Yet all the New York Times says about Nabi Saleh’s favorite one-time resident is that she was an escort “who now lives in exile in Jordan.” Period. This is no mere oversight. The editors at the New York Times showcased this same psychopath once before, six years ago. Then, as now, we felt someone needed to push back and we posted two blog articles (“7-Aug-07: Hot House: Cold Truths” and “28-Jun-07: About sweet-faced young women”), and got a little attention for a while. But it was clear to us that those who thought they perceived greatness of spirit in the woman continued to do so.
One of the lives Tamimi snuffed out was that of our precious daughter Malki who was fifteen years old. Malki was the kind of young woman whose life and achievements ought to have entitled her to at least a fraction of the media coverage bestowed by the NYT editors and others on the murderer.But those editors, as well as the author of today’s Magazine piece, are evidently less affected by the innocent lives of the victims, lived and lost, than by the hypnotic power of symbolism.About the lethal rock-hurling attacks directed at Israelis, Bassem Tamimi
didn’t worry over whether stone-throwing counted as violence. The question annoyed him… If the loincloth functioned as the sign of Gandhi’s resistance, of India’s nakedness in front of British colonial might, Bassem said, “Our sign is the stone.” The weekly clashes with the I.D.F. were hence in part symbolic. The stones were not just flinty yellow rocks, but symbols of defiance… The message they carried, he said, was “We don’t accept you.”
Stone-throwing as a symbol? People have been killed and (as recently as this past Thursday) critically injured by the rocks (and cement blocks and boulders) of the ‘stone’ throwers. Perhaps “we don’t accept you” is what people living far from the scene imagine goes through the minds of baby-killers and restaurant bombers. But living where we do, innocent-sounding turns of phrase like that leave us dumbfounded.
Ahlam Tamimi’s post-massacre trajectory has been like something out of Hollywood – or perhaps the NYT Magazine. On conviction in October 2003, she was sentenced to 16 life terms in prison. The presiding judge, having heard her proudly claim credit for the killings and maimings, added for the record the view of the judicial panel that she “not be eligible for pardon by the military commander, nor to early parole by any other means.” He and his fellow judges (and my wife and I as well) were ignored when eight years later, almost to the day, she walked free as one of the 1,027 murderers and assorted other terrorists unjustly freed – not pardoned – as part of Israel’s agreement to the extortionate terms of the Gilad Shalit transaction. She flew to Jordan the same day, was married there on live television to another freed and unpardoned murderer (a cousin, a Tamimi from Nabi Saleh), addressed rallies in various Middle East capitals, and became a media hero as the presenter of a weekly Hamas satellite television program. This is devoted to the interests of imprisoned Palestinian Arab terrorists, and broadcast from Amman to all corners of the Arabic-speaking world.
Latest reports say she is preparing for the arrival of a baby. How the twists and turns of this life have impacted on her victims has never, as far as we know, been explored by any branch of the media, presumably for reasons of lack of interest. But within the Arab world, she is a celebrity.
Bassem Tamimi receives a salary from the foreign-aid-funded Palestinian Authority. But, like many thousands of other Palestinian Arabs on the massively-bloated P.A. payroll, he admits to the NYT Magazine that he almost never has to report to his office or do any work (while blaming this on the Israelis). The article might have pointed out, but did not, that massive servings of no-strings-attached funds paid by European governments to the terrorism-friendly P.A. are the reason men like Bassem Tamimi have the time and energy it takes to become a star of the New York Times and a source of videos, interviews and opinions.
His own photogenic daughter has achieved fame and influence and even been awarded a prize by one of the Middle East’s more Israel-phobic political figures for playing her part. Photos of her sticking a fist in the face of IDF servicemen in Nabi Saleh, the personification of an innocent sort of juvenile courage, are everywhere. (The NYT article mentions that she has been dubbed “Shirley Temper” in some quarters; you can see why in this video clip.) In reality, those images of defiance were captured by a horde of press agency photographers arranged by her parents. They followed the girl around as she walked up to one Israeli officer after another, hoping to provoke a camera-worthy (meaning violent) response. It never came, though not for lack of effort by the Tamimis.She has been used in this way again and again by her parents and community; there is no shortage of collaborators among the paparazzi. Any connection between this contrived set-piece and reality is entirely accidental.