Israel lies that boy shot in head “fell off bike”

Muhammad Fadel Tamimi, 15, with his mother, at his home in the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on 13 January. A month earlier an Israeli soldier shot him at close range with a rubber-coated metal bullet causing serious head injuries.

Heidi Levine Sipa Press

One of the classic warning signs of abuse is when a child shows a pattern of injuries, but the abuser forces the victim to go along with cover stories claiming the victim simply had a series of unfortunate accidents.

Israel, as a serial and systematic abuser, is once again demonstrating how shameless it is in its attempts to cover up its horrifying mistreatment of Palestinian children and to blame child victims for its own crimes.

On 15 December, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, an Israeli occupation soldier shot Muhammad Fadel Tamimi with a rubber-coated metal bullet at close range, causing devastating head injuries.

Photos of the 15-year-old have circulated around the world showing the effect of having one-third of his skull removed during life-saving surgery. While he awaits restorative surgery he remains very vulnerable, and faces a long recovery.

His case has been all the more embarrassing to Israel because he is the cousin of Ahed Tamimi, the 17-year-old who has been in prison for two months and is being subjected to a military trial in an Israeli kangaroo court for slapping and shoving two heavily armed occupation soldiers shortly after Muhammad was shot.

Both are members of the Tamimi family, against which Israeli leaders have vowed collective punishment and revenge because of their prominent role in the nonviolent resistance campaign to Israel’s theft of Nabi Saleh’s land for colonial settlements.

Night raid

In the predawn hours of Monday, Israeli occupation forces raided Nabi Saleh and arrested 10 people, including six children. One of them was Muhammad Fadel Tamimi.

They took him away for interrogation and released him hours later leaving observers once again stunned at Israel’s callousness and cruelty.

It was obviously a carefully planned operation, as the newspaper Haaretz noted that the detention of the severely injured child “was approved by a military physician.”

Yet all became clear Monday night, when Yoav Mordechai, the general who runs COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, posted on Facebook what he clearly thought would be the revelation to absolve Israel of its crimes against Muhammad.

And it fit the classic pattern of the serial abuser. According to Mordechai, the boy had not been shot in the head after all, but had merely fallen off his bike.

“What is the truth regarding Muhammad Tamimi?” Mordechai wrote. “Wonder of wonders! Today the boy himself confessed in front of the police and in front of COGAT representatives that in December his skull was injured when he was riding his bicycle and fell off it and hit his head on the handlebars.”

Mordechai followed this up by claiming that the “culture of lies and incitement continues among the children and adults of the Tamimi family.”

His post was accompanied with a graphic with the words “fake news” emblazoned across it in Arabic.

Mordechai, it should be noted, works closely with the Palestinian Authority – collaboration between occupier and occupied that is actively promoted by UN officials.


Human rights defenders and journalists were quick to debunk Mordechai’s outlandish story.

Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem described Mordechai’s claim that the boy merely “fell off his bike” as Orwellian.

What was stunning, she said is “not how big a lie it is” but that “such easily debunked lies show the only target audience is [the] Israeli right.”

Along with this denunciation, Michaeli tweeted copies of a medical report from the hospital that had performed the emergency “bullet removal” surgery from Muhammad Tamimi’s head.

Haaretz noted that “the version of events described by Mordechai does not coincide [with] eyewitness accounts obtained by Haaretz, according to which the day Tamimi was injured, IDF [Israeli army] forces were firing at Palestinians who were throwing stones, with the aim of dispersing them.”

“Tamimi, witnesses said, was standing on a ladder behind a wall and was hit in the head the moment he raised it above the ledge,” the newspaper added.

It also published photos of the bullet removed in the surgery and of a CT scan showing it lodged inside Muhammad’s head.

The boy himself gave a similar account in this video published by Haaretz in early January:

And Defense for Children International-Palestine reported days after the shooting, citing an eyewitness, that “Israeli forces shot Muhammad Tamimi, 15, with a rubber-coated metal bullet shortly after clashes had ended.”

“According to the eyewitness, Israeli forces appeared to have exited the area around 4 pm when an Israeli soldier shot Muhammad in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet at close range,” the group stated.

“He [Muhammad] was laying on the ground. His face and clothes were covered in blood,” the eyewitness said.

The doctor who treated Muhammad told Defense for Children International-Palestine that the boy “underwent two operations to remove the rubber-coated metal bullet, which lodged in the back of his skull and caused severe bleeding in his brain.”

Coercing a frightened boy

A journalist for the French news agency AFP reported on Tuesday that Muhammad Tamimi “confirmed,” that following his nighttime arrest he told the army he had had a bike accident, “but said he lied to avoid jail for protesting.”

Gaby Lasky, a lawyer who defends members of the Tamimi family, accused COGAT head Mordechai of “cynically abusing” a “miserable, made-to-order” investigation that induced “a frightened child [to] lie during the interrogation.”

Lasky confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that Muhammad was interrogated without a lawyer or a parent present, one of many abusive practices Israel uses against detained Palestinian children to coerce confessions.

B’Tselem’s Michaeli also quipped that Muhammad Tamimi is “the only Palestinian boy in history who denied throwing stones and was believed [by] the Israeli army.”

Israeli conspiracy theories

All this evidence will not convince the Israeli army, nor Israel’s most fanatical supporters; the goal of sending soldiers to arrest a badly injured child in the middle of the night and then having a general post his “confession” on Facebook is not to seek the truth but to sow doubt.

And this is where the pattern comes in: Israel’s obfuscation, lies and denials are legion, but it suffices to point to just a few.

B’Tselem’s Michaeli recalled another instance of Israel’s Orwellian lies: Beitunia, 2014.

This is a reference to the 2014 Nakba Day killings of 17-year-old Nadim Nuwara and 16-year-old Muhammad Abu al-Thahir.

Both were shot dead in cold blood the same day and in circumstances where they posed no conceivable threat to anyone – killings that were caught on video.

After the shootings, Israel’s spin doctors were out spreading their Orwellian lies.

Michael Oren, now a deputy minister in the Israeli government, went on CNN to claim that the two boys shot dead on 15 May 2014 might not even be dead.

In order to cast doubt, he cited the videotaped shooting of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza in 2000 at the outset of the second intifada, which generated worldwide outrage.

Oren recycled the far-right conspiracy theory that the shooting had been staged, even questioning whether the child “was shot at all.”

Israel also first denied live ammunition had been used in the Nakba Day killings but when the evidence could not be buried it finally indicted one of its occupation soldiers, Ben Dery, with manslaughter for killing Nuwara.

Though Dery’s indictment was a rare instance of an Israeli having to answer for harming a Palestinian, the soldier has been offered a plea which will reportedly get him a “light punishment.”

No one has been charged in the killing of Abu al-Thahir.

More recently, Oren has promoted the conspiracy theory that the Tamimis are not a real family but rather a group of “blond, blue-eyed and light-skinned” actors hired to “make Israel look bad.”

And it’s hardly surprising to see that Oren quickly took to Twitter to promote Mordechai’s claim that Muhammad Tamimi just fell off his bike:

Peter Lerner, a former Israeli military spokesperson, also promoted the claim as an example of “Pallywood” – a term anti-Palestinian conspiracy theorists use to describe what they imagine is an organized Palestinian effort to fake human rights abuses to embarrass Israel:

Israel won’t listen to words

B’Tselem’s Michaeli made an astute observation that Mordechai’s fabrications are intended solely for the consumption of the Israeli right.

That’s an indication that Israel understands that it is badly losing support among international audiences who care about human rights.

To sustain the level of oppression that Palestinians face, Israel needs to constantly convince its “home front” that it is in the right, that its soldiers are doing good and that Palestinians are uncivilized beasts who never really suffer, but only lie and fabricate to harm the image of Israel’s “most moral army in the world.”

And on the world stage, Israel is ever more reliant on alliances with a global far-right that is eager to lap up such lies, just as it shares Israel’s rampant Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia.

The message for anyone who cares about human rights is very clear: an Israel this unhinged and brazen doesn’t care about what human rights groups say in their meticulous reports, and is not bothered by the timid bleatings of European Union and UN officials.

Israel only cares what people do, so the answer to this outrage must be more efforts to isolate this regime and make it pay a price through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.




More and more, it seems that Israel (like South Africa in the eighties) talks mostly to itself. As Ali points out, the propagandists use varied media, but only as a platform to address their right wing constituency at home. They are reaching the breaking point at which vitriolic public attacks on people of conscience around the world do nothing but call attention to a despicable smear while vindicating the target. In a sense, they're beginning to give up on world opinion, choosing to concentrate on cultivating/blackmailing elites, passing repressive laws in France, the U.S. and elsewhere, and adopting a vacuous, emollient tone in debate with their opponents. We've seen it here at the Electronic Intifada, with mock innocent posts urging us all to just give peace a chance. Personally, I miss being called an antisemitic hound of hell. But times change, and so do game plans.

With respect to General Mordechai's bizarre announcement that Muhammad Tamimi's terrible injuries were the result of a fall from his bicycle, I can only hope this revelation will be given the widest circulation in friendly news outlets such as NPR, Fox News, MSNBC and the New York Times. The impression created will help those leaning towards skepticism further consolidate that view of Israel's veracity. For this reason, I doubt whether those American media companies will wish to embarrass the State of Israel over what is at this point a merely local-if virulent- psychosis. Because Israeli lies are now topping the crazy meter.


Israeli hasbara is getting caught.

Sometimes it's so bizarre that it brings to mind and words of Raphael Eitan reported in NYT (14/4/1983) where he states 'When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.' But it appears that the 'scurrying around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle' is actually more descriptive of Israeli hasbara efforts and attempts to outlaw BDS than Palestinian resistance. No matter what they do or say, Israeli PR is crashing into the glass walls of the bottle where their efforts are lampooned and/or increase awareness of Israeli intransigence.

My quick search of American MSM (but I am not that good at it and it was but a quick search) has not resulted in any attention being given to Mordechai's bicycle claim or Muhammad's arrest apart from an article by Loveday Morris in the Washington Post (27/2/2017) where she gives a short no nonsense account of the Mordechai claim. However, she also includes a quote from Jonathon Pollock (described as an activist to free Ahed) which mocks Mordechai as follows:

'He (Mohammad) must be the first Palestinian teenager that the Israeli army believes where he denies being involved in clashes'.

Additionally, and almost most importantly, the article contains a photo of Mohammad with his misshapen head looking straight at the reader with a thoughtful contemplative gaze. The visuals are always the most powerful. So, yes, things are changing and it is just getting harder and harder for hasbara to be contained to its targeted audience. Words meant to casually assert Israeli dominance of the narrative to both Israeli Jews and Palestinians are slowly seeping into the American MSM where these words are given short shrift or mocked.

I wonder if having a 'bike accident' will become a coded form of mockery of hasbara.