[Opinion] Exploiting children for propaganda: beyond the Ahed Tamimi campaign


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In the Middle East propaganda wars, 2018 is the “year of the child,” at least for the Palestinians. Allegations that Israel is torturing, abusing and otherwise attacking Palestinian children are central themes in advocacy campaigns led by Palestinian Authority officials, non-governmental organizations, sympathetic media platforms and affiliated U.N. frameworks.

As is often the case, the allegations are factually deficient and legally innovative (in other words, fictitious). But children are good subjects for victimization campaigns, and whenever the allegations lead to more criticism of Israel, the goal of isolating Israel is advanced.

The most effective impacts result from accusations via what are generally considered to be credible and neutral platforms. For example, the website of the Washington-based Brookings Institution recently posted an article, “Ahed Tamimi and the plight of Palestinian child detainees,” repeating the standard claims. It was written by Mia Swart, who is listed as a non-resident fellow at the Brookings branch in Doha and research director of the Qatar Human Sciences Research Council. (Swart’s piece was originally published by a South African blog — the Daily Maverick.)

Swart’s attack did not focus on or even mention the numerous examples of Palestinian minors who have committed vicious crimes, such as the July murder of Yotam Ovadia, the father of two small children, by a 17-year-old. Instead, she repeated the story of Ahed Tamimi as an ostensible example of how Israel abuses Palestinian minors.

Although not the author’s intention, the Tamimi case is important in illustrating the systematic exploitation of children by Palestinian adults and organizations for use in this political warfare, as well as the due process and other safeguards of the Israeli justice system.