In Palestine, two heroes of the resistance are finally freed

After eight months in an Israeli prison, 17-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi and her mother Nariman Tamimi were released on 29 July. 

The Tamimis were arrested in December, after Israeli television screened a video, shot by Nariman, of Ahed and her cousin Nour confronting a heavily armed Israeli soldier who had intruded into the Tamimis’ home. Nour was also arrested, but released after 16 days.

Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, a former military spokesperson, was among those who called for retribution against the Tamimis, saying that after watching the video: “I felt humiliated, I felt crushed”. 

According to Regev, the footage of a teenage Palestinian girl standing up to an Israeli soldier – which occurred less than half an hour after her 14-year-old cousin Muhammed had been shot in the head by another soldier – was “damaging to the honour of the military and the state of Israel”. 

Israeli education minister Naftali Bennet called for Ahed and Nour to “spend the rest of their days in prison”. Prominent Israeli journalist Ben Caspit hailed the soldier’s “restraint” and called for violence against the young women. “In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”, he wrote. 

After Nariman and Ahed were jailed, settlers from the nearby Israeli colony of Halamish, built on land belonging to the residents of Nabi Saleh, the village in which the Tamimis live, staged protests. They carried makeshift coffins and chanted, “Death to Ahed Tamimi!” 

Speaking at a press conference near her home on the day of her release, Ahed drew attention to other political prisoners. She was relieved to be home, but said, “My happiness is incomplete because my sister prisoners are not with me”. 

Ahed was imprisoned with three other female Palestinian child prisoners: Lama al-Bakri, Hadiya Ereinat and Manar Shweiki. 

According to Palestinian political prisoner support group Addameer, there are more than 5,900 Palestinians held in Israel’s prison. Of those imprisoned, 60 are women and 49 are under the age of 16. 

Israel is the only country that systematically detains and prosecutes children – between 500 and 700 each year, some as young as 12, according to Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCIP). 

Last year, Palestinian child prisoners made up 1,400 of the more than 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners jailed. According to the US State Department, the conviction rate for Israel’s military occupation court is more than 99 percent. Lawyer Gaby Lasky, who regularly acts on behalf of Palestinian prisoners, noted in 2014 that Israel military courts were not “courts of justice” but instead “the long arm of occupation”. 

In prison, Palestinian child political prisoners – like Palestinian adults – suffer torture and abuse at the hands of the Israeli state. In its 2016 report “No Way to Treat A Child”, the DCIP documented testimonies of 429 Palestinian child political prisoners. 

The research revealed that three-quarters of the children endured physical and psychological violence. Children were threatened, put in isolation and denied food, water and access to the toilet to coerce confessions from them. 

A 2014 Jerusalem Post article revealed that Palestinian children were held in outdoor cages overnight, including during snowstorms. It was only after the practice became public that Israel stopped doing it.

Despite their ordeal, Nariman and Ahed remain defiant. Arriving back in Nabi Saleh with her mother, Ahed told the waiting media, “I did nothing wrong that I should regret … the resistance continues until the occupation is removed”.