NABI SALEH, PALESTINE — “All Palestine’s Children are Ahed Tamimi,” Nariman Tamimi said in an interview after the much-publicized mother and daughter were released from an Israeli prison on July 29. Ahed Tamimi’s mother said this in response to the tremendous amount of coverage that her daughter’s arrest and subsequent release received. Nariman said that, unlike with the arrests of other Palestinian children, Ahed received so much support and attention from the West perhaps because “she looks like their children.” She also did not hide the fact that she thought there was an element of racism in the support for Ahed, who has a distinct “European” look — whereas there are so many thousands of stories just like hers, of children who face the occupation each day, and the world takes no interest in their stories.
The Israeli authorities are still feeling the sting from a video (here in its full version) of Ahed and her cousin kicking an Israeli army captain and another soldier, a sergeant major, off of their property. This video, which was posted online and went viral very quickly, shows Ahed clearly slapping the captain. In the debate that took place following the incident and continues to a large degree to take place in the Israeli media, Ahed and her family are described as “instigating,” “inciting,” and “provoking” while the soldiers were merely doing their job. The military prosecutor, in order to make the case for incitement, showed another, lesser-known video where Ahed speaks of the need for all Palestinians to participate in any form of resistance that suits them.
Israeli authorities interfere with celebrations
Now, some eight months later, the Israeli authorities are unhappy with the status that Nariman and her daughter achieved as symbols of the Palestinian resistance. In an effort to dampen the celebrations and confuse the press and supporters who were keen to greet Nariman and Ahed immediately upon their release, the exact location of their release kept changing. On July 28, the night prior to their release, my friend Bassem Tamimi — Nariman’s husband and Ahed’s father — told me that they would be released at the Tulkarm checkpoint at 6:30 a.m. on the following morning. I arrived in Palestine two days earlier and decided to spend the night in the town of Qalansawe, near Tulkarm. When I made it to the checkpoint that morning I got word that the prison authorities announced that they would release them at another checkpoint, closer to Ramallah, about half an hour drive south.
After about 25 minutes of driving south, Bassem called to tell me they changed the location again and that they would be released in Tulkarm after all. I turned around and by the time I reached the Tulkarm checkpoint, there were dozens of reporters, television cameras and even family members who drove up from the village of Nabi Saleh. “The prison authorities say they will be released at the checkpoint near Ramallah,” I was told as soon as I got out of the car.
A conversation ensued as to how many more times the authorities would change their minds, and whether or not Ahed and Nariman would actually be released at one of these locations — or perhaps because they want to avoid a crowd, the prison authorities would select a different, undisclosed location. In the meantime, soldiers were coming to tell the crowds, and particularly the reporters, to leave the area. It was already close to 8 a.m., the temperatures were rising, and the drive back was now much longer owing to morning rush-hour traffic. About two hours later it was revealed that Ahed and Nariman had been taken to their village, Nabi Saleh, and released there.
That was not the end of the story. As I approached Nabi Saleh I saw that the army had closed down the main road leading to the village and blocked the entrance. I knew of an alternate road to the village and tried it in hopes that the army did not think to close it, and fortunately they had not. Finally, by 11 a.m., along with a few friends I had made it to Nabi Saleh.
All is not well
It was a dreadfully hot day and I walked up from the Tamimi home to the village square and sat with many others under the square’s enormous mulberry tree. Sitting there were the very people who symbolize the reality of Nabi Saleh and indeed of Palestine. Eighteen-year-old Hassan Tamimi, assisted by his father, walked by and greeted people. Hassan had been released from prison only a month earlier. He had lost his eyesight while in an Israeli prison, owing to neglect by the prison authorities who did not administer crucial medication that Hassan required for a pre-existing medical condition.
Another boy I saw was Mohammad Tamimi who was shot in the head shortly before Nariman and Ahed were arrested. His life was spared thanks to the dedication of Palestinian doctors who operated on him for hours. It just so happened that I ran into Mohammad while visiting Nabi Saleh in October of 2017 — shortly after he was released from prison, where he had spent several months.
In the normalcy created by the occupation of Palestine, one might easily have forgotten that among the young jubilant Palestinians in Nabi Saleh that day almost everyone was at one point arrested, tortured and forced to spend time in an Israeli jail. Perhaps the most notable person absent, one who is among the thousands of Palestinians still sitting in an Israeli prison, is Wa’ed Tamimi, Nariman’s oldest son and Ahed’s older brother.
Bassem spent the final weeks leading up to Nariman and Ahed’s release fixing up the house and the yard. I spent some time with him there during those days, enjoying the wonderful air and view that Nabi Saleh offers and discussing the difficult reality that Palestinians face. The house and the yard, now ready, were quite a sight as mother and daughter entered their homes to the sounds of music blaring and a huge crowd of loving well-wishers and family members.
Top Photo | Ahed Tamimi stans between her father Bassam and mother Nariman during a press conference on the outskirts of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh near the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 29, 2018. Palestinian protest icon Ahed Tamimi and her mother Nariman returned home to a hero’s welcome in her West Bank village on Sunday after Israel released the 17-year-old from prison at the end of her eight-month sentence for slapping an Israeli soldier. Majdi Mohammed | AP
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”
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