Video of bleeding Palestinian teen intensifies online image war
In the ensuing propaganda war, with a video of the incident going viral, Palestinians claim Ahmad Manasra is dead, while Israel is showing photos purportedly of him being treated in hospital.
The video, quickly uploaded by both Israelis and Palestinians, was far from the first to go viral as attacks and unrest have spread over the past couple weeks, but it was perhaps the most controversial.
As stabbings and violent protests raised fears of a full-scale uprising, a parallel conflict is playing out online, with videos of attacks by Palestinians and shootings by Israeli security forces often posted within minutes.
Each side interprets the videos as evidence in support of its cause.
For many Palestinians, the video is proof of the brutality of the Israeli security forces. But for many Israelis, Ahmad is proof of the threat posed by Palestinians, even 13-year-olds.
“You may be an awful human being if you post a pic/vid of that bloody Palestinian teen without noting he’d just tried to murder two Israelis,” Jewish Agency spokesperson Avi Mayer tweeted.
The video has sparked especially incendiary comments and was mentioned in a speech by president Mahmud Abbas, drawing a sharp response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to police, Ahmad, and his 15-year-cousin, Hassan, stabbed a man at the Pisgat Zeev settlement in east Jerusalem Monday before attacking and critically wounding a 13-year-old Jewish boy on a bicycle.
Police said Hassan died after being hit by a car as he fled, while security forces shot Ahmad when he tried to charge at them with a knife.
That is apparently where the video footage begins — Ahmad lying bleeding on the ground and the man yelling at him to die.
As the video spread and Palestinians alleged he had committed no crime, police posted surveillance footage appearing to show the two holding knives.
In a speech Wednesday, Abbas even alleged the 13-year-old had been “executed” despite no evidence of his death.
Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesperson for the Palestinian presidency, has even compared the footage to the iconic video of Mohammed al Durrah, a 12-year-old killed during clashes at the beginning of the last Palestinian uprising in 2000.
In that video, the boy and his father are seen cowering for safety, before he appears to be shot and killed. Israel initially apologised but later accused Palestinian factions of killing him and subsequently even disputed whether he had died at all.
Abbas’s comments led Netanyahu to hit back sharply, saying the teenager “is alive and hospitalised in Hadassah Hospital, after he stabbed an Israeli youth, who was riding a bicycle at the time.”
Previous videos showing Israeli officers shooting alleged attackers have fed Palestinian anger.
One shows security forces wounding an Arab Israeli woman as they surrounded her in the northern city of Afula after she attempted to stab a security guard on October 9.
On Wednesday, within minutes of an alleged stabbing attack at an entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, a video was shared purporting to show the attacker being shot while on the ground.
Rebecca Stein, co-author of a book tracking how social media has been used politically by Israelis in recent years, said the battle for control of narratives has intensified.
In 2008, the first of three conflicts in Gaza since then, Internet penetration in Palestinian communities was limited. During last year’s most-recent conflict, Gazans were constantly posting videos online, she said.
“The images of stabbings are shared by some Israelis as evidence of age-old hatred of Jews, but by some Palestinians they are held up as resistance to occupation,” said Stein.
Israeli officials have sought to limit the use of social media to spread what it sees as incitement, requesting that YouTube take down certain types of videos.
But Dina Matar, of the Centre for Media Studies at SOAS in London and author of “What It Means to be Palestinian”, said that within Palestinian communities viral videos are more representative of frustration than a cause of it.
“When they see this video they are reminded of their condition,” she said.
Eyal Naveh, a professor at Tel Aviv University and co-author of “Side by Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine”, pointed out that “both sides (use images) for what they want to prove.”
“The violence of the image intensifies the hatred,” he said.