Save Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian Veteran
Who is Ahed Tamimi?
Ahed Tamimi, who turned 17 while in detention, has become an icon for the Palestinian struggle. Palestinians hail her as a hero for kicking a heavily armed soldier who slapped her first and was illegally on her doorstep and in an illegal occupation of her country. She is an emblem of peaceful resistance, a veteran of many protests against Israel’s occupation. The Israeli occupation has gradually stolen the land and water resources on behalf of the nearby settlement of Halamish.
In December 2017, the Tamimis woke up with a shock at about 3 a.m. to the noise of the Israeli forces banging on their front door and screaming. Ahed’s father, Bassem, opened the door for the soldiers, who pushed him aside and trooped into the house. At least 30 soldiers raided the house to arrest Ahed, without giving any reasons. They confiscated the family's phones, computers and laptops. Six soldiers pushed her brother, 14-year-old down and violently took his phone after he refused to give them it. They went rifling through the household contents, throwing clothes and possessions on the floor and leaving behind a mess.
According to Ahed's father, her mother, Nariman, was hysterically crying and attempted to hug her daughter, but the soldiers threw her to the ground. Ahed was handcuffed and led by the soldiers outside to an Israeli army jeep. The family was prevented from following her outside. She was held at a police station near Jabaa village, in the West Bank. That morning, the police dragged Ahed to court. Her father came to court in order to support her; instead, he was also arrested and released later.
In the afternoon, Nariman went to visit Ahed so that she could be present during the minor's interrogation. Bassem received a phone call from his lawyer saying that Nariman too had been arrested upon her arrival at the police station. Nariman faces charges of incitement for live streaming the incident on Facebook.
Ahed remains in a dungeon; she has been charged with 12 offences, including assaulting security forces and incitement to violence and could spend years in prison if convicted.
In 2012, a widely seen photo of 12-year-old Ahed, then, confronting an Israeli soldier earned her recognition from then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Another image went viral, in 2015, after she was photographed kicking and biting an Israeli soldier who was choking her brother Mohammed. However, Israelis regard her as a violent troublemaker seeking publicity. Since her early years, she has become an international poster girl in her home village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank where regular Palestinian protests take place against settlement encroachment.
Meanwhile, Palestinians celebrate Ahed as a hero in widely distributed cartoons. In one, she is shown in a Joan of Arc-like pose, raising a Palestinian flag, framed by her recognisable mane of blonde curls. Joan of Arc is a young peasant Saint who led the French army to victory over the English in Orléans. Furthermore, an Irish artist has focused his lens on Ahed Tamimi. Jim Fitzpatrick, the artist famed for creating the iconic 1967 poster of socialist revolutionary Ernesto Chee Guevara, created an image of Ahed, entitled ‘There Is a Real Wonder Woman.’
Why was Ahed detained?
On 15 December 2017, Ahed was filmed by her mother Nariman Tamimi. The incident was streamed on Facebook and the confrontation went viral. In the footage, Ahed kicks one soldier and slaps his face, and threatens to punch the other, after they stormed into her house and shot her fifteen-year-old cousin Mohammed Tamimi who was severely wounded by a rubber bullet that entered his brain. Mohammed had been in critical condition and put under a medically induced coma, from which he woke up 72 hours later, in intensive care, at the Arab Istishari Hospital.
After the shooting, the West Bank village erupted in anger and began throwing stones at the Israeli army, who attempted to put a stop to the unrest by patrolling at the site of a home where protesters were gathered. This aroused the anger of Ahed who ran outside her home and confronted two Israeli soldiers demanding that they leave the family property. The army officers refused. At that point, Ahed lunged at the soldiers, trying to slap and kick them.
The soldiers' restraint and refusal to act aroused anger among Israelis, who saw ‘their boys’ as being beaten down by a mere girl. It was humiliating to them. The ultra-nationalist ruling coalition demanded punishment. As a result, the Israeli army prepared a raid on the Tamimi residence, the next morning. The soldiers grabbed Ahed from her bed, put her in handcuffs, and hustled her to a waiting paddy wagon.
The Tamimis’ Peaceful Rebellion
The Tamimis are no stranger to run-ins with the Zionist military establishment. They are at the forefront of regular protests in Nabi Saleh, a frequent scene of demonstrations. They have laid down their lives for this righteous cause, and assert that a part of the village's land was confiscated and given to a nearby Israeli settlement. The Israeli narrative alleged that the Tamimis had given their consent to Palestinians to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers from their home and that the soldiers were present outside at the time to remove the rioters from the house.
The Zionists have detained Ahed’s mother and father, Bassem and Nariman, copious times. Her father is a prominent Palestinian activist since 2009, who successfully broadcasted the Palestinian peaceful protests in social media. He believes that the Zionist military occupation is unjust and inhumane; it abuses the children as well as the land. ‘We cannot live normally under occupation. We have no choice but to resist and because we resist, we have to pay the price’, Bassem Tamimi maintains.
Bassem Tamimi adds that the Palestinian parents are concerned about their children amid the occupation’s violence, inequality and lack of freedom. He illustrates that he is powerless to do anything, ‘this is occupation…They want Palestinians to suffer’. Despite the deafening silence and the cruel sufferings, the Tamimis’ struggle for justice is ongoing. ‘Together we carry the torch of freedom and equality towards our dream of a better life for our children,’ he says.
He strongly believes that Ahed’s rights are being infringed and her trial should not take place. ‘No good expectations of this a military court because it is a part of the Israeli military occupation,’ he expressed. Ahed’s father said that the Zionist entity has no respect for international law and acts with impunity because of its ‘power’. He said, ‘There is nothing more provocative than Israel’s occupation [of Palestine]...so the normal reaction is to resist’.
In 2012, the London-based human right organisation, Amnesty International, the international rights-advocacy group, declared Bassem Tamimi after the Zionists detained him solely for his role in organising peaceful protests against the encroachment onto Palestinian lands by Israeli settlers. He was termed a ‘prisoner of conscience’ during one of his several stints in the Israeli prison. In addition, the European Union designated him as a human rights defender.
Calls to Free Ahed
Amnesty International has accused the Zionist entity of discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children. It has called to an immediate release of Ahed Tamimi, saying ‘the arrest of a child must be used only as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time’. Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and Africa have seriously called for Ahed’s immediate release. Mughrabi stressed, ‘Yet again the Israeli authorities have responded to acts of defiance by a Palestinian child with measures that are entirely disproportionate to the incident in question.’ She further said, ‘As an unarmed girl, Ahed posed no threat during the altercation with the two Israeli soldiers who were heavily armed and wearing protective clothing.’
Besides, Ahed Tamimi’s case has grasped a global attention and condemnation with Human Rights Watch calling for her release. HRW has emphasised that Ahed’s pre-trial detention is both a violation of international law and unnecessary. HRW added that her case raises concerns that ‘Israel’s military justice system, which detains hundreds of Palestinian children every year, is incapable of respecting children’s rights. Other civil rights groups have harshly criticised the Israeli system, saying it lacks fundamental protections and gives no guarantee of a fair trial.
Within the Zionist entity, there are voices demanding to release Ahed. Some of Israel’s critics have said the case epitomises the Zionist brutal approach, half a century after its forces captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. The liberal newspaper Ha’aretz wrote in an editorial that Israel must free Ahed Tamimi and described it step as a ‘requirement of equality’. Ha’aretz maintained that ‘Israel will pay a heavy price for its aggression against this girl who resists the occupation, who acted with minimal violence toward the representatives of the army who invaded her home and had earlier critically wounded her cousin […] Displaying sensitivity and understanding to these motives will earn Israel compliments, and justifiably so. Leaving Ahed Tamimi in jail for a long time will once again show the ugly face and violence of the Israeli occupation.’
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticised Israeli’s actions, while the European Union has expressed concern over Israel's detention of minors, including Ahed Tamimi. In January, European Union representatives and EU heads of mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah released a statement in which they expressed deep concern over the arrests of Ahed and other Palestinian minors.
Luisa Morgantini, the former vice president of the European Parliament said that the injustice of the Israeli occupation is so great that one cannot remain silent. Morgantini said that she organised delegations from the European Parliament to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories to see with their own eyes what is happening on the ground. She added that several European MPs had different perspectives after speaking with ordinary Palestinians ‘who were not like how our media described them.’
Alistair Burt, UK Minister of state for the Middle East at the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, condemned the arrest. Burt spoke out in defence of Ahed Tamimi, whose family he said he knows personally. He said, ‘The truth is the soldiers shouldn’t have been there and the young woman shouldn’t have needed to do what she did.’ We should be working hard to get a settlement for this issue so that these young people don’t have to continue to do what they’re doing’, he added.
An online petition organised by Ahed’s father calling for her release has gathered 1.7m signatures. Twenty-seven American cultural figures have signed the petition including, Actors Danny Glover and Rosario Dawson, novelist Alice Walker, famed activist Angela Davis and philosopher Cornel West. The petition explicitly relates Tamimi’s fate to the children of immigrants and communities of colour who face police brutality in the United States.
Ahed is compared to Trayvon Martin, the African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida. The document states that U.S. immigration authorities, police, border patrol and FBI agents train with Israeli counterparts and use ‘similar repressive profiling tactics to target and harass our communities.’
Dream Defenders, a group that was formed following Martin’s death in 2012 to fight for social change, has organised the petition. The petition states, ‘Too many of our children quickly learn that they may be imprisoned or killed simply for who they are […] From Trayvon Martin to Mohammed Abu Khdeir and Khalif Browder to Ahed Tamimi – racism, state violence and mass incarceration have robbed our people of their childhoods and their futures.’ A delegation travelled to the West Bank and met with the Tamimis.
A Terrorist to the Israelis
The video of Ahed Tamimi was widely picked up by Israeli media outlets, which often accuse Palestinian protesters of provoking the army into responses. The soldiers' decision not to react to the seeming provocation by Ahed has stirred a debate about deterrence and drawn allegations that the army was humiliated. Many Zionists have called Ahed a ‘troublemaker’ or even a ‘terrorist’. There was a fierce debate over the reaction of the soldiers; some praised their ‘restraint’ whilst others argued that their response undermined Israeli deterrence. The Israeli media joined the chorus dubbing Ahed as ‘Shirley Temper’, in reference to her curly hair.
For her act of defiance, a senior member of the Israeli government has called for Ahed to be incarcerated for life. Another senior Israeli official revealed that he had asked a parliamentary committee to investigate whether the blond, blue-eyed Ahed Tamimi’s family are ‘really Palestinians’. The Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the court’s decision to keep Tamimi in custody. He wrote on Twitter, ‘Israel will not permit the harming of its soldiers and anybody trying to do so will pay a heavy price.’
Naftali Bennet, the Education Minister, recognised for his hawkish views, told Army Radio that Ahed and the other women in the video should ‘finish their lives in prison’. Further, the Culture Minister Miri Regev said, ‘She is not a little girl, she is a terrorist. It is about time they will understand that people like her have to be in jail and not be allowed to incite to racism and subversion against the state of Israel.’
The Israeli poet and songwriter Yehonatan Geffen made a comparison between Ahed Tamimi and Anne Frank. Geffen apologised eventually after public outrage but said he was trying to show that just as Israel has national heroes, so do the Palestinians. The incident prompted another maelstrom as many Israelis accuse her family of exploiting her to provoke Israeli soldiers.
Moreover, Ben Caspit, an Israeli journalist with Maariv newspaper and Al-Monitor, demanded a heavy-handed punishment for what he see as a brazen attack. He took a step further calling for retaliation against Ahed through raping her. He said, ‘In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras.’ Caspit later alleged that his comments had been taken out of context, but in a piece in Maariv, he wrote that the ‘Tamimi family needs to learn the hard way that such systematic provocations against Israeli soldiers will cost them dear.’
An Unfair Military Trial
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, an Israeli nongovernmental organisation, a parent has the right to accompany their child during an interrogation in the occupied Palestinian territory. Ahed Tamimi has gone on trial before Ofer military court, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, which has been delayed several times. This postponing of the trial aims at holding Ahed for so long until she is broken down psychologically to the point that she would agree to sign a plea sheet.
Ahed remains in custody; charged with 12 offences of aggravated assault, obstructing the work of soldiers, and incitement to violence. If convicted, she could face a lengthy jail term. The charges relate to events in the video and five other incidents. They include stone throwing, incitement and making threats.
On Tuesday morning 13 February 2018, she arrived at the military courtroom escorted by Israeli security personnel, in a prison jumpsuit with her hands and feet in shackles. She appeared calm, smiling and flashing the 'V for victory' sign at photographers. Her father Bassem Tamimi waved to her from the audience, yelling out ‘stay strong’.
Regardless of the defence lawyer’s request to allow the media to observe proceedings, Western diplomats, rights researchers and journalists along with dozens of other observers were ejected in a decision, which Lieutenant Colonel Menachem Lieberman claimed that it was for Ahed’s own protection. After the prosecution read out the indictment, and the prosecutors requested more time to prepare a response. The trial was adjourned until 11 March 2018 and could go on for months.
Gaby Lasky, Ahed’s Israeli lawyer, dismissed arguments that the continuous detention would violate Ahed’s rights as a minor and concluded she would pose a danger if released on bail. She said that although Ahed is only 17-years-old, ‘the court believes that her indictment is enough to keep her in detention until the end of the trial’. Lasky said she argued that the trial could not move forward because Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its court system there is illegal.
Judge Lidor Drachman of the Judea region Juvenile Military Court said that he was supplied with evidence that Ahed was a serial offender and that releasing her would compromise the investigation.
Jose Guevara, chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have pointed out that Tamimi was arrested and questioned by Israeli security officials without a lawyer or family members present. UN experts said that the case of Ahed violates the fundamental legal guarantee to have access to counsel during interrogation. They expressed concern that Ahed’s place of detention, Hasharon prison, was in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that the deportation of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying power, or to that of any other country, is prohibited, regardless of the motive.
Bias and Hypocrite Media
A global ignorance and virtual silence, particularly Islamic and Arabic, upon Ahed’s case, was axiomatic. Further, those who present themselves as the purveyors of women human rights and empowerment, such as the Western and even the Eastern feminist groups, human rights organisations and advocates and officials have shown a curious lack of support for Ahed. Feminist solidarity movement around the world sprung up almost overnight over the issue of domestic violence and sexual harassment in public life. Yet effectively nothing remotely comparable has been able to be generated by this cause, which is too indisputable. The bias mainstream media have conveyed a narrative that removed critical context.
Comparing their comprehensive coverage of the Syrian girl from eastern Aleppo Banna Al Abed to Ahed’s case reveals that the media is bound to the imperatives of the Imperialist Zionist foreign policy. Banna is an eight-year-old girl who became, almost overnight, a media sensation. Twitter had even verified the account, in violation of its own rules, which prohibit verification for minors as fighting in Aleppo between the national army and the popular resistance against the terrorist groups intensified, in September 2016.
In October 2016, a Twitter account of Banna appeared, gaining hundreds of thousands of followers, claimed to be tweeting from the neighbourhoods of eastern Aleppo under control of al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat Al Nusra, though it was unclear how that was possible as internet access was largely unavailable.
As the liberation of Aleppo Banna tweeted that her death was imminent. Weeks later, she appeared in the Al Qaeda controlled Idlib province in northern Syria, where the terrorists and their families had been bussed to in an agreement with the Syrian government.
In April 2017, Alisyn Camerota interviewed Banna in an apparently scripted interview on CNN. Later, in May, she got the Turkish citizenship. Soon after, Simon and Schuster awarded her a book deal, with the help of J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series. The book entitled Dear World chronicled Banna’s story. Then she embarked on a promotional tour of the US, appeared at high profile film screenings in Los Angeles and had an article in Time Magazine.
Ahed’s case coverage or lack thereof is in stark contrast to the case of Banna. Ahed is from one of a handful of West Bank villages, which stages weekly demonstrations against the Zionist occupation. Further, she is the daughter of prominent anti-occupation activists. Regardless of the high profile nature of Ahed’s arrest, the prejudice mainstream media has taken a de-facto vow of silence, in glaring contrast to its fixation with Banna.
Another figure is Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student who stood up to the Taliban and defended her right to an education, and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. She was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman, in 2012, but survived. Unlike Malala Yousafzai, who has a history of standing up to injustices, Ahed Tamimi has not gotten much attention or solidarity on social media and has become an international phenomenon.
In 2016, the State Department denied Ahed a visa to visit the US as part of her speaking tour, entitled ‘No Child Behind Bars/Living Resistance’, which meant to highlight the plight of the Palestinian children. It cannot be because she is not Muslim; it is because Ahed is Palestinian and because her persecutors are Israelis.
Malala met the former President Barack Obama, as well as the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and addressed the UN General Assembly. She received numerous accolades from being named one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine and Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine to being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014 when she won. Although, there is even a Malala Day, nether statements supporting Ahed or reprimanding the Israeli state was issued nor an Ahed Day was declared.
The Zionist occupation regularly fires lethal ammunition and rubber-coated bullets at children and teenagers to disperse them. Rubber bullets routinely maim and murder innocent Palestinian children protesting against the occupation. The latest child to die was 17-year-old Mohammed Sami Al Dadouh. The Israelis shot him in the neck and the bullet severed his spinal cord. Currently, numerous innocent children are being targeted, arrested and severely injured. Israelis shoot tear-gas canisters at homes at homes in the village. A 15-year-old Ahmad Tamimi was detained from his school in a nearby village.
Human rights organisations estimate around 300 Palestinian children are currently in Israeli jails. About 1,400 Palestinian minors have been prosecuted in special juvenile military courts over the past three years, according to the ‘Israel Defence Forces.’ Children fear gruesome night-raids and that they would be either be injured, killed or arrested, at any moment. They feel that something bad will happen to them, so they sleep with their clothes on in order to avoid further invasion of privacy and embarrassment" during the raids. Palestinian children often suffer from insomnia, bed-wetting, and nightmares. Michael Lynk, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory maintained, ‘Figures from Palestine show that Israel detains and prosecutes between 500 to 700 Palestinian children in military courts annually’.
The US Aggressive Policy against Palestinians
The Palestinian teenager’s case highlights the issue of what constitutes legitimate resistance to Israeli rule over millions. Palestinians since the Zionist occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in 1967. On December 15, Tamimi and her family were protesting against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Widespread protests followed Trump’s controversial decision, in which around 300 children, including Tamimi, were reportedly detained. Twenty-three Palestinians have been killed. According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, nearly 3,600 Palestinians were injured during these protests, 729 of whom were wounded with rubber bullets and at least 192 by live rounds. The Palestinian Prisoners' Club said that since 6 December 2017, the Israeli army arrested 620 Palestinians, 170 of them were children and 12 are women.
The international community has not sat up or taken any notice of Ahed Tamimi, whatsoever. The Palestinian people have long aspired for a future state, which includes the West Bank along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Zionist enemy illegally built settlements built in the 1967 occupied West Bank, however, it insists that the settlements’ future should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.
- Did the Israeli or foreign press note that the near-murder of Mohammed al Tamimi had preceded Ahed's physical resistance against the Israeli army patrol?
- Why is Ahed kept in custody on bail for slapping an occupier for having invaded her homeland?
- Why is there virtual silence from international feminism, human rights liberals and ‘MeToo’ campaigners over the brute incarceration of Ahed Tamimi, in a cold cell, openly threatened with rape and murder?