
It was in just such a middle-of-the-night raid at her home that Tamimi was arrested in December.
She is accused of assault and incitement — offenses that could see her jailed for years. Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, denies the high profile attained by the case will harm Israel.
“Those who are against Israel will be against it if she is brought to court or if she is not,” he said.
He also played down the findings of a recent Pew poll that indicated younger, liberal Americans are less supportive of Israel’s narrative than older generations. He portrayed young liberals as naive and said he expects their views to change as they get older, but added that Israel needs to work “very, very hard not to lose these people.”
However, the Israelis are sufficiently worried about this emerging new “poster girl” for the Palestinian cause that one official recently revealed that there had been a parliamentary investigation into whether Ahed and her equally fair-haired, blue-eyed Tamimi relatives were from a “real” Palestinian family.
Ahed’s gender is another factor. Hollis sees similarities with how Israel has regarded Palestinian women, particularly since the second intifada, when women began to take part in suicide bombings.
“The Israelis said the women must have shamed themselves in some way — had an affair or got pregnant, so that a martyr’s death was preferable. A woman could not be a fighter.”


Al Jazeera comes under scrutiny in the US

Updated 15 August 2018
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Al Jazeera comes under scrutiny in the US

  • Controversial Qatari network will be forced to reveal funding and ownership details under new legislation
  • The revelation that Al Jazeera had 175 staff accredited to the US Senate and House of Representatives in 2016 rang alarm bells

LONDON: Qatari broadcast network Al Jazeera will be forced to disclose its ownership and the source of its funding under a new law passed in the US.
A clause in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which became law this week, requires foreign media outlets based in the US to reveal their relationship to foreign governments or political parties, and to report on the funding they receive from such “foreign principals.” The information must be submitted within 60 days and thereafter every six months.
The information is submitted to the US Congress and posted on the website of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent government agency responsible for regulating the radio, television and telephone industries and all inter-state and international communications via wire, satellite and cable.
The new law is an indication of the growing mistrust with which the US, an ally of Doha, views the news channel because of Qatar’s support for groups which the US designates as terrorist organizations.
Both Republican and Democrat politicians have pressed the US Department of Justice to compel Al Jazeera to be registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) because of the station’s “radical anti-American” content. In March, 19 politicians wrote to Attorney-General Jeff Sessions citing their concerns.
“We find it troubling that the content produced by this network often directly undermines American interests with favorable coverage of US State Department-designated foreign terrorist organizations including Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Jabhat Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria,” they wrote.
The Justice Department defines the purpose of the FARA law as “to inform the American public of the activities of agents working for foreign principals to influence US government officials or the American public with reference to the the domestic or foreign policies of the US.”
The Middle East Forum (MEF) think tank has also lobbied for closer scrutiny of Al Jazeera and welcomed the measure, which President Donald Trump signed into law on Monday.
Though the law applies to foreign media in general, the MEF said it was prompted “primarily from abuses by Al Jazeera,” which was described as “a political project masquerading in the guise of journalism.”
The revelation that, according to the Congressional Directory, Al Jazeera had 175 staff accredited to the US Senate and House of Representatives in 2016 rang alarm bells. In comparison, in the same year, The New York Times had 43 accredited correspondents and the Washington Post had 111.
“That Al Jazeera has more reporters covering Congress than The New York Times and the Washington Post combined hints at something going on beyond journalism,” said MEF director Gregg Roman.
“With more transparency, we will learn more about the Qatari government’s intentions.”
All Al Jazeera videos on YouTube already have to carry a disclaimer stating that the channel is entirely or partly funded by the Qatar government.
Al Jazeera did not respond to requests for a comment, but declared it was “shocked” when the 19 US politicians called for FARA registration and accused them of trying to curtail press freedom.
In a statement released at the time, the network insisted it followed no political agenda and maintained editorial independence “from any governmental institutions, Qatari or otherwise.”
If compelled to register under FARA, Al Jazeera would join China Daily and People’s Daily Overseas Edition (both English-language outlets), the Korean broadcaster KBS, Japanese broadcaster NHK Cosmomedia and — since last November — the pro-Kremlin network RT America, which was previously known as Russia Today.