Moshé Machover

Ahed Tamimi: the backstory

Moshé Machover
Ahed Tamimi: the backstory

ON 15TH DECEMBER AHED TAMIMI, an unarmed Palestinian adolescent, displaying amazing courage, approached two heavily armed soldiers standing in the front courtyard of her home in the village of Nabi Saleh, and told them to go away. When they did not budge, she shoved and kicked them, and slapped the senior soldier, a captain. The scene was filmed, and the video went viral.

The immediate prelude to this incident occurred an hour or so earlier: Ahed’s 14 year old cousin, Muhammad Fadel Tamimi, had peered over a stone wall to look at the soldiers occupying a nearby unfinished building, following a demonstration by some 200 villagers. He was shot in the face at close range with a rubber-coated metal bullet, and was now lying in a coma in critical condition.

But the background to this story goes back very much further, and is in many ways emblematic of Zionist colonisation and Palestinian popular resistance.

Nabi Saleh is situated in a rural region – 20km north of the nearest city, Ramallah – which is one of the most coveted by Zionist colonisers. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, it was included in Area C, the part of the West Bank, 61% of its total area, which Israel has kept under direct control, as it is most attractive for colonisation. But land theft began long before 1993. In 1977, a group of nationalist-religious fanatics took the initiative and set up a settlement, Halamish, near Nabi Saleh and the adjacent village, Deir Nidham. Although the settlers acted illegally even according to Israeli law, the government soon granted Halamish official recognition and subsidies, and turned a blind eye to the illegal felling of the local natural forest.

Soon the settlers started harassing the two Palestinian villages and impeded access of the farmers of Nabi Saleh to their olive groves. The Israeli army regularly took the settlers’ side against the villagers. In 2009, the colonisers seized Nabi Saleh’s spring. The villagers started a campaign to regain access to their spring: each Friday they marched towards it – often accompanied by Israeli and international supporters – and each time they were attacked by armed Israeli forces, sprayed with tear gas, doused with noxious skunk liquid and shot at.

Over the years, several villagers were killed. Ahed’s activist father, Bassam - who was born in 1967, and thus has spent his entire life under Israel’s military tyranny - was arrested numerous times, and spent more than three years in administrative detention, without trial.

Ahed herself is a veteran of this struggle. In 2012, when she was 11 years old, she was photographed attempting to stop the arrest of her mother. Three years later she was filmed fighting tooth and nail (literally!) an armed and masked Israeli soldier who was attempting to arrest her younger brother.

All this is part of popular grassroots unarmed struggle against Israel’s military dictatorship and Zionist colonisation. The 15th December spectacular incident was one of the very rare occasions when it was reported by the media.

Now the Israeli regime is in a quandary. If it lets Ahed off lightly, it will face a hysterical outcry of its fanatically bigoted domestic opinion. A senior mainstream journalist, Ran Caspit, has called for dealing with her “in the dark, away from cameras”.

If it uses its habitual draconic court martial machinery to imprison her, as it has done to other children and minors, it will face the growing anger and disgust of decent world public opinion, which will no doubt be denounced by Zionist propaganda as “antisemitic”. Meantime she has been denied bail by the military court, and will be imprisoned for several months, until the end of her trial. And then?

Watch this space.