On the morning of the last Sunday in July, Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi was released from an Israeli prison, where she had been for eight months since her arrest on 19 December 2017.
On 15 December, Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin had been shot in the head. The rubber-coated metal bullet removed one-third of his skull.
Some hours later, heavily armed soldiers from the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) arrived at the Tamimi house in the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Sahel, wanting to use part of the property as cover to shoot at other youths down the road.
Ahed tried to tell the soldiers to leave the family’s garden. She was pushed away but pushed back and slapped one of the soldiers. Her mother filmed the incident and posted it on Facebook – the video went viral.
Four days later, in the middle of the night, Ahed was arrested, and, at only 16, initially faced a ten-year sentence.
Her story is the subject of a new book, published in Sweden. It is written by three members of the Committee for a Workers’ International, the world socialist organisation the Socialist Party is affiliated to: Paul Morris, a university lecturer; Paul Heron, a human rights lawyer; and journalist Peter Lahti. Ahed’s aunt, Manal Tamimi, is the fourth contributor.
Ahed Tamimi has a history of resisting the IDF – much of it can be found on YouTube or via QR code links in the book itself. The authors describe her upbringing, of trying to be a child with childhood dreams, but being forced to grow up quickly to stand up to an occupying army. The dreams of playing for Barcelona turn instead into study for a profession she believes could help those around her: a lawyer.
The book describes how Ahed became a worldwide symbol of “self-esteem in the face of oppression.” Hers is not, however, an isolated case.
The criminalisation of Palestinian children such as Ahed has meant that, since 2000, approximately 8,500 have been detained, interrogated, prosecuted and imprisoned. Despite condemnatory reports from august bodies across the globe, Israel maintains a brutal military ‘legal’ system in the territories it occupies.
Ahed’s slap to an IDF soldier was seen worldwide as a symbolic rejection of the imperialist ambitions of Israel’s ruling elite. The book chronicles the origins and development of Zionism.
It graphically describes the physical and geographical consequences of the foundation of Israel when, 70 years ago, 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their lands and 200 villages were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands more Palestinians have been exiled and made into refugees as Israel has expanded from the original 1948 borders.
Continued international solidarity against that crime is clearly essential. But to break the siege on Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank, the book argues, will take not only the work of the Palestinians – but also those in Israeli society, themselves suffering worsening conditions, or beginning to see through right-wing Zionist lies, to jointly stop the Israeli war machine with mass action.
Ahed’s aunt, Manal, tells of her own arrests and also of the leading role women are playing in harnessing the struggles of the Palestinian people in the villages and refugee camps. But the last words are left to Ahed:
“Right now, injustice is happening all across the world. We should extend our struggles to one another in order to end all of the world’s injustices. We are all victims of some kind of occupation. We won’t let anyone suffer alone.”
Solidarity work needs an empathy with suffering, individual and collective, and above all a strategy to secure fundamental change. This book is certainly well worth reading as a contribution to both those tasks.
By Dave Nellist
Ahed Tamimi – The Girl Who Fought Back: £13.99 from leftbooks.co.uk
Keep up to date with developments in the Middle East at socialistworld.net, and follow the work of socialists in Israel/Palestine at socialism.org.il