Ahed Tamimi lives in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. She has literally been fighting tooth and nail against Israeli occupation soldiers since before she was a teenager. In the 2015 video above, we see her fighting off a soldier who was trying to take away her then 11 year-old brother Mohammed. Since the video, she became both a symbol of Palestinian resistance and an easily recognizable target for Israelis, both civilian and military.
She told Al Jazeera:
“Many Israelis threatened me on social media after the video was released, demanding that I be detained or even killed… The harassment handcuffed my life. I was scared to even go outside or visit my friends.” […]
The harassment began immediately following the video’s release, as Israelis called her a “terrorist” on social media and threatened to kill her, the family says. Bassem, Ahed’s father and a long-standing leader in the village, said that her 19-year-old brother, Waed, was detained after the release of the video. At the start of his 10-month stay in Israeli jail, Ahed’s mother, Nariman, received permission to enter Israel to visit him, and Ahed tagged along.
“When we passed a checkpoint near Jerusalem, the Israeli soldiers got on the bus and immediately singled her out,” Nariman told Al Jazeera. “While everyone else was permitted to pass, Ahed was pulled off the bus and told she wouldn’t be allowed into Israel.”
During the village’s protests, Israeli forces would often scream Ahed’s name and shout curses at her. “Look! It’s Ahed Tamimi. Shoot her!” Bassem recalled one soldier as saying.
The family was often scared for their daughter, he added: “Whenever the soldiers recognise her, they do something to make her life difficult. Every time she left the house, we were scared something would happen to her.” Ahed was even forced to stay at her cousin’s home in Ramallah, where she attends school, to avoid the danger of passing through Israeli checkpoints on her way from Nabi Saleh.
She began attending protests at Nabi Saleh when she was nine. Here she is when she was young enough to be half the size of the armed soldiers she confronted:
As you can see from the tweet above, she was recently taken from her home on the early morning of December 19 by Israeli soldiers. This comes after a protest against the US’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in which Ahed’s 14 year old cousin Mohammed was placed into a medically-induced coma that lasted for three days after Israeli soldiers shot him in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet. The bullet broke his jaw before getting lodged into his skull. Ahed’s father, Bassem, announced on Facebook on Monday that she had been arrested:
What were the charges? Bassem declared that they were woken up at 3 am by at least 30 Israeli soldiers banging on their door. After throwing around their household contents, they told the family that they were arresting Ahed, but did not provide a reason (you can see on this video that she wasn’t resisting). However, an Israeli army spokesperson told Al Jazeera that she was suspected of “assaulting a soldier and an IDF officer”, in what seems to be a reference to the video below, which took place on Friday, moments after Mohammed was shot and soldiers fired tear-gas canisters directly at the Tamimi house, breaking several windows:
Given the context, describing this young girl’s actions as ‘assault’ is typical Israeli cynicism. Hers is, instead, a natural expression of anger at seeing her teenage cousin shot for no reason and her house vandalized. According to her father, Ahed was simply insisting that the soldiers leave. The slapping and kicking are obviously triggered by the frustration at being ignored. How is it even conceivable that a rather small girl can ‘assault’ trained and armed soldiers? It’s pretty clear that Ahed was arrested because of her courage in the face Israeli barbarity and the inspiration she provides for many Palestinians in their fight against Israeli land grabs and Apartheid.
Nariman Tamimi, Ahed’s mother, was also arrested when she went to the police station to support her daughter. The same fate awaited Ahed’s father, Bassem, when he attended the hearing for Ahed in a military court. Another of Ahed’s cousins, Nour Tamimi, 21, was seized as well in a night raid.
After Ahed’s arrest, Israeli Defense minister Avigdor Lieberman considered the 17 year old girl to be such a high-profile and dangerous criminal that he issued an explicit warning for her:
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday threatened to retaliate against Palestinian teenage activist Ahed Tamimi, her family and the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh where she lives after a video surfaced of her slapping and punching IDF soldiers, neither of whom responded.
“Everyone involved, not only the girl but also her parents and those around them will not escape from what they deserve,” Liberman said while touring Israel’s southern border. […]
“The IDF is the most humane army and operates under values that do not exist anywhere else. But its humanism can’t come at the expense of its deference and power,” Liberman said.
“Whoever goes wild during the day, will be arrested at night. This is also an important message,” Liberman said.
Collective punishment, banned under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is standard operating procedure for the “most humane army”.
Although Ahed is supposed to be detained for only 10 days, some in the Israeli (most humane) government want her imprisoned for life:
Education Minister Naftali Bennett told Army Radio she should be jailed for life.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the US MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) tweeted, “The Tamimi family-which may not be a real family-dresses up kids in American clothes and pays them to provoke IDF troops on camera. This cynical and cruel use of children constitutes abuse. Human rights organizations must investigate!”
Not only is this guy blaming the victim, but the irony of claiming to be concerned for Palestinian children just after soldiers of the “most humane army” put a bullet in the skull of a 14 year old Palestinian child is apparently lost on him.
MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) tweeted, “the first thing on my agenda is to say thank you to the soldiers who stood with honor against the Palestinian girls who tried to attack and humiliate them.”
Former Peace Now Executive Director Yariv Oppenheimer tweeted, “The IDF should be very proud of itself for acting as heroes against a young girl. Israeli deference has returned. What about all the hilltop youth who have attacked police. They can sleep quietly at night, because no one will drag them from their bed.”
Lieberman is right about one thing: The ‘values’ of the IDF do not exist anywhere else. Do you know of any other military force that is praised for not allowing underage girls to humiliate them, only to retaliate a couple of days later by putting them in jail?
Sadly, what is happening to Ahed is not the exception. Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children as young as 12 have been arrested and prosecuted by the Israeli military. The Israeli military detention system is notorious for the ill-treatment of children.The extent to which Shin Bet interrogators practice torture has been described as ‘institutional’. In its 2016 report, Amnesty International found that Israeli forces and Shin Bet personnel had “tortured and otherwise ill-treated Palestinian detainees, including children, particularly during arrest and interrogation”, with methods such as “beating with batons, slapping, throttling, prolonged shackling, stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats”.
According to research of Defence for Children International – Palestine, almost two thirds of Palestinian children detained in the West Bank had endured physical violence after apprehension. In several cases (23% in 2013, for example), children have been either shown or made to sign documentation, presumably ‘confessions’, in Hebrew – a language they do not understand.
The main claim supporters of the state of Israel make in defense of that “shitty little country” and the brutality it has meted out to Palestinians for 70 years is that the Palestinians “don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist”. The obvious answer to that allegation is that, in Israel’s current configuration as an Apartheid state that persistently flouts international law with impunity, what decent person would recognize its right to exist?
Andrés Perezalonso has been a contributing editor for Signs of the Times in both its English and Spanish versions since 2007. He holds a PhD in Politics, an MA in International Studies, a first degree in Communication, and has a professional background in Media Analysis. He thinks that understanding world events is not unlike detective work – paying attention to often ignored details and connections, and thinking outside of the box. He was born and raised in Mexico and currently resides in Europe.