A childish trick I remember practicing on my fellow first graders in my home village in Palestine (yes, the Galilee was still part of Palestine at the time) was to place a stick in the ground and claim that it marked the center of the universe. “Start measuring and prove me wrong if you can!” I would challenge my playmates. That was what struck me as the logic of the ruling by a military court judge, Maj. Haim Balilti, in his attempt to justify his decision to keep 16-year old Ahed Tamimi and her mother in military jail until the end of their trial.
Why, you ask? Because the girl slapped a soldier invading her home and the mother documented the daughter’s actions. To the judge’s mind both deeds constituted “a clear danger, one it’s very doubtful can be nullified by alternatives.” “Hysterical,” the commentator pronounces the judgement.
A decades-long tradition of 99.8% rate of conviction for those apprehended for security offenses in the Palestinian Occupied Territories mocks Balilti’s and other military judges’ attempts to explain the logic of their rulings. In the current Israeli tumultuous milieu, what needs explaining are the bungled 2 in a thousand cases. What further muddies the waters of the Israeli public discourse is the agility and casualness of liberal Israeli commentators in condemning the majority’s actions. One, for example, calling this ruling “hysterical” and the other equating it to “Nazism.”
But then little else happens: Israeli leftist crowds do not spill out into the streets; outraged feminists do not flood the military courts and Ahed’s high school age-mates do not mount sit-in demonstrations at their schools. Israeli settler ministers continue to vilify and oppress Palestinians, demanding harsher punishments for real and imagined infractions of military rules that infringe their liberty and restrict their free breathing. Zionism and fundamentalism continue to stalk the public’s fervor to the point that one is at a loss what to expect next: public lynching or capital punishment for stone throwers.
As the clown procession continues, the rub of ugly counter-accusations of hysteria and Nazism wears our sensitivities thin. Like when reusing a threadbare old pair of jeans, our initial disdainful faint smiles at such ugly epitaphs wax into gleeful pride in joining the new fashion. The objections and wheezes of discomfort, the downcast eyes ignoring tears at the knees, turn into the whimsical admission of joining the in-crowd before they finally explode out as proud agitated chuckles leading the fashion parade. When will we in Israel start parading naked, I wonder?
Yehonatan Geffen is an Israeli poet and singer I appreciate: What you hear is what you get. He has the credential of having not served in Israel’s armed forces to back up his peace activism and not coming out only as an afterthought at the end of his service. Now he is in the news for idolizing Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian child heroic enough to warrant the wrath of everyone at Israel’s military and civilian circles. He sang her praises as follows:
A pretty girl 17 years old did a terrible thing
And when a proud Israeli soldier
Again invaded her home
She gave him a slap.
She was born into it and in that slap
Were fifty years of occupation and humiliation.
And on the day that the story of the struggle will be told
You, Ahed Tamimi,
Like David who slapped Goliath,
You will be in the same ranks as
Joan of Arc, Chana Senesh and Anne Frank.
With that, a media storm is brewing: The Minister of Defense is upset by it and commands the head of the Army Radio to stop interviewing Geffen and playing his song. The Attorney General disagrees and negates the minister’s authority to impose such a ban. The MOD argues back and the debate on Israel’s social media quickly reaches the usual mudslinging proportions. Geffen and his Palestinian heroine are maligned and derided.
The Israeli public hardly blinks at all of this. Another mini media storm that affirms Israel’s democratic nature while Ahed and her mother are held in jail. It is a true and tried tactic that Israel is adept at practicing in its Hasbara wars with the world: It is a given that the whole world is against us. That makes it logical and moral to ignore the world and stand our ground. Falling back on the memory of the Holocaust sustains our certainty that we are above all of their standards. Not only are we right, but more importantly, the whole world is wrong. Here, let us show you how to do it the right way, our way. With such shaming of the rest of humanity for its bigotry against the Jews, Israel manages to hoodwink its adversaries while it continues unapologetically committing war crimes against the Palestinians and supplying weapons to genocidal militants across the globe.
If tolerance is your game, then the essence of that tolerance we preach is to build our edifice for it on your cemetery. If it is ethics you trumpet about, we have leading ethics contortionists who will justify burning Ahed Tamimi at the stake for being born Palestinian. And if that reminds you of Joan of Arc or Anne Frank, then you are an ignoramus brute who doesn’t know that no Palestinian life is worthy of celebrating. And since you malign us, our allies will stop funding the garbage dump operation you call the UN.
And before we close, you are an anti-Semitic swine for saying all that you have just said. Try and beat that logic if you can!