Latest Palestinian Propaganda Poster Child: Onion Boy!

Move over Shirley Temper! There is a new palestinian propaganda child in town. And unlike you, he has a prop!

Photo by Osama Al-Kahlout

A picture of a 9-year-old boy in the Gaza Strip went viral immediately after it was posted March 30. Shared on social media the first day of the Gaza Strip’s Great Return March, a six-week protest along the Israeli border calling for an end to the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people, it has fast become a symbol of the multigenerational spirit of the protest.

The now iconic photo shows Mohammed Ayyash crouched on the ground, as if ready to defend his people at a moment’s notice, wearing a mask with an onion stalk slipped inside to protect against Israel’s teargas bombs. The mask and the smell of the onion actually work, but they also are evocative symbols of a people forced to counter the advanced weapons of the eighth largest arms exporter in the world with homemade inventions.

I can’t pretend to understand the physics (or is that chemistry?) of an onion working against tear gas – don’t onions make you cry? – but then again I do not understand most of what the palestinians do.

Just who is this Mohammed Ayyash, who has become social media and TV sensation at such a young age?

I wonder if he is related to this guy.

Now I know I said move over Shirley Temper, but Shirley Temper (Ahed Tamimi) fans, do not despair! She is part of this story.

He, his two brothers, two sisters and parents live in central Gaza’s Deir Al-Balah. His youngest sister was born just three days after the protest

“I named her Ahed Tamimi. I wanted her to have Ahed’s distinguished beauty and strong personality,” says Mohammed’s mother, Reham. That seems fitting, since, for Palestinians, Mohammed has become a sign of defiance, just like Ahed Tamimi became a symbol of resistance after she was imprisoned for slapping an Israeli soldier who had intruded onto her family’s property.

Meanwhile, parents of the year!

When asked how she felt about her youngest son participating in a march that has become so deadly (32 protesters have been killed to date and more than 1,450 injured), Reham says she refused her family members’ attendance at the beginning, fearing she would lose one of them.  But at the same time, she admits, she feels their participation is a national duty. And she encourages other mothers to let their children go to the march encampments so they will learn about their history.

As for Mohammed’s father, Sa’d, he believes it’s his duty to teach Mohammed to remember Palestine and demand his rights in a civilized, peaceful way. “In this way, we defy the Israeli thinking that the elderly Palestinians will die and the young will forget.”

By the way, the photo of Mohammed with the onion mask was pure propaganda. The same article I reference has this photo of him at the march a week later.

Glad to see the adult propping up Mohammed at least looked after himself and put on a mask.

As for Mohammed, he may need to learn a bit about BDS.

When asked what he wants in his future, Mohammed says with a wide, bright smile, “I want to have my own playground so I can play football and basketball the whole day. I want it to be named after my new nickname, Abu Basala (the kid with an onion in Arabic).” He thinks a moment and then adds, “I also wish we could have a big, comfortable house with everything I need, including my own I-pad.”


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media