Editor’s Note: The following is a guest editorial written by Christopher Hanna and Mohammad Imtisal Qadir of Amnesty International at Cornell University.

As always, we encourage alternative or dissenting viewpoints. To submit a column, contact msmith@ithacavoice.com.

ITHACA, NY – In September, the Ithaca Voice re-published an Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East (ICUC-ME) press release regarding Palestinian organizer Bassem al-Tamimi titled “Anti-Israeli activist uses children in propaganda videos.

In light of Judge Phillip Rumsey’s order that the Ithaca City School District provide more information on his controversial speech to third-graders at the Beverly J. Martin Elementary School, we believe that the claims of this press release deserve reconsideration.

Related: Judge ends Ithaca schools a message over pro-Palestinian speaker

In essence, ICUC-ME argues that Mr. Tamimi is a known anti-Israel propagandist and agitator who is undeserving of his widespread recognition as a human rights defender. Though the press release is fueled by outrage by over Mr. Tamimi’s alleged promotion of stone-throwing and use of his children for viral videos, it unsurprisingly makes no mention of Bassama, Mustafa or Rushdi, his relatives who were killed by Israeli soldiers — despite being unarmed.

If Mr. Tamimi’s detractors truly believe that Palestinian children throwing stones at heavily armed military personnel in an occupation zone is intensifying what they call “the Israeli Palestinian and Arab conflict,” they would be well-advised to review Israel’s record of using phosphorous gas, torture, administrative detention and carpet-bombing in attempt to intimidate the people of Gaza and the West Bank into submission.

Right: Bassem Tamimi (photo courtesy Mr. Tamimi’s Facebook page)
Right: Bassem Tamimi (photo courtesy Mr. Tamimi’s Facebook page)

Indeed, one of the links contained in the press release ironically contains pictures of what has become an infamous act of brutality against Palestinian youth  — Mr. Tamimi’s 11-year-old son being violently placed in a headlock at gunpoint for daring to hurl rocks at soldiers enforcing the nearly 50-year-long occupation of his homeland.

These are the same soldiers who aid and abet the extremist settler community of Halamish as it encroaches on lands belonging to the Tamimi clan and other indigenous locals in the village of Nabi Salih.

The remark contained in the press release that rock-throwing is classified as a felony or attempted murder in several U.S. states is also deeply troubling. We are left wondering if its authors would condone the detention and prosecution of youth in Ferguson and Baltimore who threw stones and other objects at highly militarized law enforcement personnel in the aftermath of the internationally infamous killings of unarmed Black men there.

If anything, we would hope that some degree of sympathy would be shown for desperate children in occupation zones — whether those zones be in Palestine or urban America.

The portrayal of the Tamimi family as attention-seeking, child-abusing rabble-rousers is an obvious attempt to discredit legitimate opposition to the hard-right Israeli government’s brutal occupation policies.

The ICUC-ME press release speaks of Bassem Tamimi’s teenaged daughter Ahed screaming at and pushing Israeli soldiers as a significant obstacle to “peaceful reconciliation” in the region, as if violent Israeli state policies such as its 2014 killings of no less than 500 children in the blockaded Palestinian enclave of Gaza are not.

This false narrative of maniacal, untruthful Palestinian civilians obstructing the peace process is likely designed to advance ICUC-ME’s attempts to put the breaks on the local campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against certain Israeli institutions and businesses until Israel falls into line with international laws.

Try as the Netanyahu regime’s ardent supporters might, no amount of defamation or misrepresentation can prevent the collapse of Israel’s decidedly illegal occupation of Palestinian lands — that is, if the arc of history does indeed bend towards justice.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.