Is this an unretouched photo? Does it really show a Palestinian demonstrator preparing to throw a Molotov Cocktail on Friday during the demonstration in Bil'il?

The IDF spokesperson’s unit yesterday sent out a Tweet announcing there was proof that Friday’s demonstration in Bil’in was “violent”, and gave a link to a page here containing a group of photographs — including this one, the last in the series posted on the page here.

This morning, the IDF added that there had been not only stones had been thrown, but also Molotov Cocktails.

A closer inspection of the group of photographs shows this one:

IDF spokesperson photo - undated

There is a small flame visible at the end of the teenager’s hand.

But, questions must be asked:
(1) Is it clearly a Molotov Cocktail?

(2) Is it an un-retouched photo?

(3) Where and when was it taken? ((As Didi Remez noted, there are no signs of the many other demonstrators who were seen at demonstration this past Friday in Bil’in, where the IDF fired unusually large quantities of tear gas which caused the death of one Palestinian woman, Jawaher Abu Rahmeh — the circumstances of which the IDF is currently investigating, but not without expressing all kinds of doubts and objections, and itself posing all kinds of questions …))

(4) Who is the demonstrator? (( This is an important issue. Israeli activist Joseph Dana reported via Twitter here from Bil’in during the demonstration on Friday 31 December that “There are special forces inside the protest in bil’in. They are preparing an attack on the nonviolent demo from inside” 1:44 PM Dec 31st via Twitter for BlackBerry® Retweeted by you and 19 others” ))

Another additional question must then also be asked:

(5) Even if this is all completely “kosher” – it is a totally unstaged, unretouched photo of a Palestinian or Israeli activist (not a provocateur planted to instigate trouble) preparing to thrown a small lit object with a flame at the end at Israeli Army personnel many meters away – is this sufficient violence to justify a massive response with potentially-lethal quantities of tear gas?

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad briefly showed up in Bil’in for the demonstration, but left quickly. Fayyad did not proceed out of the village and into the fields where the real action usually takes place, and he was not exposed to any tear gas (Fayyad is routinely accompanied by Israeli security on his travels around the Israeli-occupied West Bank).

Palestinians compare reactions

Ali Abunimah has written in the Electronic Intifada that “Compared with the international silence that surrounded Israel’s recent massacres of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Gaza Strip, condemnation and condolences for the victims of the shooting attack that killed eight students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem have been swift”.

Abunimah lists U.S. President George Bush’s remarks, as well as UNSG BAN Ki-Moon’s, as examples of differential treatment, which he says confirms that the international community sees the Palestinian civilian victims of Israeli military operations in Gaza as “less than complete human beings”.

[Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was one of the first to denounce the attack , followed nearly simulataneously by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. One report in the Israeli media today even says that the Organization of the Islamic Conference has offered a rare denunciation.]

Abunimah argues that, for some, “Israeli deaths are ‘terrorism’, while Palestinian deaths are merely an unfortunate consequence of the fight against ‘terrorism’. But the two are intricately linked, and what happened in Jerusalem is a direct consequence of what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for decades”.

And, he adds, “Let me be clear that the killing of civilians, Israeli or Palestinian, is wrong, repugnant, and cannot bring this one-hundred-year war caused by the Zionist colonization of Palestine to an end. There will be an Israeli propaganda effort — as always — to present Palestinian violence as being simply motivated by hatred, and divorced from the context of brutal occupation that Palestinians live under. What greater proof could you need than an attack on religious students, devoting their life to the study of the Torah? We cannot expect much analysis in the media of why the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva might have been chosen as a target. Was it mere coincidence that the school, named for Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and led after his death by his son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, is the ideological cradle of the militant, Jewish supremacist settler movement Gush Emunim? Unlike other sects in Israel which sought exemption of their students from military service, Gush Emunim encouraged its followers to join the army and become the armed wing of religious nationalist Zionism. Gush Emunim settlers, many of them, like Moshe Levinger, graduates of Mercaz HaRav, founded the most extreme and racist settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including the notorious colonies in and near Hebron whose inhabitants have made life miserable for Palestinians in the city and forced many of them out of their homes. It is the militant settlers of Gush Emunim who still honor Baruch Goldstein who murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in February 1994. It is in Hebron that the Gush Emunim settlers spray ‘Arabs to the gas chambers’ on Palestinian houses … For decades Israel has been exercizing with ever-escalating brutality this deliberate strategy to crush through force and starvation a civilian population in rebellion against colonial rule. To Israel’s vexation, the Palestinians are not playing their part. After sixty years of expulsions, massacres, assassinations of their leaders, colonization, torture, and mass imprisonment, the Palestinians have utterly failed to understand that they are a ‘defeated people’. The vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank endure unprecedented oppression by the Israeli army and settlers without resorting to violence in response, but they maintain an inextinguishable determination to endure until they regain their rights. If the methods the Palestinian resistance has sometimes used are reprehensible, they have also been typical for anti-colonial resistance movements throughout time…” This article can be read in full here.