What would you do if armed soldiers of an occupying force shot your 14-year old cousin in the face at close range and then tried to force their way into your property?
What would you do if you were a mother and saw your teen-aged daughter and her cousin trying to stop the soldiers?
Not easy questions to answer for anyone in New Zealand as we’ve never lived under such a frightening situation. We find it hard to imagine such a situation could even occur in this day and age, in a normal country, at least not in a normal Western country. But Israel isn’t a normal Western country.
On 15 December, an IDF soldier shot 14-year-old Muhammad Fadel Tamimi in the face. Soldiers then entered the Tamimi property. 16-year old Ahed Tamimi , her cousin Noor and then her mother Nariman tried to push the soldiers away. Ahed lightly slapped one of the soldiers. The slap was caught on video and has gone round the world.
The incident took place in Nabi Saleh, a West Bank village. Like the people of Bil’in, of the movie 5 Broken Cameras, the Nabi Saleh villagers are hated by the Israelis for refusing to lie down quietly and die.
Right-wing anti-Palestinian Israelis fumed at the insult, the humiliation of their beloved Army. Revenge was demanded. The next night Israeli soldiers broke into the Tamimi home and arrested Ahed. Later Noor and Naiman were arrested as well.
Ahed has since then been transferred between several prisons, an Israeli tactic to wear detainees down. As of this writing she still is in detention without being charged.
This particular incident is not so isolated , Palestinian teenagers are often hauled away in night raids and abused while in custody. Several hundred Palestinian children are in detention now.
Ahed’s case though has attracted world-wide attention. Demonstrations have been held in several European cities and in New York too , calling for the release of Ahed and other child detainees. People who follow what goes on in Israel and the illegally Occupied Territories will remember other incidents when Ahed has confronted Israel soldiers, including the time when she and other women tried to stop her young brother from being arrested.
The reactions of powerful, influential Israeli right-wing groups, in sinister language calling for revenge should send a shiver down our spines.The Minister of Education Nafthali Bennett has said, “The women should spend the rest of their lives in prison”.
Ben Caspit, a journalist with Israel’s Maariv newspaper, has said, “In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras.”
Why do we hear nothing about Ahed Tamimi from our so-called media? We should all be protesting at the Israeli Embassy demanding the release of Ahed, of all child prisoners and all political prisoners.
To the Israelis, a teenaged Palestinian girl, angry about the shooting of her cousin , lightly pushing and slapping, an Israel soldier, is a heinous unforgivable crime.
An IDF soldier shooting a 14 year old in the face is trivial. Mohammed Tamimi had climbed a ladder leaning against the wall surrounding a vacant house. Israeli soldiers were posted in the yard. When the boy poked his face over the wall, he was shot, at close range in the face, just below his left nostril. His parents rushed him to a nearby village that had an intensive care ambulance and then to a new private hospital founded by some Palestinian businessmen. Seven surgeons worked from 9:30pm to 4:30am to save his life. Mohammed ‘s mother was told that had the bullet hit just a half-millimetre to the side, she would have lost her son .
My information is from mondoweiss.net, electronicintifada.net, samidoun.net and Haaretz nesspaper. A fascinating book about the people of Nabi Saleh , is The Way to the Spring by Ben Ehrenreich.
How much longer is the West going to turn a blind eye to the oppresion of the Palestinians?
There is some good news.
A Bill before the US Congress, submitted by Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum, is demanding that the US stop funding Israel’s human rights abuses against children.
Let’s hope the Bill gets passed. And let’s hope it raises public awareness, and anger, in the US and here too. So much is at stake, including our sense of humanity.
Lois Griffiths is a human rights activist and Palestinian advocate.