Despite global calls for Ahed Tamimi to be released from prison, some pro-Palestinian activists believe the eight month sentence handed down is a victory for the fearless young Palestinian activist. Ahed was arrested on 18 December last year after she was filmed kicking and slapping an Israeli soldier on the steps of her home in Nabi Saleh village in the occupied West Bank. Ahed had defended her home after an Israeli soldier shot her 15 year old cousin Mohammad Tamimi in the face with a rubber bullet at close range minutes earlier. Ahed’s altercation with the soldiers was streamed live on Facebook by her mother Narriman and went viral.
On Wednesday, the 17 year old reached a plea bargain with Israeli army prosecutors in which a possible two year jail term was minimized to eight months. Narriman was also sentenced to eight months, while Ahed’s cousin Nour, who was present during the incident, was sentenced to five months. The sentence was handed down during a closed-door hearing at Israel’s Ofer military court near Ramallah, concluding a case that has drawn worldwide criticism.
‘Ahed stood for justice’
Ahed was asked to recognise the fact that she slapped the Israeli soldiers and had called for protests. According to her lawyer Gaby Lasky, Ahed had pleaded guilty to four out of the 12 charges initially brought against her. The Israeli military’s interrogation tactics to coerce her into admitting guilt on the 12 charges did not work, as Ahed maintained her right to remain silent during the past few months of interrogation. Based on this, the prosecutor did not have enough evidence to convict Ahed and due to growing international pressure in support of her, the court had no choice but to back down.
Analysts say that while the decision to imprison a minor for eight months is extreme, in the context of the 99% conviction rate in the Israeli military court system, this is a win for Ahed.
“The lawyers in Ofer military court had been pushing very hard to reach this deal. In all of this, it emerges that Israel did not get a good rap and Ahed and the Tamimi’s have come out on top,” said activist Nadia Meer, who has been leading the Free Ahed and All Child Prisoners Campaign in South Africa.
In court on Wednesday, in response to the plea bargain reached, Ahed said: “There is no justice under occupation.”
“Ahed’s story is one of steadfastness in her struggle and demonstrates a failure by Israel’s military to break her even during her incarceration,” said Meer.
The Media Review Network’s Ibrahim Vawda said Ahed is symbolic of a new wave of Palestinian youth resistance.
“The fact that Ahed refused to be coerced and exercised her right to remain silent until she was given a fair trial shows that Ahed stood for justice. She must be seen as an icon for all peace loving people around the world.”
‘Resistance is not a crime’
The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) in South Africa believes that in the context of continued oppression, violence and Zionist occupation, Ahed had the right to defend her family and her home.
“Ahed Tamimi has never refused that she slapped the Israeli apartheid soldier, however she has consistently refused that she committed a crime. The Israeli military apartheid regime forces the oppressed to resist and it is not a crime,” BDS said on its Twitter page.
Ahed’s ordeal underscores the plight of Palestinian children who have been detained illegally under Zionist occupation. There 356 children, all like Ahed, still in military confinement. Every year over 750 children are arrested.
Children arrested under Zionist occupation
Palestinian children are subjected to various forms of torture and cruel treatment, such as blindfolding, sleep deprivation, physical and verbal violence in the forms of handcuffing, beating, starving, swearing and insults, plus threats to arrest or hurt their family members. Immense psychological pressure is exerted to extract confessions and to sign paperwork in Hebrew, a language they don’t understand. Amnesty International has confirmed that children are routinely subjected to prolonged interrogation without access to lawyers, and while in solitary confinement.
“As South Africans, the brutality of apartheid including detention of children resides in our own not so distant past. For Palestinians, this brutality and injustice is still their daily reality. Under international law, no child should be detained or prosecuted under the jurisdiction of military courts. Israeli authorities are internationally obligated to respect and ensure basic due process rights. Whilst Palestinians continue to be subjected to the brutalities of military occupation, the Israeli army must immediately prohibit its use of torture,” said the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC).
Meanwhile, the Free Ahed and All Child Prisoners Campaign have launched the “I AM AHED” exhibition, which offers an intimate visual journey through the life of the remarkable young activist. It takes place at the Old Fort at Constitution Hill at the Human Rights Festival with a walkabout with the photographer Haim Schwarczenberg and curator Nadia Meer. The event opens at 5pm on Friday 23 March 2018. VOC