Ahed Tamimi. Image: Haim Schwarczenberg/Wikimedia Commons.

A few nights ago I was watching a crime series on Netflix which was made in Finland. In one episode, the 17-year-old daughter of the starring detective is thrown in jail. She is charged with murdering a man she barely knows. We see her in her small hospital-like room with a barred window and narrow plank bed, pacing her cell. Then she hammers on the cell door. In tears, she cries for the guard to allow her in the corridor just to “stretch my legs.” There is no response from the guard.

Today, I think about Ahed Tamimi, the 16 year old Palestinian girl from Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, who was recently dragged from her bed and her family in the dead of night, handcuffed and thrown in jail in by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). She was charged by an Israeli military prosecutor with five counts of assaulting security forces and for throwing stones.  

In fact, Ahed slapped the soldier who had hit her after she verbally protested his troop’s midnight invasion of her family’s front yard. Minutes before, an Israeli soldier had fired a rubber bullet into the head of her 15-year-old brother Mohammad, which left him in a coma. The IDF had also just lobbed tear gas canisters to break windows in the Tamimi family home.

The Tamimis are a well-respected family in Nabi Saleh who have for decades resisted Israel’s occupation. Two yeInars ago, Ahed bit a soldier who was attacking her 12 year old brother, and since that time the IDF has done just about everything to scare and threaten her and her family. Her father Bassem was tortured while serving three years in prison without being convicted of anything; he has undergone a dozen arrests. In 2012, Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. Ahed’s older brothers have also been arrested many times and served time in Israeli jails. At least four of her cousins have been arrested by the Israelis; her cousin Mustafa was killed in 2011 by an Israeli soldier who fired a high-velocity tear gas canister at his head from a metre away. Ahed’s mother Nariman has been arrested and imprisoned five times; in mid-December she was arrested alongside Ahed and her aunt. Nariman has been charged with assaulting a soldier, obstructing a soldier in carrying out his duties, and two counts of incitement to violence and disturbing “public order.”

Nabi Saleh is a West Bank village of barely 600 residents who have resisted the confiscation of their land by Israeli settlers. More importantly, the Palestinians there have had non-violent demonstrations every week for more than six years because the settlers from Halamish, an illegal Jewish settlement, have commandeered their freshwater spring. Any demonstration by Palestinians under Israeli occupation amounts to “political incitement” and is contrary to Israeli Military Order 101, which also criminalizes protests, assemblies, waving Palestinian flags and distributing political materials. 

Add firing of live ammunition and rubber and plastic bullets, invading Palestinians’ homes and taking them over to use as IDF “bases” in the village, plus nightly arrests of children and parents alike, and we see why Ahed dared to slap the Israeli soldier that night.

I think back to the Nordic Noir whodunit on Netflix. The teen’s detective father figures out who actually murdered the man and why. The final scene sees the girl running out of the prison gates — free — to reunite with her waiting parents. 

Not so for Ahed. Not only have she, her mother and aunt been jailed, but Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett called for Ahed to “spend the rest of her days in prison.” Israeli Minister of Culture Miri Regev called the girl’s slap “damaging to the honour of the military and the state of Israel.” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said “whoever goes wild during the day, will be arrested at night,” adding, “everyone involved, not only the girl but also her parents and those around them, will not escape what they deserve.”

Ben Caspit, a journalist for Ma’ariv, the biggest-selling Israeli newspaper, wrote in the paper, “in the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras.” Does that sound like rape to you? It does to me. (In the interest of fair reporting, Caspit now says his comments were mistranslated. He says that “in the dark,” was meant as a compliment to the IDF in that they arrested 16 year old Ahed without fanfare, late at night without media presence. That’s his story.)

Ahed’s slap is the slap that was heard around the world. Now it’s time for people of conscience — including Canadian Jews — to protest the occupation and demand the release of Ahed and her family.

JUDY HAIVEN is a founding member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada. She is a recently retired Professor of Management at Saint Mary’s University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Image: Haim Schwarczenberg/Wikimedia Commons

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