Bassem Tamimi: a hero of the Palestinian resistance

16 June 2024
Jasmine Duff
Bassem Tamimi before and after Israeli detention PHOTOS: @PALMENA_IC ON X

Bassem Tamimi, a prominent leader of the Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank, has finally been released from an Israeli military prison after more than seven months in captivity. In a photo posted on X by Palestine’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Bassem appeared emaciated, his black t-shirt hanging from his body, his arms looking more like a starving child’s than a 57 year-old’s, and his face far narrower than when he was detained.

His freedom should be a source of joy for activists across the world. But the Palestine movement can’t rest until the torturous military prison that housed him, and all those like it, are pulled apart brick by brick.

“I didn’t sleep that night when I saw him. He had a very difficult time and could have died in there”, Waleed, Bassem’s nephew, told Red Flag via a messenger service.

Bassem was arrested on 29 October and placed in administrative detention, giving the Israeli military the ability to hold him for six months without charge. In late April, a new six-month detention order was issued. He was finally released after a judicial review, according to London-based news site the New Arab. While Bassem was imprisoned, the military refused to list any allegations against him.

In October 2022, his nephew, 19-year-old Qusay Tamimi, was murdered by Israeli forces in Nabi Saleh. He had been protesting against an Israeli attack in Nablus, which killed five Palestinians and reportedly wounded twenty others. At the time, Bassem told Red Flag:

“The policy of Zionist colonialism is killing, violence and terrorism, in order to break the will of the Palestinian people in the struggle to achieve [our] right to self-determination, to achieve national independence and deliverance from colonialism ... While lighting tires at the entrance to the village, the soldiers from the military tower shot Qusay in the chest with live bullets.

“He fell to the ground and died in less than twenty minutes. He arrived at the hospital as a martyr. This only proves that brutality and violence of the Zionist occupation are used to suppress any Palestinian movement in fighting for freedom and independence and trying to stop it from spreading to the surrounding Palestinian areas.”

A year after burying Qusay, almost to the day, they came for Bassem—like they have come for thousands of others who stand up for their rights.

There are currently 3,410 Palestinians held in administrative detention out of a total 9,300 political prisoners in the West Bank, according to Addameer, a Jerusalem-based prisoner rights organisation. It’s not a stretch to call them hostages, given the arbitrary nature of their detention. Amnesty International last year noted that there were around 1,300 people in administrative detention at the beginning of October. The human rights group described widespread use of torture by Israeli soldiers and prison guards, including “beating and humiliating Palestinians while detaining them blind-folded, stripped, with their hands tied”.

Bassem’s bravery and determination have kept hope alive in the village of Nabi Saleh, west of Ramallah, for two generations. When soldiers seized one of the village’s water springs in 2009, Bassem organised weekly demonstrations against Israeli theft of Palestinian land. He and other activists formed village committees across the West Bank to coordinate protests and strikes. They linked the local committees together in the semi-formal Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

But even when Palestinians engage in peaceful protest, the Israeli military uses terror to try to silence them. Bassem has been arrested more than a dozen times. In 1993, he was tortured so badly by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security force, that he suffered a haemorrhage and was partially paralysed for several months. His partner Nariman and their children, including prominent activist Ahed Tamimi, have also been imprisoned many times.

While Bassem Tamimi is now free, it won’t be the last time this family is targeted.

Those of us in Australia and across the world have to follow Bassem’s example and keep marching, picketing and occupying for a free Palestine.

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