How the Israeli Army Got a Teen Who Was Shot in the Head to Say He Fell Off a Bike

COGAT chief Yoav Mordechai wants us to believe that friends, relatives, doctors and left-wing activists cooked up a huge lie about Mohammed Tamimi. But he was just telling investigators what they wanted to hear

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, expects us to believe that tens of Palestinians and a few Israelis conspired to concoct a huge lie in order to slander the Israel Defense Forces.

According to him, the liar is not only 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi. The liars are also his parents, members of his extended family in the village of Nabi Saleh, and friends – including Israeli leftist activist Jonathan Pollak. The latter were with Tamimi when he climbed a ladder on December 15 to see what the soldiers, ensconced in an empty house in his village, were up to. The teen was shot in the head and fell to the ground in a puddle of his own blood.

In his Facebook post on Tuesday, Mordechai claims, in effect, that the Palestinians are stupid because so many of them collaborated in creating a lie that is so very easy to expose. If indeed there was a lie.

He is relying on things Tamimi told his police interrogators on Monday, just hours after a large military force burst into Nabi Saleh and into his home, before dawn, rousing him from his sleep and arresting him. Five other minors and five adults were arrested along with him, under similar conditions.

Still in the dark, half asleep and shaken, surrounded by rifles pointing at him, with air reeking of tear gas and the disgusting smell of the skunk-water sprayed by the troops – Mohammed Tamimi was taken in for interrogation. It is easy to guess what went through the mind of the wounded boy, who is slated to undergo yet another operation to reconstruct his skull in the coming weeks.
He must have been thinking: Perhaps I’ll be held under arrest for many weeks. Perhaps my medical condition will get worse. Perhaps I won’t even be released before going into surgery.

Tamimi told the investigators and representatives of the Civil Administration Coordination and Liaison Office, who for some reason made a point of being present, what they wanted to hear: that he was injured when he fell off his bike.

The security forces carry out hundreds of arrests and interrogations every week in Jerusalem and the West Bank. No one disputes the fact that one of their aims is to expose those who plan or carry out armed attacks. A second aim is to gather information, even of the most innocent sort, about as many people as possible and about social and political activities. Very banal, sometimes even embarrassing, information is extracted – even years later and under unexpected circumstances: when a person travels abroad, or when someone applies for an entry permit into Israel or for a residency permit for non-Palestinian spouse.

A third aim (though not necessarily the third most important) is to quash popular activity against the occupation, of which the village of Nabi Saleh has become a symbol. Palestinians are forbidden to demonstrate their resistance to the occupation, in any manner.

One of the ways of deterring individuals who may be potential participants in popular struggles is to wreak serious harm on people who are already taking part in them – by means ranging from injuring to killing; to detention under conditions harsher than those encountered by graft suspect Nir Hefetz; sleep deprivation; painful handcuffing; humiliating interrogations; ridiculous accusations like those based on “evidence” like empty tear-gas cannisters or visits to book exhibitions; administrative detentions (arrest without charges being filed); arrest until the conclusion of proceedings; and exorbitant fines.

Mass arrests, interrogations and collecting of information – these are an integral part of the control Israel wields over the Palestinians. Many of the arrests are another means whereby Israel attempts, systematically, to undermine and unravel the Palestinian social fabric in order to weaken its ability to withstand and defy the occupation.

When the detainees are minors, their jailers have a greater ability – with the help of a few slaps, painful positions during questioning and psychological pressure – to extract false incriminations and exaggerated, boastful descriptions of events from them. It is easy to manipulate and break them.

Among themselves the Palestinians are debating participation of minors in protest activities against the occupation. The ethos of the struggle is dear to them, and the loathing of the occupation runs too deep for this debate to be conducted in public, but the high price that is being paid by minors and their families is clear to everyone.

It is too early to say if a post like Yoav Mordechai’s will encourage the debate and whether it will be taken into the public domain or strengthen the position of those who say that Israel stops at nothing in order to oppress and therefore youngsters should not be denied their right to revolt.