The treatment of Ahed Tamimi is not uncommon for the children of Palestine and shows Israel's systemic oppression of Palestinians clearly argues Shabbir Lakha
Yesterday, an Israeli military court issued twelve charges against Ahed Tamimi, a 16 year old Palestinian girl, including throwing stones which can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Her detention has been extended and the expectation is that she will face a lengthy prison sentence. Her father, Bassem Tamimi, said the charges that have been brought are clearly planned to guarantee significant prison time.
There are several aspects of Ahed’s plight that highlight Israel’s brutality against Palestinians, its system of apartheid and its disregard for international law. The first is the circumstances of her arrest. It is widely reported that she slapped and punched Israeli soldiers outside her home in Nabi Saleh in the Occupied West Bank. The soldiers did not retaliate, and Ahed was later arrested.
What’s missing from these reports is that the soldiers had entered and fired tear gas into the Tamimi family’s property and had earlier shot Ahed’s 14 year old cousin Mohammed with a rubber bullet. In his face. At point blank range. The rubber bullet – which is an ordinary bullet coated in rubber and not as harmless as the name might suggest – caused internal bleeding and Mohammed has had to be placed in a medically induced coma.
Similarly, reports mention the protests that Ahed and her cousin were at, but fail to explain what it is they are protesting about. The fact that there is an Israeli settlement built on the confiscated land of their village, that Israeli forces control their water supply and direct unlimited water to the settlement while restricting water to the Palestinians, that their homes are regularly sprayed with sewage and their olive trees are set on fire by the settlers, that the demolition order issued for Ahed’s family’s home can be executed at any time, that her parents have been arrested numerous times and her brother is currently in prison, that their home has been raided over 150 times, and the list goes on.
Then there is her arrest. As is usual practice when it comes to Palestinians, and children in particular, Israeli soldiers raided Ahed’s home in the middle of the night, shackled her and dragged her out. Midnight raids, without warrants or evidence of any kind, are a common occurrence in the occupied West Bank. Children are routinely dragged out and taken to detention centres during these raids, but often the raids are nothing more than a show of force, a tool of psychological oppression and a means of collective punishment.
Ahed was then transported to Ofer Prison in the West Bank to be detained. Often Palestinians are taken to detention centres in Israeli territory which means their families (and sometimes even their lawyers) are unable to secure permits to visit them. The transfer of Palestinians into Israeli territory to be detained, interrogated and tried is also a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
But international law is clearly not an issue Israel particularly cares about when you think about the land they have occupied and annexed, the siege on Gaza and brutal offensives carried out there, illegal settlements etc. But this is also clear when you consider the very widespread use of torture against detained Palestinians, especially children. Between arrest, charge and trial, Palestinians are routinely beaten, electrocuted, sexually abused and worse. There is abundant evidence of Palestinians being tortured into signing confessions for crimes they don’t even know they’ve confessed to.
Unlike Israelis (including those living in settlements inside Palestinian territories), Palestinians are tried in military courts and not under civil law. This means that they can be held in detention for 90 days without charge (and this detention can be extended indefinitely anyway based on security recommendations); 16 year old children are tried as adults; the standard of evidence is the bare minimum and more often than not witnesses are not required; and importantly, being a military court, Palestinians who are charged with anything from standing peacefully at a protest to throwing a stone to something far more serious are all tried as threats to the security of the State of Israel.
Ahed Tamimi has become a symbol of resistance against Israeli occupation and aggression. Her arrest has sparked outrage and calls for her freedom from people all over the world. Except in the mainstream. The outpouring of support for Ahed on social media has meant the media have to report the developments of her case – but with little sympathy, and there has been radio silence from political leaders – apart from Jeremy Corbyn):
There’s an important point to take from this silence in the wake of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement a little while back. There was global disagreement with Trump’s decision, including from Theresa May (albeit meekly), the UN Security Council and General Assembly and swathes of politicians who called the Jerusalem move reckless and dangerous and what have you.
Why was recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel so bad if the actual oppression of Palestinians like Ahed is not worthy of comment or condemnation? The only explanation is that the real outrage was that Trump’s move endangered the status quo, and when it comes to Ahed, her treatment at the hands of the Israeli military is the status quo. Many commentators said that Trump’s move effectively marked the end of the peace process. The same peace process that has been going on for decades alongside Palestinians, much like Ahed and her family, having their basic human rights violated. In the words of Ahed’s father: “In Palestine, the peace process has become the means to dispossess people.”
It was great to see global solidarity with Palestine and people across the world standing up to say “Hands off Jerusalem”. But if we are serious about fighting for justice and peace, we need to be clear about what the liberal commentariat and the political class stand for and what we stand for. And the case of Ahed Tamimi makes this issue as black and white as it can possibly be.
Free Ahed Tamimi. Free Palestine.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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