Is it possible for a single person to engage in an act of resistance against oppression and change the world? The new generation of millennials are realizing that they have a platform on this earth and are willing to use their voices to stand up for what they believe in. They have strong beliefs in promoting global equality and rights among their nation’s people, and among others across the globe. This particular story involves a young blonde, blue-eyed girl named Ahed Tamimi who grew up along the border of the Palestinian West Bank, in a small village known as Nabi Saleh. Ahed Tamimi is one person whose stands against oppression has caught the attention of the entire world.
Ahed Tamimi’s ancestors have lived in Nabi Saleh, located in the central West Bank, for over four centuries, when it had about six hundred inhabitants, most all of whom were related by blood or marriage.1 Ahed grew up in a Palestinian household with three siblings, alongside her parents Bassem and Nariman al-Tamimi, who regard themselves Palestinian grassroots activists. They promote and organize weekly demonstrations to protest against nearby Israeli settlements, particularly the settlement known as Halamish, which was established in 1977. These settlement of Jewish communities anger Palestinians like Tamimi’s family because they are infringing on Palestinian territories in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and parts of East Jerusalem.2 This is a difficult situation for the Tamimi family and thousands of other native Palestinians, because Israel then erects barriers in the occupied territories as a way to protect the settlements they just built and to prepare for the acquisition for more land for future settlements.3
This conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has been an ongoing dispute for decades. The war over land has divided a state the size of New Jersey into two very distinct nationalities with very distinct views. Palestinian nationalists emphasize that their shared identity as Arabs rises to a “patriotic feeling,” or in Arabic wataniyya (watan– homeland or motherland), meaning that they have deep cultural ties to their origins and have a connection to their land because it once belonged to their ancestors.4 There is an estimated population of about 4.43 million Palestinians in the state of Israel, 2.8 million of whom live in West Bank and approximately 1.7 million live in the Gaza Strip; the remaining population of Palestinians live outside those areas because they oppose Israeli control and have feared an eventual annexation of those occupied regions.5 These Palestinians do not expect a life of fortune, as they are humble for family and health, who share a common desire for their children to have a better life and education, much like the Tamimi family who value their rural home and stand their ground to maintain ownership.
As a young girl, Ahed Tamimi participated in active protests alongside her father Bassem. The community thought that involving children in national movements was crucial, as a way to build self-confidence and empower young teenagers to stand up for what they believe in and face any problem that would come their way. In August 2012, when she was eleven, Tamimi was photographed attempting to stop the arrest of her mother. It was her standing image of waiving a fist, and looking straight at the soldier, that made her an internationally recognized figure, for which the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, commended her for courage.6 The image spread among social media, and she became the face of multiple campaigns. Ahed’s intentions were not meant to spark controversy or raise tension against military authority; rather, she was only trying to protect her family from potentially becoming harmed.
Before Ahed Tamimi became a well-known Palestinian activist, she enjoyed going to school, where her favorite subject was physical education. She has a passion and interest to become a successful lawyer, as her way to fight for humanitarian rights among her people; or even follow her athletic dream of becoming a soccer player, if she got the opportunity. However, more than once she was unable to attend school because the checkpoint was closed. The checkpoints are entrances granted or denied by Israeli soldiers to cross into their territory to reach a certain destination, such as a school, a beach, or another city or state. The West Bank villagers are frequently concerned with their children not having the freedom to attend school, or being able to play outside without constantly having to worry about armed military forces storming into the village without notice or cause. The struggle to keep this land in the hands of Palestinians has been an ongoing dispute among the grandparents and parents of the region since June of 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a result of the Six Day War.7 Fifty years later, Palestinian children are still living in a world shaped by the 1967 conflict, and the next generation still continues to demonstrate acts of protests, by demanding their rights to land, security, and peace.8 Tamimi has often expressed words of concern regarding her family’s future. From a viewers perspective, the ongoing Israeli occupation of the land presents an obstacle for villagers to live a comfortable life and from coming to a negotiable settlement that does not include increasing further tension. Through previous discussions made by the Palestinian National Authority and the Israeli Government, they have each proposed a solution that compromises, with the Palestinians ceasing any acts of protest that are considered violent, and in return the Israelis withdrawing from their occupied stations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The proposed solution stated by both sides can decrease the death toll in the state of Israel and resume the goal to end human suffering and promote equal rights among all citizens. As stated by Haaretz Daily Newspaper, Ahed Tamimi belongs to the third generation of Palestinian children who have grown up under such conditions, and they wish to be the ones that come to an agreement with the current prime minster of Israel, and implement peace compromises without the use of coercion.9
Three years after her famous fist photo, in 2015 Ahed became internationally famous once again. The now fifteen-year-old was being publicly criticized again for her notoriety by Israeli defense forces and Israeli journalists, after she was filmed biting and striking a masked Israeli soldier who was apprehending her brother for throwing stones. Her younger brother displayed these actions of protest against military forces from settling in Nabi Saleh and invading Palestinian homes. The video of her assault showed a masked Israeli soldier with an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder, pressing Ahed’s brother’s head against a boulder. A group of Palestinian women came rushing in and surrounded the armed man, and Ahed quickly slipped in and slapped the soldier, pulled at his mask and bit his hand.10 Tamimi’s brother looked terrified during the conflict and the soldier looked frightened and confused as everyone began getting involved to prevent the boy from being detained.
Typically when Israeli soldiers enter a Palestinian region checkpoint, they are always alert for young children or teenagers who are protesting by throwing stones. A Haaretz Daily Newspaper editorial stated that, “An army that fights children and chases them as they flee is an army that has lost its conscience.”11 The pro-Palestinian side saw the incident on film as Israeli brutality, with some describing the attempted detention as “kidnapping.” The pro-Israeli side of military personnel, Israeli nationalists, and supporters of the Jewish state, called the Palestinian group “a mob.”12 Considering that this had been Ahed’s second viral video standing up to an Israeli soldier, her platform as a courageous advocate for Palestinian autonomy gave her the support of a global audience. Ahed started realizing that she was becoming a strong independent force. To many, her acts may not have been considered civil, but this was her response in a moment of conflict. To her supporters, she has been described as a hero for opposing tyranny, being that she was not afraid to stand up to someone twice her size and be the only teenager in a group of militants screeching against those who were invading innocent citizens’ homes and privacy. Experiences like these, for a teenage girl like Ahed, can shape attitudes for a lifetime.13 Her story is not just about one child, but about the symbolic struggle of two generations of Palestinians living without hope and security, and tragically the same bleak prospects are awaiting a third.14
In 2016, Ahed Tamimi was denied a visa by the State Department in Washington for a speaking tour titled, “No Child Behind Bars/Living Resistance.”15 If Ahed Tamimi would have been granted the ability to travel, she would have been able to implement what is known as soft power to convey her story to others around the world and illustrate how she is no different from other individuals.
On December 15, 2017, she again participated in opposing the expansion of the Israeli settlements near her village. During one of her recent protests, her fifteen-year-old cousin Mohammed Tamimi was shot in the head at close range with a rubber-coated steel bullet, severely wounding him. Tamimi, alongside her mother, approached the two soldiers outside their home, where she was filmed slapping one of the soldiers once again. According to Tamimi, “I saw the same soldiers who hit my cousin, this time in front of my house. I could not keep quiet and I responded as I did.”16 After the video circulated on social media, on December 19, 2017, their home was raided and searched, and afterwards, the soldiers arrested Ahed, where she was charged with assault, incitement, and for throwing stones. Her arrest and filmed confrontation sparked an outcry for Tamimi’s release, and allies in major cities throughout North America and Europe raised a cry of condemnation.17 The teenager’s trial has already been delayed twice since its scheduled start date of January 31, 2018. She remained in custody at Ofer prison near Ramallah, a central city in the West Bank. She arrived in court appearing calm and flashing a “V for Victory sign at photographers.”18 The judge ordered that the trial be conducted behind closed doors and said that having a large crowd in the courtroom was “not in the interest of the minor.” The judge’s proceedings have caused disputes among many. NPR journalists have stated, “Public scrutiny is Ahed’s only defense, and it is clear that without it, in secret proceedings, she cannot get a fair trial.”19
As of March of 2018, both Ahed and her mother, Nariman Tamimi, have been held in jail for three months, and they will serve an additional five months as part of plea agreements. Eight of the twelve charges against Ahed Tamimi were dropped, and she pleaded guilty to four charges: assaulting an Israeli soldier and an officer, disrupting a soldier and incitement, as stated by Israel’s military.20
As of March 25, 2018, the court agreed that Tamimi would serve eight months in prison, and pay a fine equivalent to approximately one thousand four hundred dollars, according to The Associated Press. Her father, Bassem Tamimi, also stated that the family agreed to the plea deal because prosecutors had threatened the mother and daughter with three years’ detention. Amnesty International released a statement saying that the sentence, “is a flagrant attempt to intimidate those who dare challenge the circumstances of the ongoing occupation,” and that Israeli authorities “have no regard for the rights of Palestinian children.”21 The Israeli human rights group B’tselem said that more than three hundred Palestinian minors were in Israeli custody as of February 2018, and responded to Tamimi’s sentence by saying that it protects “the occupation, not Palestinian minors.”
The world’s perception of Ahed Tamimi, who comes from a family with a long history of both peaceful and confrontational resistance against the occupation, has spread across the world as a renowned issue within the small state of Israel.22 Ahed Tamimi is an example of the new generational development of the successive Palestinian Intifada, which is an uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, since it was first organized in 1987.23 Ahed Tamimi and her generation of Palestinians declare its rebellion against the reality of apartheid and systematic intimidation practiced against them by the Israeli occupation forces. The arrest campaigns occurring at dawn every morning, the military attacks on their villages and the raiding of homes at bedtime: these are the experiences etched into the memories of thousands of Palestinian children who are awoken by heavily armed soldiers in their bedrooms, some of whom are masked; and Ahed is one of these children. This story is an indication that no matter the age, race, or religion, a single person can engage in an act of resistance against oppression and change the world.24 Ahed Tamimi is an inspiration to the new generation of Palestinian millennials, and with her platform she can unite multiple nationalities to come together and reach a common ground of equality, protection, and peace with the Israelis.