A video showing the interrogation of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi was released by her family on Monday, with footage of Israeli interrogators threatening and intimidating the 17-year-old. At a press conference in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Tamimi’s father, Bassem, announced the release of the video, taken from an interrogation that she underwent on December 26 of last year, after she was detained for slapping an Israeli soldier during a raid on her house.
In the footage released to the public, Ahed Tamimi is shown sitting at a desk in an interrogator’s office, a week after she was detained during a raid on her home by Israeli forces. Two Israeli interrogators are seen questioning her about her involvement in recent protests. The men also make comments about her white skin and threaten to detain her family members if she fails to cooperate with them.
Tamimi repeatedly refuses to respond to interrogators’ questions or their comments about her physical appearance.
Video of the slapping incident had gone viral and generated widespread indignation after it became clear that Israeli officials planned to charge Tamimi for assaulting the soldier. She was charged in January, and in March, took a plea deal that included a monetary fine and an eight-month prison sentence, which has now commenced.
A 10-minute clip and translation of Tamimi’s interrogation were provided to The Intercept by the Institute for Middle East Understanding, or IMEU, a U.S.-based non-profit that provides resources to media covering Palestine. During her videotaped questioning, Tamimi repeatedly refuses to respond to interrogators’ questions or their comments about her physical appearance. In response, her interrogators list names of people Tamimi knows in her village, Nabi Saleh — many of them relatives — threatening, at one point, to detain them all if she refuses to break her silence:
You know Nour. You know Marwan. You know Osama. You know Marah. You know it all. We will take everyone if you don’t cooperate. If you want to help them [unclear] like this and like this. It’s in your hands. It’s in your hands. You know Marwan. You know Mahmoud. No. They will talk to us. You don’t want to? It’s on you! It’s on you! I told you, don’t make problems, you go away from here. You said no.
Tamimi’s mother, Nariman, has already been jailed in connection with her daughter’s case, convicted of incitement for livestreaming the slapping incident on Facebook. Fifteen-year-old Mohammad, one of Tamimi’s cousins, was detained in February, despite being badly injured by Israeli forces in a December protest. Without parents or other representation, the boy purportedly confessed to having been injured outside the context of a protest — a claim cast into doubt by human rights groups.
During another portion of the video of Tamimi’s interrogation, one of her interlocutors, speaking in Arabic, tells her, “My little sister is blonde and her eyes are like yours. … When she goes to the beach, yeah? Like a hamburger.” He asks the teen, “How are you in the sun? Like my sister? Red, red, red?”
An extended version of the video also shows an interrogator making flirtatious remarks toward Tamimi. “You have eyes like an angel,” he tells the teenager at one point, according to the Daily Beast, which first reported the content of the video. In response to the treatment depicted in the video, Tamimi’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, has reportedly filed a complaint with Israel’s attorney general.
“Why the threats, intimidation, and sexual innuendo?”
Tamimi comes from a well-known activist family in the West Bank and has had numerous extended family members detained and killed during Israeli military operations over the past several years.
“Ahed’s case is politically motivated at its core. She was arrested only because the video of her driving away the soldiers from her home became viral and caused a frenzy in right-wing-dominated Israeli media. Subsequently, she has become a symbol of Palestinian defiance and popular resistance,” said Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli activist in the West Bank who is close to the Tamimi family. “The videotaped interrogation took place on December 26, exactly a week into her arrest, and was not the first. The police had no investigative need, so to speak, in obtaining additional evidence or for her to confess. So, why the threats, intimidation, and sexual innuendo?”
According to IMEU and multiple press accounts, one of the men involved in Tamimi’s questioning was also a member of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate, something that Pollak described as highly unusual for such cases. “I’ve personally seen dozens, if not hundreds, of similar interrogation sessions, and have never seen a military intelligence officer take any part in one,” Pollak said.
According to statistics compiled by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, 356 Palestinian minors were being held in Israeli military detention as of the end of February 2018. A 2016 report by Human Rights Watch cited widespread abuses of children held in Israeli detention facilities in the occupied West Bank, including beatings, verbal humiliation, and extended periods of handcuffing in cold temperatures.
The video of Tamimi’s interrogation comes in the wake of widespread international scrutiny of Israel over its treatment of Palestinian demonstrators, in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In recent weeks, dozens of unarmed Palestinians have been shot and killed while protesting the ongoing blockade of Gaza, including journalist Yasser Murtaja, who was killed by an Israeli sniper despite wearing a “PRESS” jacket. Despite worldwide news coverage of the Israeli crackdowns, the United States voted this week to block a U.N. Security Council statement that supported an investigation into the killings and affirmed the right of Palestinians to “demonstrate peacefully.”
“It is as though they were telling her: You either break and cooperate with us — the people occupying you — or we will haunt you and your loved ones.”
The scenes of a teenage girl being harassed and berated by military officials who were trying to cajole her into informing on her own family is likely to add to the public criticism leveled at Israel for its repression of Palestinian dissent.
“The issue is not simply about the video of Ahed’s ill treatment — which should warrant a serious investigation and accountability, as hundreds of Palestinian children are detained and interrogated every year — but rather the fact that she shouldn’t have been in that place to begin with,” said Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian activist and writer based in the West Bank’s de facto capital, Ramallah. “Even when trying to coerce her into speaking, the Israeli military intelligence officer in the video tried to make her feel at fault for any future arrests and sufferings of her friends and family. It is as though they were telling her: You either break and cooperate with us — the people occupying you — or we will haunt you and your loved ones.”
The video, Barghouti added, “reflects the typical Israeli narrative that Palestinians bring on their own suffering because they refuse to cooperate with their occupiers.”
Correction: April 10, 2018, 1:30 p.m.
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer Gaby Lasky. It has since been updated.