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Ahed Tamimi and Ben Caspit

In a much discussed recent incident in a West Bank village, young female Palestinian activists (including Ahed Tamimi) apparently tried to provoke two Israeli soldiers into a violent reprisal which would show the IDF in a bad light. Video footage shows the soldiers patiently fending off blows from the girls, but carefully avoiding any more forceful retaliation.

This recent report from CBS News correctly points out that the encounter divided onlookers.

The sharply conflicting Palestinian and Israeli interpretations of the widely viewed video clip highlight the deep rift between the two societies, at a time of heightened tension over the status of contested Jerusalem, the centerpiece of the long-running conflict.

However the implication that the split is simply between the Israeli and Palestinian ’sides’ doesn’t capture the full complexity.  (Jewish) Israeli opinion was itself starkly divided.  Some felt the incident reflected shamefully on Israel.  MK Miri Regev had a particularly negative reaction. ‘When I watched that, I felt humiliated, I felt crushed”.  But others praised the soldiers’ restraint:

Avi Buskila, Chairman of the Peace Now organization was quoted as saying that “The soldiers acted heroically, exactly how is expected from them.”

One response, that of Israeli journalist, Ben Caspit seemed disturbing. Several sites reported that he had implicitly called for girls such as Tamimi to be raped. Here’s an extract from Mondoweiss’ report:

But a prominent journalist had a somewhat more cunning suggestion:

“In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”,

Ben Caspit wrote in his article (Hebrew) on Tuesday.

What might this price exactly be, considering that he is referring specifically to teenage girls? We are left to wonder. Perhaps he wishes to leave it to the imagination of the soldiers who would invade the home at night, ensuring that no cameras are filming.

However this seems to have been translated – and then spun – in a highly misleading fashion.  Ben Caspit is a decidedly liberal journalist, one of those who applauded the IDF’s restraint rather than calling for harsher treatment.  He has now explained his position – here’s an extract, but it’s well worth reading the article in full:

Here, I moved to a comparison between the situation involving the girls and the soldiers to the one between the IDF and the terrorists in Gaza. I summed up by writing that like in Gaza where it is better to contain the events and not allow ourselves to be dragged into an all-out war, the same applies to the Palestinian girls. It was better, I wrote, to get our pay-back later, in the dark, with no witnesses and no cameras. In other words, to carry out the girl’s arrest without having it turn into another shaming video that would go viral on social media. I never imagined that this leftie and defeatist article (as it was tagged that day in Israel) would turn into a shaming campaign from the opposite direction altogether.

Like so much else in this conflict the real meaning of Caspit’s words has been transformed through distortion and a failure to provide the full context.