NABI SALEH, West Bank: The Israeli occupation regime’s hard-charging prosecution of a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who slapped and kicked two occupation soldiers has trained a spotlight on her activist family and its role in what Palestinians call “popular resistance”, the near-weekly protests against Israeli occupation staged in several West Bank villages.
Many Palestinians have embraced the teen as a symbol of a new generation standing up to Israeli rule.
The December incident that catapulted her into the headlines came 10 days after President Donald Trump’s recognition of occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Trump’s move triggered Palestinian protests, including in Nabi Saleh, a village of about 600 members of the Tamimi clan. Since 2009, villagers have protested the seizure of some of their land and a spring for a nearby Israeli colony, with demonstrations often ending in clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and occupation soldiers firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets or live rounds.
Ahed’s mother, Nariman, captured events live on Facebook, including soldiers firing stun grenades.
The ‘slap’ video caused uproar in Israel, amid complaints the occupation soldiers had been humiliated. Ahed was arrested December 19, followed by her mother and cousin.
Three weeks later, Nour is free on bail, while Ahed and her mother remain in detention. Ahed faces lengthy prison time - potentially up to 14 years - after being charged with 12 counts of attacking and threatening soldiers in five incidents going back to April 2016.
Ahed’s cousin, 15-year-old Mohammad, was shot in the head December 15 by a rubber-coated steel bullet of the type used by Israel’s occupation military, and is now back home after surgery. Ahed’s family said word of his grave injury helped set her off against the soldiers that day.
Part of Mohammad’s left skull had to be removed by surgeons, with the bone to be replaced in coming months. Late last week, the teen — who as a 14-year-old spent three months in Israeli detention, accused of stone-throwing — spoke slowly and clearly, but appeared tired, resting his maimed head on the arm rest of a sofa in his family’s living room.
In the neighboring village of Deir Nidham, the Tamimi clan mourned 17-year-old Musab Tamimi, who was killed by Israeli army fire in clashes with stone-throwers last week. The military said the teen carried a weapon, but provided no evidence. His family denies he was armed. In clashes after Musab’s funeral, 17-year-old Mohammad Barghouti was critically wounded by a shot to the forehead, according to hospital officials.
The Israeli regime’s occupation army declined further comment on the incidents.
The fathers of Ahed, Nour and Mohammed said arrest and injury were the price of resisting occupation.
“We raise our heads high,” said Mohammad’s father, Fadel Tamimi, who like the others has spent several years in Israeli jails.
Ahed’s father, Bassem Tamimi, said he believes his daughter’s actions have resonated because she’s not seen as a victim. “When you look at her, you feel proud, not sad,” he said.
Bassem Tamimi was an activist in the first Palestinian uprising, which was largely driven by stone-throwing protests and helped produce interim Israeli-Palestinian deals in the mid-1990s.
But a promise of Palestinian statehood never materialised. And after more failed negotiations, a new Palestinian uprising of erupted in 2000, lasting several years amid a harsh Israeli crackdown. Israel also kept expanding colonies — some 600,000 colonists now live in occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank, war-won lands sought by the Palestinians for their state.
In recent years, a new strategy of weekly protests has emerged in some Palestinian villages that lost land to colonists or the Israeli regime’s West Bank separation wall.
Bassem Tamimi argues that such protests are the most effective means of shaking off Israeli colonial rule because Palestinians can claim the moral high ground. He believes colonies have made it impossible to establish a Palestinian state and now supports a single bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state with equal rights for all.