April 26, 2019 | 62° F

ABDELFATAH: Tamimi's situation shows Israeli injustice

Opinions Column: Global Perspective


Ahed Tamimi is a Palestinian activist and viral sensation. She has been sitting in an Israeli prison since mid-December, awaiting a trial that has been postponed until Feb. 13. She also just turned 17-years-old last week. 

Tamimi was detained after slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier in a video that went viral. In the moments prior to the video, Israeli soldiers stationed at the Tamimi house to quell protests in the area, shot Tamimi's 14-year-old cousin with a rubber bullet to the face at close range, severely wounding him. The injuries were severe enough that doctors were forced to place him in a medically-induced coma. 

Days after the video went viral, the Tamimi family’s house was raided and the activist was arrested for the incident, as were her mother and 20-year-old cousin. She is currently facing 12 charges including assaulting an Israeli soldier, interfering with a soldier's duties and two past instances of stone-throwing. Additionally, her mother is being charged with incitement for having taken the video. Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called for her release, pointing out the obvious fact that the distraught and unarmed teenage girl posed no actual threat to the two heavily armed Israeli soldiers she was confronting.       

This is not the first time Tamimi has gone viral for acts of resistance against the Israeli occupation, and her family has been a very active part of the non-violent protest movement in the village of Nabi Saleh. She has previously achieved internet fame after a picture of her shaking her fist in defiance at an Israeli soldier at the age of 12 made the rounds. A few years later she went viral again, this time attempting to fight off a soldier who was trying to arrest her younger brother. She has been described as starring in “Pallywood,” a dismissive and frankly disrespectful characterization of Palestinian protests, which trivializes the trials and injustices faced by Palestinians by implying that their protests are staged for the camera. 

Although her situation is not uncommon. According to Defense for Children International between 500-700 Palestinian minors are held in Israeli military detention every year. Part of the reason that Tamimi has received so much attention on the international scene is her appearance. She is blonde with fair skin and light eyes. In fact, if it was not for the Arabic she spoke, it would be easy to mistake her for European. As Ben Ehrenreich, a journalist who wrote a profile on the Tamimi family, said, “A great deal of work goes into ‘othering’ Palestinians, to casting them as some really recognizable other … but when suddenly the kid doesn’t fit into those stereotypes — when she actually looks like a European kid or an American kid — then suddenly all that work of dehumanization can’t function, and she can’t be ‘othered’ in the same way. And then people freak out.” 

Even so there have still been attempts at delegitimizing Tamimi and her family. For example, notable Israeli parliamentarian Michael Oren has accused her of being paid to “dress up in American clothes” and provoke soldiers, as if Palestinians do not normally wear jeans and t-shirts. He even launched a classified investigation into whether the Tamimi family was real, because their appearance did not match those of “regular” Palestinians. 

Rather than the larger than life revolutionary figures of a Yasser Arafat, Tamimi is a representative of the every day life of a Palestinian living under occupation. She has received from liberal Israelis and from the international community. Hundreds of young American Jews sent her birthday wishes this past week in a show of support before her trial, and there have been rallies all over North America and Europe calling for her release. But, not everyone has been supportive. Israeli settlers have vandalized her home town of Nabi Saleh, scrawling phases such as “Death to Ahed Tamimi” along the walls. Another group of settlers has stated that it would be waiting outside the prison to kill her once she gets released.     

Supporters of the Palestinian movement see her as a young freedom fighter, a David-esque symbol of the little guy standing up to oppression and a representation of the injustices of occupation. Her detractors see her as a provocateur, a young criminal and someone who disrespected the Israeli military. But, I am sure most readers will agree, the detention of an unarmed teenage girl and the shooting of her 14-year-old cousin are unconscionable actions. Unfortunately, they are all too commonplace in Palestine, a consequence of the occupation and its reduction of Palestinians to an "other."    

Yousuf Abdelfatah is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science and economics. His column, "Global Perspectives," runs on alternate Thursdays.


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Yousuf Abdelfatah

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