Why Israel has no right to jail Ahed Tamimi
A protester holds a photo of Ahed Tamimi confronting a soldier during a demonstration in London calling for the Palestinian girl’s release from Israeli prison, December 2017.
Ahed Tamimi was 16 years old when arrested and detained. Her crime against humanity is that with her bare hands she slapped an armed soldier.
Now 17 years old, Ahed is not yet an adult – by international definition. Following a plea deal, she will spend the next eight months in prison.
The reality is that Ahed is not imprisoned because she slapped a soldier but because she is a visible symbol of Palestinian resilience and the next generation of resistance which continues to prevent the lie that is the State of Israel being globally accepted as an inevitable truth.
A veritable David in battle with Goliath, fair hair flying, hailed as the lion of Palestine, Ahed, by international human rights standards, remains a young person denied her liberty in contravention of the international human rights obligations of the State of Israel. She is entitled to the international protection afforded to children and young people: protection of her identity, including her national identity; protection of her liberty; of her life and family life; protection of her right to education.
She has been afforded none of these protections since the day she was born. She is the second generation of her family, the third of her nation to be so denied.
State violence against Ahed, her family and her people, continues to go unpunished and largely unchallenged by international duty bearers in this regard. It spans three generations and is a crime against humanity.
Zionism is the culprit
The continued occupation of Palestinian territory is a breach of international law that goes unsanctioned. The reason for this dereliction of duty to protect is that the perpetrator of this violence is the Zionist State of Israel.
Powerful Zionism – not persecuted Judaism – is the culprit here.
The centuries-old victimization, persecution and finally attempted annihilation of the Jewish people by European fascism does not entitle the State of Israel to use the historic and collective pain of an oppressed people to disguise and excuse the fascist principles of national, cultural and xenophobic supremacy of Zionism and the oppression and annihilation of Palestine and Palestinians.
Nor does the historic guilt complex of successive governments of Europe and North America about the passive complicity of their nation states in enabling fascist propaganda to gain such a grip on the minds of millions in the 20th century, entitle them to continue to make excuses for the behavior or the existence of the Zionist state they helped Britain create where Palestine already existed, and which they continue to sustain and defend at all costs.
Judaism and Jewish people have the same entitlement to guaranteed protection of their rights and fundamental freedoms, as does Islam and Muslims, Christianity and Christians and people who disavow all religions.
The State of Israel has no such fundamental right. Its creation was a usurpation of the right to self-determination of all the people of the existing Palestine on whose misery, degradation and exile, Israel was built and is sustained. The usurpation of an inalienable right remains a usurpation through the passage of all time until the right is restored.
Until then, for every Ahed who makes it into the consciousness and conscience of European and American liberals, there will be thousands more nameless children of Palestine who will find their way to prison and the grave in undeterred self-determination to undo the wrong and retrieve their right to their Palestinian homeland.
No matter how long it takes or how many young lives, families and homes are caught up in and destroyed in the chaos created by avoiding the truth, sooner or later the State of Israel must be held to account and sanctioned for its breach of United Nations resolutions and of fundamental human rights.
Free Ahed! Free all child prisoners! Free Palestine!
Bernadette McAliskey is a political activist from Tyrone in the north of Ireland. She was a member of the British parliament from 1969 to 1974. During that time, she was imprisoned for her leadership role in Derry’s Battle of the Bogside. When the British Army killed 13 people in Derry in January 1972, she slapped Reginald Maudling, Britain’s then home secretary, after being refused permission to speak in parliament. The slapping was viewed by the British media as a greater act of violence than the killing of unarmed civilians on what became known as Bloody Sunday. She survived an assassination attempt in 1981, which she has consistently argued was facilitated, if not organized, by the British Army. In 1996, she co-founded South Tyrone Empowerment Programme (STEP) and spends much of her time as a local organizer.