"Her fate is now in the hands of people who don't even see Palestinians as full human beings."
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 2, 2018
The viral video of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi attempting to slap Israeli soldiers dominated Israeli news for the weeks prior to her conviction. I’d like to talk about another slap, a slap perpetrated by an adult male in a ‘position of authority’, that has not been mentioned, nor shared online, nor considered in the ‘court’ that dictated her sentence. The fact that Ahed was hit by one of the soldiers before she became visibly angry and physically reacted has conveniently been omitted by the Israeli propaganda sites and videos. This reality is outrageous enough without the background context of the soldiers having placed themselves on her family property, shortly after their esteemed fellow soldiers shot her 14-year-old cousin in the head sending him into a coma, and firing tear gas at their house, smashing many windows. This tragic scene is almost a micro metaphor for the entire Israeli occupation and the Palestinian ‘terrorism’ that has resulted.
Ahed’s mother and cousin were also arrested after this incident and remain at the mercy of the Israeli occupation. In a video on Shehab Media’s facebook page, at 0:59 minutes we can see the grown man move his hand back in a slapping motion that is too strong to be simply removing Ahed’s hand on his arm as she attempts to get him off her property. Following this, she clearly becomes more upset and responds by hitting him. It is this response of a bereaved, oppressed child that has been isolated and edited out to be spread online and debated and condemned. It is this fraction of the truth that has been opportunistically selected to fuel the fire of the extreme Israeli racism and prejudice that enables these atrocities to continue year upon year.
The speed and ease with which the Israeli bias colours every incident and then propagates it across space-time is largely owed to the incredibly well-funded campaign by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Hasbara; responsible for Public Diplomacy. In an expose by The Israeli Seventh Eye, across the span of just two months in 2017, approximately $2 million was spent on spreading carefully tailored messages about Israel to the Israeli and world population, which inevitably means condemning Palestinians in any and every way. If you thought it wasn’t possible in this day and age for an entire nation to be brainwashed by fake news, think again. Look no further than this intelligently engineered mission to boost the image of an apartheid occupation, staunchly supported by Western governments.
Ahed’s bravery and resilience in her cause of justice and human rights is evident to anyone presented with the full story. An unarmed young girl defending her family for simply existing on their own land, against a much larger man with army gear on, equipped with a deadly weapon hardly requires an outstanding moral compass to determine where the blame lies in this situation. Ahed’s fearlessness and furious defiance in the face of the unimaginable oppression she was born into has been rapidly and slyly reduced to an angry teenager viciously provoking a lofty soldier who should be commended for his exercising of restraint. This is precisely the sentiment expressed by Israeli military affairs correspondent, Or Heller while participating in a television interview. Political writer and commentator Jonathon Offir reads between the lines of Heller’s description of the soldier having acted “intelligently and correctly”;
“Intelligently”, because “to smack the butt of a rifle in a 15-year old girl’s head is not very smart” (actually the English translation there omits the “butt of the rifle” and just says “smack”, and “not very smart” is translated to “pathetic”); and “intelligent”, because the soldiers understood that “this whole event was not a military event, but rather a media event”.
The sinister connotations of these statements are that according to the Israeli military, the standard but ‘not smart’ response to Ahed’s behaviour would be potentially fracturing the girl’s skull, and to be ‘intelligent’ about it would mean to do this off camera, with no evidence of the crime. The only reason more violence against her would be ‘not very smart’ is because filming was underway, and clearly the English subtitling of the video is semantically altered to make Heller seem more human.
Unfortunately, this barbarism is hardly surprising treatment for Palestinians, without whose freedom Nelson Mandela observed that all of humanity’s freedom is incomplete. At a time when colonialism is becoming more and more accepted as a dark and oppressive chapter of the past, and political sensitivity and correctness slowly move to acknowledge the fact that Western empires saw the rape, murder and enslavement of entire countries, the modern-day case of Israeli colonialism is turned a blind eye. For further reading on the reality of Zionism and the occupation, refer to Lisa Goldman’s recent article on +972Mag.
I have yet to see any real and proportionate western media recognition of Ahed’s plight, let alone hashtags for #IAmAhed. No uproar from feminist groups nor international political recognition as there was for Malala, another young girl who was brutally oppressed (but who’s oppressors luckily are considered enemies of the West). Instead of Nobel prizes and invitations to meet presidents and prime ministers, Ahed has been charged on 12 counts, having been labelled ‘dangerous’, as her valiant resistance to terror poses too much of a threat to the inhumane, hidden and much-ignored reality of settler colonisation. Our selective heartbreak and humanity does not stretch so far as to accommodate girls like Ahed. After years of protesting against the illegal seizure of her people’s natural water source by settlers, and standing up to her oppressors, hers is just the wrong kind of justice, the wrong kind of feminism and the wrong kind of politics. The ethnic cleansing, illegal settlement, poverty, depravation, military brutality and murders that Palestinians face is too complex and politically messy to render this strong, beautiful girl fully human.
The fact that Ahed will be joining many other children behind Israeli bars represents a failure to the sanctity of human rights, that bears on the entire international community’s shoulders.
Hiba is an Oxford graduate Physicist/Engineer by academic background and an author by soul. Her first commissioned children's book was published in 2019 by Penguin RandomHouse, and she is working on her first novel. Also a freelance journalist, she has written for The Independent and blogged for HuffPost, alongside having worked as a Physics teacher and Refugee Advocate at The Children's Society. Founder of global ethical brand Kusafiri, you will find her either traveling the world or saving money to travel the world. She loves quantum Physics, planting things and painting in watercolours. She especially loves sweetshops and good grammar. Hiba is currently interning at the United Nations and studying an MA at Soas, She has recently released her first picture book: The Little War Cat a couple of months ago with Macmillan Children's Books. Twitter & IG: @Hibanoorkhan1
By Amaliah Team