“We can change people’s minds
by defending our cause”
Ahed Tamimi sits July 30 in the backyard of her family house in the West Bank village of Nebi Saleh, near Ramallah. (Nasser Nasser / Associated Press)
Noga Tarnopolsky, LA Times, Aug 02, 2018
Nebi Saleh, West Bank — Two days after her release from an Israeli jail, the 17-year-old Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi sat in her parents’ yard, wearing jeans and a tired expression, the front of her mane of blond curls tied in a bun atop her head.
TV crews from the United States, Turkey, Germany and Norway vied for on-camera interviews with her. Since her release, her representatives say, she has responded to questions from about 175 media outlets. She has six media advisors, one of them Israeli, and they have worked hard to make her the face of the Palestinian resistance.
In December, Israeli authorities detained Ahed, then 16, after she was filmed slapping and kicking a soldier. She had just learned that a cousin had been shot and wounded with a rubber bullet by Israeli soldiers. It was not her first time in the spotlight: She had been filmed confronting soldiers in 2012 and again in 2015.
Video of the 2017 incident went viral, igniting an international debate about the nature of nonviolent resistance, the behavior of the soldier — who did not react — and the legality of child arrests.
She is, by now, the most recognized member of the Tamimi family, whose 300-plus members populate the tiny West Bank hamlet of Nebi Saleh. Her family has gained fame and notoriety for the weekly Friday protests her father, Bassem, leads against encroachment from a neighboring Jewish settlement.
Ahed Tamimi speaks sitting between her father Bassam and mother Nariman during a press conference on the outskirts of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on July 29, 2018. (Majdi Mohammed / AP)
Palestinians celebrate Ahed for her grit and courage; Israelis view her as a provocateur, if not a terrorist.
She was sentenced to eight months in an Israeli women’s prison, and was released after 7 months and 10 days. At a news conference shortly after her release, she said she hopes to become a lawyer so she can defend her people.
In that and subsequent interviews, she has seemed to alternate between standard political rhetoric — “The resistance continues until the occupation is removed” — and remarks that serve as reminders that she is still a teenager. In an interview with The Times on Tuesday, she spoke about both geopolitics and her desire to go swimming and play soccer. Because she is on probation, she declined to speak about the incident that led to her detention.
Her remarks are edited for length and clarity.
Is Israeli jail a rite of passage for Palestinian teens?
Yeah, a lot of Palestinian teens go through this. When you spend eight months in jail you come to see how many other girls go through this, including some who are now adults because they were sentenced to 10 or 12 years in jail. You still can’t call it a normal part of adolescence. For the Palestinian people it has become a normal part of life, but it is abnormal that we see it this way, and we should fight against seeing this as normal.
What do you hope to do now that’s you’re out?
I want to go swimming and swim and swim. I want to play soccer. I miss it a lot, playing in the neighborhood. I miss sitting on the couch with my brother and his friends and eating junk food so late that Dad comes out and yells at us.