Support for a new generation of Palestinians
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, February 28, 2018
On March 11, 2018, Ahed Tamimi — a Palestinian girl who was just 16 at the time of her arrest — is scheduled to appear for her second military court hearing. Ahed’s arrest followed a video that went viral of her slapping and pushing an Israeli soldier who was coming onto her property. Ahed faces up to 10 years in prison and up to 12 charges including assault and incitement. Israel’s military court has an almost 100 percent conviction rate, so it is unlikely she will be discharged through the court system. Ahed’s lawyers and the international community have responded by calling for her release, including United Nations and Amnesty International.
To an average reader, Ahed’s story can seem confusing and may raise many questions: Why did this small girl react so violently to armed soldiers walking onto her family’s property? Why did she slap and kick people in uniform, who may appear to be simply upholding the law? Why are human rights organizations like Amnesty International so adamant that her arrest was wrong?
To understand her story, the video and the media attention these have received, one must peel back the layers of context. It is essential to know that the day before this video was taken, Ahed Tamimi’s younger cousin was severely wounded after being shot during a protest in her small village in Palestine. Such protests are often a weekly occurrence in which Palestinian citizens demonstrate against the illegal confiscation of land, the Trump decision to move the U.S. embassy or the Israeli occupation. Ahed, just one of an entire generation of Palestinian children, has spent her entire life growing up under a military occupation considered illegal under international law. Hers and her neighbors’ land has been gradually and forcibly annexed by Israeli settlers; her rights to freedom of movement, to education, to economic prospects, to national identity and citizenship are continually limited and denied. She has been surrounded by violence and unrest — not to mention by a 403-mile, 25 foot–high separation wall that surrounds the occupied Palestinian territories. In this context, Ahed’s slap was a stand against the illegal forces of the occupation who have harassed her and her family since she was a young child.
Following the filming of this video, Ahed was taken from her home and arrested in the middle of the night. She was taken to military prison, where, according to her lawyers, she was interrogated without legal representation. The abusive military arrest, her interrogation and particularly her prolonged detention contravene international law — the detention of children is illegal under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which Israel has signed. Yet Ahed is but one of around 350 Palestinian children currently imprisoned in Israeli military detention. And disturbingly, her abusive military arrest, interrogation and forced detention are not unique, but fairly common in the cases of other Palestinian children, imprisoned for small crimes (or sometimes no crime at all), yet prosecuted as adults in a military court.
It is important to note that under the illegal occupation of the West Bank, two separate legal systems — dependent on one’s nationality and ethnicity — operate. Israeli settlers (internationally recognized as illegally living in the West Bank), are subject to Israel’s normal legal system, but since Ahed is an Arab Palestinian, she is subject to Israel’s military system, charged with threats against security. This court system fails to uphold just laws and has, instead, been used as a tool of oppression to assert control, not justice.
As Americans, we are complicit in sustaining the military occupation under which Ahed lives and in supporting the system that led to her arrest. Our tax dollars are spent on funding the Israeli military occupation of Palestine — in fact, the largest aid package the U.S. gives to another country is given to Israel’s military, about $3.8 billion per year.
What does this information and our financial complicity demand from us? First, it demands that we become critical consumers of media regarding Israel and Palestine.
We understand that discerning justice can be difficult when presented with the image of Ahed, representing a resisting Palestinian youth movement, hitting a soldier, representing Israel’s state-sanctioned military power. Yet even state-sanctioned acts can be unjust. Student Voices for Palestine condemns violence on either side, but we recognize that forms of violence can be overt and covert — some obvious, some hidden in unjust systems. While Ahed’s story is visible and regrettable, there are many other injustices at play in it which cannot be conveyed in a five-minute video or news headline. We hope that we will all have the courage to peer behind the headlines to view such unjust systems. Then, may we have the strength to speak out about what we learn.
To us, Ahed represents a new generation of Palestinians who are keenly aware of the injustices perpetrated against them. Frustrated at the lack of political will, many Palestinian youth have taken upon themselves the task of generating new, creative ways to nonviolently resist the occupation. We marvel at their use of social media, grassroots organizing and creative nonresistance; we are in awe of their continued hopefulness and resilience. We hope to support and amplify their efforts any way we can.
Student Voices for Palestine
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.