Tweeting with the Israeli military

Almost immediately after an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas grenade at Mustafa Tamimi’s face, IDF Central Command Spokesman Major Peter Lerner made a mockery of the attack that left Tamimi dead a day later. He and the Israeli military argue that his tweets have been taken out of context, so let us see for ourselves.

Lerner makes little to no mention of Tamimi until after a separate Twitter user publicly urges the Israeli military to let an ambulance into Nabi Saleh, the village in the West Bank where Tamimi had been attacked. Lerner responds by claiming Tamimi is on his way to a hospital. However, he fails to mention that Israeli soldiers prevented a Red Crescent ambulance from reaching a bleeding Tamimi by holding it for an indefinite period of time at a makeshift checkpoint alongside an Israeli watchtower.

Three of Lerner’s next four tweets about Mustafa Tamimi are about the lack of photographic evidence showing how Tamimi was acting before an Israeli soldier aimed a tear gas grenade at his face. Apparently, Lerner is of the mindset that a photograph of Tamimi throwing a small rock at an armored jeep will exonerate the Israeli military of any misdoings.

Lerner’s following tweet added insult to Tamimi’s injuries by disingenuously calling the event a “fail”. For a military spokesperson covering sensitive situations, Lerner fails to meet even the most basic standards of professionalism and courtesy.

As The Telegraph’s Adrian Blomfield writes, “‘Fail’, and its stronger variant ‘epic fail’, are American slang terms, popular on the internet, used in a derogatory fashion to denote extreme stupidity.”

After this statement sparked outrage all over the world, particularly in Britain where Lerner is originally from, Ynet argues that his very next tweet was intentionally ignored since it shows that Lerner at the time did indeed care for Tamimi’s wellbeing. Ironically, it is equally offensive.

According to Ynet, the tweet is understood to say “if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen”. This raises an important question: Should an organized group of nonviolent protesters expect any heat at all?

To vilify the unconscious Tamimi even further, Lerner shows how easily he succumbs to stereotypical references by implicitly alleging that Tamimi is a terrorist.

Tamimi wasn’t hiding anything. As another Twitter user notes, “protesters cover their face [sic] to protect from tear gas which … is supposed to be non-lethal”. However, Lerner insists that Tamimi had been trying to conceal his identity.

By now, Lerner is infuriated that he cannot find photographs of Tamimi attacking soldiers. He resorts to caps lock, another sign of professionalism.

Next, Lerner suggests that Tamimi had been on a “rock rampage” before being hit in the face with a high velocity canister. He “is not [an] innocent lamb,” he says.

Here, though, Lerner takes on a new tactic: humanizing the Israeli soldiers who supposedly rushed to stop the bleeding after shooting him at close range. In between tweets impulsively demanding photographs of Tamimi’s pre-assault whereabouts to spontaneously appear, Lerner credits the Israeli military for its high moral values.

He links to an image showing uniformed Israeli soldiers surrounding Tamimi and possibly preparing him for transport. However, not a single individual in this photograph is seen in the raw footage documenting the moments after Tamimi was hit and once he was moved into a van to be taken to a hospital.

The previous tweet also includes a link to “The IDF Spirit“, an article about the Israeli military’s supposed dedication to human rights, ethics, and dignity.

According to the article, the Israeli military was set to celebrate International Human Rights Day on Saturday, December 10 — the very same day Mustafa Tamimi died as a result of the human rights denied to him.

Lerner is not by any means the only Israeli official spewing propaganda to justify the undignified actions of a rogue military force. Avital Leibovich, the official spokesperson to the international press, shared a number of Lerner’s tweets and went out of her way to suggest that the weekly Nabi Saleh protests, which are applauded worldwide for being nonviolent, are “illegal violent riot[s]“.

But Leibovich made a critical mistake. On the day before Tamimi sustained his fatal head injury, she tweeted that the Israeli military is prepared for any kind of scenario.

In a way, Leibovich is right. Protests, marches, funerals, international aid convoys, and old farmer tending their olive trees are typically met with the same kind of “preparation”: a gas grenade, a rubber bullet, a checkpoint, or a combination of all three. It really requires no creativity on the military’s end.

But on the other hand, Leibovich is wrong. The Israeli military, graced with the clumsy and rude demeanor of its spokespeople and public representatives, is clearly unprepared when it comes to hiding its utter disdain at having to feel bad whenever it takes down a Palestinian activist.

Sami Kishawi

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