Is­rael must stop im­pris­on­ing kids like Ahed Tamimi

Like all peo­ple around the world, the Pales­tini­ans sim­ply want the right to live with dig­nity and free­dom

Gulf News - - The Views - Nour Tamimi is a jour­nal­ism stu­dent and ac­tivist from Nabi Saleh in the oc­cu­pied West Bank. By Nour Tamimi

Ihad barely fallen asleep when I woke to find an armed Is­raeli soldier hov­er­ing over my bed. He told me to get up quickly and put on a jacket. Half asleep, I was hand­cuffed, thrown into an army jeep, and taken to be in­ter­ro­gated. They had al­ready taken my 16-year-old cousin, Ahed, the night be­fore, and now it was my turn.

A few days ear­lier, the Is­raeli army raided our town of Nabi Saleh in the oc­cu­pied West Bank to sup­press our weekly demon­stra­tion against the il­le­gal Jewish colony built on our land and the theft of our fresh­wa­ter spring by colonists. Dur­ing the demon­stra­tion, a soldier shot our 15-year-old cousin Mo­ham­mad in the face from close range, shat­ter­ing his skull. He was rushed to the hos­pi­tal and had to be med­i­cally in­duced into a coma. About half an hour later, we found sol­diers in the front yard of Ahed’s home where we were sit­ting and tried to get them to leave. For de­mand­ing they leave, my un­armed cousin is now fac­ing charges for con­fronting an armed soldier.

When a video of the en­counter was shown in Is­rael, it went vi­ral and many Is­raelis de­manded that we be pun­ished. So, the fol­low­ing week, sol­diers came to Ahed’s home in the mid­dle of the night and she was taken away to prison. The next day, her mother Na­ri­man was also im­pris­oned when she went to check on Ahed. Later that night, I was ar­rested as well.

I was re­leased on bail af­ter 16 days, but Ahed has now been lan­guish­ing in prison for nearly two months, as has her mother. On Jan­uary 31, she spent her 17th birth­day in a cell. The start of her trial in a mil­i­tary court has been de­layed sev­eral times. The lat­est post­pone­ment came on Tues­day, when it was resched­uled for March 11. In a bla­tant at­tempt to avoid the scru­tiny of the in­ter­na­tional me­dia, the judge also ruled that jour­nal­ists will be barred from at­tend­ing. The charges that Ahed faces carry a max­i­mum sen­tence of 20 years. I still face charges as well.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal pres­sure

In prison, we were treated very badly. Af­ter be­ing ar­rested, Ahed was taken into a base­ment cell and in­ter­ro­gated with­out a par­ent or lawyer present. She and I were re­peat­edly moved from one prison to an­other, held with reg­u­lar Is­raeli crim­i­nals, and sub­jected to sex­ist and de­grad­ing ver­bal ha­rass­ment. They de­prived us of sleep and food, and I was forced to re­main seated in a chair un­able to move for long hours at a time. When we were brought to mil­i­tary court for a hear­ing, it was very hard see­ing our par­ents sit­ting in the back feel­ing wor­ried and help­less.

Ahed and I are the se­cond gen­er­a­tion of Tamimis to spend our whole lives un­der Is­rael’s op­pres­sive 50-year mil­i­tary rule. We grew up un­der the con­stant watch and con­trol of Is­raeli sol­diers. At a young age, we had to learn re­silience, de­ter­mi­na­tion and per­sis­tence. In or­der to sur­vive, we had to be acutely aware of our sur­round­ings at all times. Even the most ba­sic things, such as be­ing able to move freely or take a day trip wasn’t a pos­si­bil­ity be­cause of mil­i­tary check­points and other im­ped­i­ments.

Each year, Is­rael pros­e­cutes be­tween 500 and 700 Pales­tinian chil­dren in its mil­i­tary courts, which have a con­vic­tion rate of more than 99 per cent. Is­rael’s two-tiered le­gal sys­tem in the oc­cu­pied West Bank has been con­demned as “sep­a­rate and un­equal” by hu­man rights groups. Colonists, in­clud­ing mi­nors, are sub­ject to Is­raeli civil­ian law while Pales­tini­ans of all ages are sub­ject to mar­tial law.

Pales­tinian chil­dren in Is­raeli mil­i­tary pris­ons en­dure sys­tem­atic abuse — in­clud­ing threats and phys­i­cal vi­o­lence — and are pres­sured to sign con­fes­sions in He­brew that they can’t read, all while be­ing in­ter­ro­gated with­out a par­ent or lawyer. These abuses have been well-doc­u­mented by hu­man rights groups, and even mem­bers of the US. Congress are now tak­ing ac­tion to stop them with a bill that’s in­tended to make sure Amer­i­can aid doesn’t fund Is­rael’s im­pris­on­ment of Pales­tinian chil­dren or vi­o­la­tions of their rights.

We can­not stand up to Is­rael alone. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must also stand for jus­tice and not tol­er­ate Is­rael’s abuses of our rights, es­pe­cially against chil­dren. I imag­ine my life with­out the hard­ships of Is­rael’s mil­i­tary rule, en­joy­ing the sim­ple lib­erty of be­ing able to make it to class on time be­cause there is no oc­cu­pa­tion mil­i­tary check­point clos­ing my town. Not hav­ing to worry about me or my loved ones be­ing killed, in­jured, or thrown into a mil­i­tary prison for stand­ing up for our rights. Like all peo­ple want, we sim­ply want to be able live in free­dom.

Po­lice in Is­rael have wrapped up an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that took well over a year into ac­cu­sa­tions of bribery and cor­rup­tion against Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu — and have rec­om­mended that he be pros­e­cuted by courts there. That it took so long to reach that con­clu­sions comes as a lit­tle sur­prise — he is morally cor­rupt when it comes to his gov­ern­ment’s de­lib­er­ate and wil­ful mis­treat­ment of Pales­tini­ans.

But why stop with charges that arose from re­ceiv­ing boxes of cigars and lav­ish gifts, all with the in­tent of in­flu­enc­ing Ne­tanyahu? Hold him re­spon­si­ble for the de­lib­er­ate theft of Pales­tinian lands; the wil­ful de­struc­tion of Pales­tinian homes; the crim­i­nal kid­nap­ping of pro­test­ers from streets; the as­sas­si­na­tion of demon­stra­tors; griev­ous bod­ily harm for in­jur­ing thou­sands in at­tacks on Gaza; pre­med­i­tated mur­der by un­leash­ing his armed forces; of oc­cu­pa­tion on those liv­ing in the Gaza Strip; and the perver­sion of jus­tice in or­der­ing the rolling ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ten­tions of pris­on­ers; and in­tim­i­da­tion and threat­en­ing be­hav­iour for the se­cret trial of Ahed Tamimi.

If prose­cu­tors in Is­rael were re­ally se­ri­ous and com­mit­ted to the prin­ci­ples of jus­tice, the list would be end­less. As it is, the Is­raeli jus­tice sys­tem serves Is­raelis alone. In any nor­mal na­tion, a Prime Min­is­ter fac­ing such charges would be morally obliged to step aside. Ev­ery Is­raeli PM over the past 20 years has faced cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions. It goes with the job, and for­mer Pres­i­dent Ehud Olmert served 17 of 26 months on sim­i­lar charges. Is­rael is no nor­mal na­tion, nor can morals be placed in the same sen­tence as the name of its prime min­is­ter. The least Ne­tanyahu can do is stand down.

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