An iconic face of Palestinian resistance since 2009 has been that of a little girl, Ahed Tamimi. Raised near Ramallah in the village of Nabi Saleh, Ahed was one of many who marched in weekly protests against the expansion minded Halimish-settlement. Since 2008 settlers have tried to annex private property belonging to the 600 residents of Nabi Saleh along with freshwater springs the Palestinian community used for agricultural irrigation, prompting strategic community pushback in the form of weekly organized protests.
A powerful activist and changemaker at just 16 years old, Ahed Tamimi has already experienced more trauma and demonstrated more fortitude than most at 60. Ahed has actively participated in weekly demonstrations and Nabi Saleh’s culture of resistance since she was nine, and comes from a strong family of community organizers. At the age of 12, she witnessed her mother’s cousin killed at a protest when soldiers shot a tear-gas canister at his head. At 13, she witnessed an uncle shot and killed by the IDF. She was catapulted to “fame” at the age of 14 when she helped de-arrest her 11-year-old brother from an IDF soldier. Last week, her 14-year-old cousin and friend was placed under medically induced coma after a rubber-coated bullet penetrated his skull. Moments after he was shot, Ahed is filmed confronting an IDF soldier. Her arrest came the day after the recording was released. Her mother, Nariman Tamimi, was arrested upon visiting Ahed at the Israeli police station.
While settler violence, destruction of natural resources, and theft of land is a mainstay of the Israeli Occupation, the weekly protests had garnered international attention and solidarity as the movement grew into larger anti-Occupation tactics, including shutting down the entrances to illegal settlements and entrances to Apartheid Route 443 which dissects the West Bank as a throughway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The protests dwindled in 2016 as a result of targeted IDF violence and systematic terror with live ammunition, tear gas, rubber bullets, and skunk spray being used against the community on a weekly or often daily basis. Bassem Tamimi, Ahed’s father and former prisoner of conscious according to Amnesty International, estimated that over half of the residents of the small town had sustained injuries at the hands of the IDF as a result of military intimidation tactics, with over 50 residents sustaining injuries that have left them permanently disabled over the course of the protests.
In a pre-dawn raid on Tuesday morning, Ahed Tamimi was abducted from her home by 30 IDF soldiers. Her brother was assaulted by six soldiers as they forcefully confiscated his cell phone, along with the laptops, computers, and cell phones of other family members.
While the arrest has sparked international outrage, it simultaneously fails to illicit shock. It is not shocking that a young girl who was growing up under the shadow of a military occupation demonstrating her right to resist a “silent ethnic cleansing” would be targeted in such a way, as every act the Israeli military has taken in Nabi Saleh has led to this moment.
NBC News captioned her the Poster Child for Palestinians, fetishising her golden waves of hair and blue eyes as reasons why an American audience might now care about the Palestinian plight, not unlike the orientalist gaze towards Afghan refugee Sharbat Gula. But following the viral video, Ahed was immediately called a terrorist on social media and began receiving death threats at the age of 13. During the regular protests, she was signaled out by soldiers not much older than her, who would shout things like, “Look! It’s Ahed Tamimi. Shoot her!” The Tamimi’s house has been raided over 150 times and was issued a pending demolition order — one of 13 in the village that can be enforced by the military at any time.
Her family was actively worried for her safety: “Whenever the soldiers recognise her, they do something to make her life difficult. Every time she left the house, we were scared something would happen to her,” her father told Al Jazeera.
Ahed is now one of over 300 children in custody of the Israeli military, where they suffer abuse and harsh conditions as a result of “plain and clear policy” outlined by a joint-report by Israeli human rights groups HaMoked and B’tselem last year. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett told Army Radio that Ahed Tamimi and another young girl in the video “should finish their lives in prison.”