(Op-Ed) A brazenly politically-motivated arrest of a teenage Palestinian girl and most of her family by Israeli soldiers blew up the internet Tuesday, instantaneously amplifying her status as an icon of heroism and courage against occupation forces to some, and — substantively revealing of the larger conflict — a ‘threat’ to others.
Unwittingly or not, she has become the iconic portrait of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank — her arrest and remarkable years of group and personal rebellion calling into imperative focus existential conflicts between the two nations.
Ahed Tamimi brandishes fortitude in resistance even steely opponents admire. Any questions over whether she and her albeit passionately activist family legitimately erode the security of Israel by posting to social media video of actions taken by soldiers against unarmed Palestinians are answered in their arrests — as well as in the apparent Israeli definition of assault.
Long, curly hair and the disposition of a firecracker having earned her the snide moniker, ‘Shirley Temper’ (referring to the ringlet-locked child star of 1930s American film), Ahed Tamimi dared, astonishingly for someone of just sixteen years, to yet again display rageagainst aggressive action — this time, as forces attempted entry into the family home to arrest her brother — slapping and kicking the armed-to-the-teeth soldiers, as the incident was broadcast and re-broadcast throughout Israel, stoking vitriol and furor among audiences.
Livid Israelis demanded Tamimi be arrested for ‘assaulting’ the soldiers — while right-wing politician and one-state solution proponent, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, who termed the nation of Palestine a “fake state,” insisted the teen girl, who was unarmed upon arrest, be ‘imprisoned for life.’ Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman implored authorities take the entire family into custody, with punishment meted accordingly and unforgivingly.
Al-Masdar News reports of the arrest three days after the incident, “Israeli forces turned the Tamimi household upside down, stealing phones, laptops and other electronic devices, before violently arresting the 16 year old.”
Continuing, “Later that morning, after Israel’s brutal arrest of 16 year old Ahed, her mother ‘Nariman Tamimi’ was also kidnapped, in front of ‘Benjamin Camp’ North of Ramallah.
“The week prior to this, 14 year old ‘Mohammed Tamimi’ was shot in the head by Israeli gunmen, he still remains on life support, in critical condition.”
That incident — what would ordinarily have been a routine protest by villagers of Nabi Saleh, frequently joined by Israeli and foreign activists, against occupation by Israel and its actions and policies in the West Bank — attracted around 200 unarmed and relatively peaceful Palestinians. Although the exchange primarily involved yelling, pleas, and the unaggressive foisting of Palestine’s flag, Israeli forces say the group abruptly began to “violently provoke the soldiers” — and then continued doing so from the vantage point of a nearby home whose owners consented to their presence.
Bassem Tamimi, however, reports NBC News, maintains that moments before this happened, soldiers fired rubber-coated bullets at one of Ahed’s cousins, 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi, at extreme close range — thus, provoking the angry response from the protesters — particularly, from the teen and family members.
“We believe that this is our way, and our duty and responsibility,” he maintained of the Palestinian defense, and specifically of his daughter’s actions, against such aggression, to the media Wednesday, “to resist until we end the occupation.”
Israeli broadcasting reportedly characterized repeated playback of the initial confrontation between the soldiers and Ahed and her family across social media by their supporters as a ploy for sympathy of their situation — as well as for the plight of Palestinians in their resistance against arguably one of the best-trained and well-equipped militaries on the planet. However, Bassem — who has been told he is also now under investigation — is adamant these sanguine interpretations mostly neglected to mention the shooting, which so plainly sparked the incident.
The Intercept and others observed Israeli social media frenzied over the perceived bullying of the soldiers — (whom, they contend, acted in laudable “quiet restraint”) — by the sixteen-year-old.
Palestinians, advocates, and activists lambasted those assertions, noting the fact the soldiers had ventured onto the family’s property in an area under active and aggressive military occupation, as the Intercept’s Robert Mackey notes. He continues,
“One copy of the clip posted on Facebook by the far-right rapper Yoav Eliasi, known to his fans as The Shadow, was viewed more than a million times, along with his caption decrying the supposed ‘impotence’ of Israel’s ‘castrated army.’
“As the Haaretz correspondent Anshel Pfeffer observed following the girl’s arrest, ‘what no one could explain was why, if indeed there was a valid reason to apprehend her, was she not taken into custody on Friday? Unless, that is, the real charge against her is having made Israeli soldiers look impotent on camera.’”
Detractors have long accused Palestinians of attempting to manipulate public emotions to bring support for their cause by offering forth fresh-faced youth as sort of PR sacrificial lambs, challenging soldiers — whom they insist are paragons of control — instead of complying to have all their rights revoked and trampled upon. Ahed Tamimi, to critics, the tawny-haired epitome.
Supporters and advocates, however, counter that propaganda distorts the truth as to be unrecognizable — severely limiting, if not altogether removing, a fair portrayal of the family’s situation and actions of the Israeli military.
But the core of the matter pertains to the wider morass of Israeli-Palestinian relations — the ‘official’ establishment of Israel upon Palestine — and the ensuing malefactors of apartheid, forced emigration, devoid quality of life, abolishment of human rights, and other accusations garnered frequently by the intimate ally of the United States.
Social media put an end to an era of hearsay, bringing live video around the world as it happens — impossibly thwarting propagandists from nations traditionally able to escape too negative a press. Ahed Tamimi plays the penultimate warrior of truth, raw in her defiance in a way not to be scapegoated by youth, despite the aforementioned claims — raising a camera to unflattering and shameful behavior by soldiers as a mirror to the world which has condoned the inexcusable for decades.
On Wednesday, a military court judge reserved decision on whether or not the firebrand — who has purportedly ceased speaking to Israeli authorities, entirely — should be detained without bail. Now, Ahed must languish behind enemy bars — where human rights advocates rightly fear torture — for another five days.
After that announcement in the court, Bassem Tamimi encouraged his daughter from the gallery,
“Stay strong. Stay strong.”
As if a reminder were ever needed.