By Daniel Laufer/JNS
In a video that has gone viral, a young Palestinian approaches two Israeli soldiers. She hits, prods and slaps them. She is trying to provoke a reaction that will be caught on camera and show the ugly violence of the Israeli army. The soldiers respond with professionalism and restraint, and ignore her attack.
The Palestinian in question is Ahed Tamimi, best known from a 2015 video showing her biting and hitting a soldier as well as from regular demonstrations in Nabi Saleh. News reports have variously identified Tamimi as 16- or 17-years-old, although a number of observers on social media have pointed to documents from 2011 that would put her current age at 18.
Following the release of the video, Tamimi was arrested for her assault. Despite the ambiguity about her age, this triggered a widespread Twitter campaign calling for her release, under the hashtag #NoWayToTreatAChild.
The use of this hashtag is not accidental or random, and like the video, it reflects the cynical manipulation of children’s rights that is emerging as a dominant theme in anti-Israel activism.
“No Way to Treat a Child,” or NWTTAC, is a campaign coordinated by Palestinian, Israeli and international NGOs, many of which also promote the BDS movement against Israel. Through concerted efforts to falsely accuse the IDF of violating the rights of Palestinian minors, they seek international sanctions against the Jewish state.
The leading group behind the campaign is a Palestinian NGO, Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCI-P). The agency, reportedly tied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group, has joined with U.S.-based pro-BDS organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace to lobby the U.S. government to “use all available means to pressure relevant Israeli authorities to end the detention and abuse of Palestinian children.”
Last month, NWTTAC convinced Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) to propose legislation that would “to prevent United States tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children.” The bill itself recycled a host of NGO claims without independent verification, at times copying DCI-P materials word for word.
Another major target for NWTTAC groups is the United Nations. Every year, the U.N. secretary-general publishes a lists of armed forces that systematically and gravely violate children’s rights. And every year, NGOs such as DCI-P, Human Rights Watch and War Child Holland attempt to have the Israeli military added to this list, alongside groups like Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda.
Media outlets have joined in the propaganda efforts. Earlier this month, Al Jazeera’s AJ+ channel posted a video on its Twitter account, alleging that Israel “systematically harasses and abuses Palestinian kids.” The video parrots NWTTAC’s blatantly false or misleading claims. An employee of Human Rights Watch (HRW) even claimed that Israel has no reason to arrest minors—regardless of the fact that some minors are perpetrators of violent terror attacks, including murder. HRW Executive Director Ken Roth disseminated the video in an offensive tweet.
Israeli NGOs have a role to play in this exploitation of children. First, videos produced by B’Tselem have featured prominently in the campaigns, including the AJ+ video. Second, B’Tselem and another Israeli group, HaMoked, published a joint report in October alleging that detention of Palestinian minors in Jerusalem reflects “systematic” and “extensive” abuse of children. As with other NWTTC materials, the context of heightened Palestinian violence and terrorism, including attacks by children, is completely missing.
NGO Monitor research shows that campaign participants also make numerous false and misleading allegations about the IDF and Israeli military courts. One brazen NWTTAC distortion is the claim that Palestinian minors are subject to solitary confinement. In actuality, Israel’s separation of minors from adult detainees stems from international standards and Israeli law geared toward protecting children.
In fact, contrary to the NGO claims, Israeli procedures are consistent with international norms and the rule of law, and balance the rights of children with the need to stop violence and punish perpetrators.
The video of Ahed Tamimi attacking a soldier, as well as the disingenuous social media campaign on her behalf, crystallizes the cynical calculus that lies at the heart of “No Way to Treat a Child.” Namely, Palestinian minors are encouraged to endanger themselves in the hopes of provoking a violent response that will help demonize Israel.
For those orchestrating these efforts, and the NGOs that try to advance a political agenda, a detained or injured Palestinian teenager is far more valuable than ensuring their safety and wellbeing.
Daniel Laufer is the international spokesperson at NGO Monitor, an independent research institute that provides information and analysis, promotes accountability, and supports discussion on the reports and activities of NGOs claiming to advance human rights and humanitarian agendas.