Two cases continue to entangle Israel in controversy in the West Bank. The first is the case of Muhammad Tamimi, a cousin of Ahed Tamimi, the teenager accused of slapping Israeli soldiers. Tamimi’s head was disfigured in what his family blamed on his being struck by a rubber bullet fired by Israeli forces.The second is the case of Yassin al-Saradih, a Palestinian who died in Jericho after clashes with the army in February.
The two stories are linked because of changing stories by Israeli officials and have led to questions about how authorities responded to these two incidents.On February 26, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordination of government activities in the territories, posted in Arabic on Facebook, “What is the truth about Muhammad al-Tamimi?” In his post he noted that although Tamimi’s father had said the 15-year-old teen was wounded by a rubber bullet in December. However, Mordechai wrote that the boy had confessed that he injured his skull “when he was riding on his bicycle and fell from it.”The IDF officer alleged that the changing story was part of a “culture of lies and incitement that continues” from the village of Nabi Saleh. He hashtagged his post “don’t lie and incite.”Reports about the boy’s injury now include precise details about the injury and say “a piece of the bike’s fender penetrated his head, which would explain the metal removed by the doctors,” writes Hamodia.The Washington Post obtained a medical report from the family that they said was provided from a hospital in Ramallah. “The hospital confirmed that it was genuine. The bullet entered his head, but there was no exit wound, the report said.
Ahed Tamimi"s lawyer and father lash out against decision to try the Palestinian teen behind closed doors, February 13, 2018. (Reuters)
It described him as drowsy and bleeding ‘profusely.’ After an urgent brain scan, a ‘metallic bullet [was] noted in the left temporal lobe.’” The article seemed to provide an explanation of how both claims were possible. “A surgeon removed the bullet from Tamimi’s skull after he allegedly fell off his bike,” Amit Gilutz of B’Tselem told The Washington Post. Israeli media seems as divided as the conflicting stories, with most newspapers reporting it as a “battle” or “clash” between the IDF and the Palestinians over the circumstances of the injury.A similar controversy concerns the death of Saradih on February 22 after clashes with Israeli soldiers. Initially, media reported that the army said he had been checked and found to be in “proper condition” after the first clash. He was detained and “it seems he inhaled tear gas, which appears to have caused his death,” a statement said. However, a video that emerged showed him running with a metal object, and a soldier firing at him during an altercation in an alley in Jericho. Then the video shows him being beaten in a scuffle with the soldiers in the dark. An autopsy at L. Greenberg National Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir in Tel Aviv was performed. “The autopsy found that Saradih died due to massive blood loss after an Israeli soldier shot him in his lower abdomen,” Essa Qaraqaa, chairman of the PLO Prisoners Commission told The Jerusalem Post.The exact details of both incidents may never be fully known. But in both cases, despite medical records and many agreed-upon facts, the Israeli and Palestinian public, as well as foreign media, are fed two mutually exclusive stories. A bike accident or a rubber bullet? A shooting and leaving a man to die or clashes in the dark and a man who dies of tear gas by mistake? These are not the first such incidents and they are unlikely to be the last.In December, wheelchair- bound Ibrahim Abu-Thurayya was killed during protests against Israel in Gaza. Gazans said he was shot by a sniper in the head. Israel denied that.Weeks later, Israel announced it would investigate and the Associated Press said it had received medical records indicating that the man had indeed been hit by a bullet above his left eye.In the past, the IDF has been criticized for not responding quickly to allegations of Israeli abuses. Paul Mason at Channel 4 in the UK wrote during the 2014 war, “Why Israel is losing the social media war over Gaza,” pointing out that the world would see “tens of thousands of independently shot images” from Gaza while the IDF had only several tweets. Now Israel is being accused of the opposite.In an attempt to get ahead of the news, its ham-handed response is seen as whitewashing two serious incidents.