Sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi and 63-year-old Rep. Betty McCollum don’t have much in common but they do share this: they have both courageously focused attention on Israel’s criminal behavior, and have been vilified for doing so.
Ahed was arrested in the middle of the night on December 19, when the Israeli army invaded her home in the tiny West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Three days earlier she had been videotaped by her mother Nariman slapping an Israeli soldier five seconds after the soldier slapped her and shortly after her 14-year-old cousin Mohammad had been seriously wounded by being shot point blank in the face by a rubber bullet. The army had just fired tear gas at the family’s home, as it has done on numerous occasions during Ahed’s childhood.
Brutal military operations have killed and injured many of Nabi Saleh residents since they began holding weekly demonstrations against the Occupation and settlers’ confiscation of their natural water spring in 2009. Ahed’s cousin and uncle were among those killed. Her parents and brother were imprisoned. Her mother was incapacitated for a year after being shot in the leg.
But you wouldn’t know any of this from the way Ahed’s slap resounded in Israel where it was portrayed as a grave insult to the most moral and restrained army in the world.
“We should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras,” wrote prominent Israeli journalist Ben Caspit in Hebrew in the newspaper Maariv – a not-so-veiled reference to sexual assault. The Israeli minister of education demanded that she should be locked up for life.
For The Jerusalem Post (December 28), the slap and video were “two components of the Palestinian war to annihilate Israel: terrorism and propaganda.” Ruth Eglash in The Washington Post (December 19) led with the Israeli perspective: “Israelis call her ‘Shirley Temper’ and say she epitomizes Pallywood, or Palestinian propaganda attempts to discredit Israel.”
Ahed’s mother Nariman has been charged with incitement for filming and live streaming the episode. Her 20-year-old cousin Noor who was present during the incident has been charged with assault.
Eventually Ahed was charged with 12 criminal counts, including five counts of aggravated assault, incitement, and attempting “to influence public opinion in the area in a manner that could well disturb public safety or public order.”
She faces seven years in prison after a trial before a military court. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported that 99.74 percent of cases heard in military courts in the West Bank end in convictions.
A month before Ahed confronted the soldiers outside her home, Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced into the US Congress the ‘Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act’ (HR 4391). It would require the Secretary of State to certify on an annual basis that no US funds were being used in ways that abused Palestinian children.
Specifically, it seeks to protect Palestinian children from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, physical violence and psychological abuse, incommunicado administrative detention, solitary confinement, denial of parental or legal access during interrogations, coercion to obtain a confession – methods to which the 500 -1,000 children arrested each year by the Israeli military have been routinely subjected according to numerous human rights reports.
Human rights organizations have documented cases where the IDF threw stun grenades and sound bombs at kids, put children as young as 11 in chokeholds, subjected them to hooding, threats, beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and deprived them of visits from their parents and lawyers. According to the Palestinian legal organization Addameer, more than 12,000 Palestinian children under the age of 18 have been arrested since the year 2000 and hundreds are currently in Israel’s prisons.
Rep. McCollum has long encouraged her colleagues to take action against Israel’s human rights abuses. In June 2015 she got 18 Members of Congress to join her in sending a letter to Secretary of State Kerry to draw his attention to a UNICEF report showing that the ill treatment of Palestinian children is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process.” The UNICEF report states that “in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.” The letter cites the physical violence inflicted on a Palestinian American high school student from Tampa, Florida while in the hands of the Israeli military.
Unlike the letter to Kerry, HR 4391 has teeth. And needless to say, Betty McCollum has been broadly smeared for her ongoing efforts to defend Palestinian human rights.
In the words of the Zionist Organization of America, “How does notorious anti-Israel Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) respond to the genocidal murders of innocent Jews by Arab teenagers? Outrageously, Cong. McCollum introduced a bill to blame and financially penalize Israel for arresting and/or questioning the teen terrorists who are slaughtering innocent Jewish men, women and children!”
According to McCollum’s vociferous opponents, her ‘anti-Semitic’ bill is putting Israel in peril and must be killed. Nineteen of her colleagues are standing out against the propaganda barrage, and have added their names as co-sponsors. They include one Member from Massachusetts, Rep. Jim McGovern. For the full list, see
The Alliance for Water Justice applauds Rep. McGovern and the other 18 Democrats who have acted on their consciences to support Rep. McCollum’s groundbreaking and long overdue bill.
We ask everyone who reads this post to contact their Members of Congress and urge them to endorse HR 4391. You can tell them about Ahed’s case and ask them to take whatever steps they can to pressure Israel to drop charges against Ahed and her family.
Please also call the Israeli Consulate General in Boston and demand that the charges against the Tamimis be dropped: 617 535 0200. Or you can send a written message here
Our written message is reproduced below.
You can stand with Ahed and all Palestinian children by signing on to the Defense for Children International’s ‘No Way to Treat a Child’ campaign:
Perhaps the best thing we can do to support Palestinian children whose young lives have been so traumatized by the Occupation that our tax dollars subsidize and our diplomacy protects is to intensify our efforts to educate our federal, state and local elected officials.
Do they really want to be associated with Trump’s embrace of Israel’s openly racist far right government, his total disdain for international law and world opinion, his collusion with settlers longing to complete their seizure of Palestinian land and Christian Zionists longing for Armageddon? Or will they, like Betty McCollum, be guided by conscience and speak out against the Apartheid reality being created in Israel/Palestine?
Our Message to Yehuda Yaakov, Consul General of Israel to New England
The Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, with its hundreds of supporters in New England, urges the Government of Israel to drop all charges against 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, her mother Nariman and cousin Nour.
For eight years their village of Nabi Saleh has held demonstrations protesting the Occupation and the confiscation of their natural spring Ein Al-Qaws by settlers from Halamish, a settlement that has encroached on village land. Their unarmed protests have routinely been brutally suppressed by the Israeli army, with members of Ahed Tamimi’s family suffering deaths and injuries.
Villagers in Nabi Saleh and throughout the West Bank have been subjected to night raids, mass arrests, being shot at with rubber and steel bullets and saturated with tear gas and skunk water as the IDF has sought to stamp out all popular resistance to a military Occupation that has deformed the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for more than 50 years.
No child should be forced to live under these conditions. No child who resists these conditions should be tried in a juvenile military court system in which, according to a UNICEF report, ill treatment is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process.”
As the violinist Yehudi Menuhim warned Israeli Prime Minister Yizhak Shamir and the Knesset on May 5, 1991, “This wasteful governing by fear, by contempt for the basic dignities of life, this steady asphyxiation of a dependent people should be the very last means to be adopted by those who know too well the awful significance, the unforgettable suffering of such an existence.”
Free Ahed Tamimi. Free Palestine.
By Nancy Murray, of the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine and the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights