Why is Israel, a powerful military power, afraid of a 17-year-old girl? Ahed Tamimi, currently languishing in one of its prisons, embroiled in a trial that could last months, has become the renewed focus of international attention. Originally from the village of Nabi Saleh, Tamimi has been fighting the Israeli occupation since she was 12. Perhaps growing up in a “resistance” household matured her before time. Images of the spunky girl kicking and slapping Israeli soldiers, have become the new face of Palestinian bravery and steadfastness. Through her blue eyes and long blonde hair, she is seen as the new hero, bravely fighting Israeli baseness and armoury.
Her arrest on December 15, 2017, subsequent incarceration and her ongoing trial (with the next sitting scheduled for March 11) behind closed doors, has seen calls been made in Palestine, Arab world and many world capitals for her release. Led by Amnesty International, a host of rights organisations like B’Tselem, several leading academics, intellectuals, novelists, artists and politicians have spoken in favour of Tamimi. Pertinently the young girl has time and again shown that she is not afraid of standing face-to-face against Israeli soldiers.
By putting on trial this vibrant girl, who was just 16 when she was recently arrested, Israel appeared to have shot itself in the foot. Without realising it has inadvertently created massive public backlash, internationally and most of all in its traditional backer, the United States, whose intelligentsia is now veering towards the Palestinians has sent shock waves among Israelis not least of all because recently top US figures including TV stars and athletes signed a petition calling for the release of Tamimi and ending her court trial, a development that has no precedence.
Already the Israeli government is in twists having appointed in 2015 a Knesset subcommittee to determine whether the family of Ahed was a “real family” because they had been resisting the occupation for a good part of 10 years, understanding the fact their village Nabi Saleh is in “Area C”, part of the Palestinian territories controlled by the Israeli army as stipulated by the Israeli-Palestinian agreements following the Oslo Accords of 1993.
All this surely suggests there is a “nightmarish” worry among the Israeli government that its facade of militarism is only a paper tiger afraid of its own shadow and that of Palestinian children’s; and regardless of the tight situation on the ground, things are not at all rosy for Israelis except of course, through the barrel of their guns.
But even that doesn’t seem to be working as well, illustrated by the Ahed videos which has sent Israel into hysterics. Not only the right wing lunatic fringe but also so-called liberals are flabbergasted and angered by the sight of a dashing young Palestinian kicking Israeli soldiers in face of a grave provocation.
Terms like “humiliation”, “crushed, “national humiliation” and “cowardice” are becoming an everyday Israeli vocabulary because of the video clips, creating frustration and hurt with a sudden realisation that their army is not “superhuman” or “invincible”.
Her last video of confrontation with Israel soldiers, shot and uploaded on the social media by her mother, who has since been jailed, served another cold reminder that a new generation of young Palestinian are growing up hating everything the occupation stands for.
These images are slowly and systematically tearing apart stereotypes of “dehumanising” Palestinians which Israel spent the best part of the last 70 years building up in western countries. Furthermore, these images are likely to continue to circulate as Ahed’s trial continues and more pictures of the teens defying the occupation emerge. The roll up pins have already begun with the Palestinian ‘Joan of Arc’ recognised. Famous Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, who is known for the outstanding Che Guevara poster, has drawn a famous print of Ahed that was shown by the BBC, Newsweek and RT, the Russian television in recent days, all of which means bad news for Israel.
The winds of change are coming, not from politicians I might add, but from children and youth like Ahed Al Tamimi.
Marwan Asmar is a commentator based in Amman. He has long worked in journalism and has a PhD in Political Science from Leeds University in the UK.