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Ahed Tamimi has polarized western opinion — but stirred some liberals to solidarity

ActivismMedia Analysis
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The story of Ahed Tamimi’s resistance to the Israeli occupation of her village is of course the biggest story to unfold in Palestine in recent months, alongside the Trump/Jerusalem business, and we’ve been watching the reaction closely. Though people are dividing on Ahed’s soldier-slap in predictable ways — rightwing and even liberal Zionists want no part of her; the international left has embraced her — there are some signs of slippage, in both directions.

Indeed, the reactions to Ahed’s slap, of celebration or condemnation, reveal that there is no real middle ground left in the discourse of the conflict.

But let’s look at the reactions before making conclusions . . .

All of Palestine, as well as all Palestinian solidarity activists, are on Ahed’s side, including Palestinian moderates. Here is the Joint List leader in the Israeli Knesset, Ayman Odeh, tweeting an eloquent characterization of Ahed Tamimi’s action:

Waiting with the Tamimi family and others supporters in the Ofer military court. This legal process is entirely motivated by retaliation against this courageous women whose behavior has harmed nothing but the pride of the occupier.

Ayman Odeh of the Joint List with Bassem Tamimi and attorney Gaby Lasky, Dec. 31.

Among Jewish groups, Jewish Voice for Peace has been a leader in the U.S. for Ahed Tamimi. So has IfNotNow. American Jewish progressive Ira Glunts calls her “a David fighting the Goliath of occupation.” And +972  is all over the story, here with an excellent piece by Mya Guarnieri.

Meantime, the mainstream is either ignoring the story (Chemi Shalev and Jeffrey Goldberg are silent), or reporting it in on-the-one-hand/on-the-other terms, or distorting the story disgracefully.

“Despite her age, Ahed Tamimi has a long history of assault against police and soldiers,” Newsweek says. Its writer Dana Dovey describes the case as an assault.

Youth Against Settlements tweets an answer:

Ahed, Nariman and Nour are charged with assaulting a solider. But it is the occupation that assaults them every day.

Robert Martin, the Australian activist, has posted several videos of armed soldiers being belligerent in the Tamimi driveway and asked, “What would you do?”

The former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren continues to spew rage over the Palestinian embrace of Ahed Tamimi:

Talk about threats to Israeli democracy. Arab List MK Auda visits Tamimi family whose children beat IDF officers. In what democracy would a legislator embrace the attackers of his own country’s soldiers and remain in office? In what democracy would that legislator not be in jail?

Interestingly, rightwing Zionists have been joined by some liberal Zionists. Here is Ori Nir of Peace Now:

Sorry, I’m not joining the glorification of Ahed Tamimi. Kicking, punching and slapping isn’t nonviolent and isn’t okay. Glorifying her actions puts at risk young Palestinians who may emulate her and encounter less restrained soldiers.

I would like to see a debate between Ori Nir and Gideon Levy, who honors what Ahed did:

Nobody asks himself what would have happened if Tamimi had been his daughter. Wouldn’t you have been proud of her, like her father. . . Wouldn’t you have wanted a daughter like that, who exchanged her nonexistent youth for a courageous struggle for liberty? Or would you have preferred a daughter who was a collaborator? Or simply empty-headed?

Nir says there are more effective ways to end the 50-year occupation — which most of Israeli Jewish society accepts as the latest unfolding of Zionism:

I’m with Lara : rather than focusing on the actions of Israelis and Palestinians under occupation, we should focus on the occupation and act to end it through an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

It’s not clear that Lara Friedman, a liberal Zionist at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, shares Nir’s view. She speaks positively of Ahed Tamimi, in the Forward:

unarmed or non-violent protest — including by young Palestinians like Ahed Tamimi — represents in many ways an even greater challenge to the IDF than armed attacks; as one senior Israeli defense official admitted, “We don’t do Gandhi very well.”

Several writers have faulted the western liberal press for ignoring Ahed Tamimi. Sacha Saeen on twitter:

If Ahed Tamimi were an Iranian & was jailed for slapping an Iranian police officer in protest, she would be on the front page of every newspaper in America & POTUS would have tweeted about her within hours of her arrest.

Shenila Khoja-Moolji in Al Jazeera calls out western feminists:

There has been a curious lack of support for Ahed from Western feminist groups, human rights advocates and state officials who otherwise present themselves as the purveyors of human rights and champions of girls’ empowerment.

So does Hiba Khan at the Independent in the U.K.

When an unarmed child is prosecuted for slapping a larger grown man in army gear equipped with a gun, it’s time to ask questions.

I saw no #IAmAhed. No uproar from feminist groups or international political recognition as there was for Malala

Richard Silverstein writes at the Middle East Eye about the racist treatment of Ahed Tamimi in the western press. Tony Greenstein has also written a piece stating that the

Feminist silence over Ahed Tamimi exposes the racist consensus at the heart of western feminism

Now let’s come to the slippage on the left.

As I pointed out the other day, many liberal Zionists can’t deal with the Ahed Tamimi case. But some brave liberal Zionists are obviously moved by her. Uri Avnery honors Tamimi at Haaretz: Now the whole world knows Ahed Tamimi’s name; she has become the Palestinian “Joan of Arc,” and though Israel intends to strike fear in the bosoms of young Palestinians, they all want to be like Ahed now.

Libby Lenkinski of the New Israel Fund writes, “Ahed Tamimi and her father Bassem do not deserve to be occupied – not because they are nice people of upstanding character (which they are – I know them myself) but because nobody deserves to be occupied.”

“Ahed has become an international symbol of the Palestinian struggle,” Lisa Goldman states simply. Last week Goldman disclosed in +972 that witnessing Israeli belligerence toward demonstrators in Nabi Saleh ended her commitment to Zionism:

I write these sordid descriptions of what I saw at the demonstrations as a means of explaining how and why that place radicalized me. After Nabi Saleh I was, in a way, broken. The impact of the violence on my psyche was exhausting and traumatic, with long-lasting effects that I still experience today. . .

[I]t was in Nabi Saleh that I lost the last remnants of what I would call — for lack of a word to describe my nostalgia for the idea of a state for the Jews — my Zionism.

Lisa Goldman, from her twitter feed

As you read Goldman’s assessment of her own trauma, recall that Ahed Tamimi did not get to choose to go to demonstrations in Nabi Saleh; this violent traumatic existence was forced upon her by Jewish settlers who stole her family’s land and the soldiers who have stood up for that theft.

Finally, James Zogby wrote — and Lara Friedman retweeted:

The lessons #Israel is teaching #AhedTamimi & all #Palestinians: our lives matter, your lives do not; we can shoot, beat, harass & humiliate you, but you cannot slap us; and therefore know that we are above you & can operate w/impunity & you must accept it or be punished.

In sum, Ahed Tamimi has become an international symbol of nonviolent resistance to military occupation. U.S. establishment voices are seeking to deny this by characterizing her as violent, and leading left-centrist Israelis and liberal Zionists are on board in this aim.

But some people of conscience have reflected Ahed Tamimi’s courageous gesture with compassion and inspiration.

Thanks to James North. 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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18 Responses

  1. Rusty Pipes on January 2, 2018, 3:13 pm

    International Law has a long tradition of supporting the rights of an occupied people to resist. The resistance at Nabi Saleh is mostly nonviolent, but entirely unarmed. Even the children at Nabi Saleh have become accustomed to using nothing but their bodies — their hands, feet and teeth — to protect members of their family and their village (as is evident in the famous photo of the women and children who are resisting the abduction of a Tamimi child).

    • Misterioso on January 3, 2018, 6:00 pm

      “Ahed Tamimi, the Teenage Girl Who Refuses to Be Israel’s Compliant Palestinian”

      “While Donald Trump’s tweets blow up the last illusions of a two-state future that Israel rejected long ago, a 16 year-old has the courage the Palestinian leadership lacks: To declare that action, not negotiations, will bring us freedom.”

      By Diana Buttu . Jan 03, 2018 – Haaretz.

      “Ahed Tamimi has been indicted. The teen, who was picked up in a night raid on her town more than three weeks ago, has been held in prison ever since.

      “The charges levied against her – incitement and slapping a heavily armed soldier – do not match the severity with which she has been treated: Shackled, isolated from her family and with politicians and journalists calling for her eternal detention, or, even worse, that she be
      “‘dealt with in the dark.’ ”

      “Based on Israel’s 99.2 percent conviction rate for Palestinian youth, Ahed will likely be convicted and will likely serve time in prison. But while her official charges are assault, Ahed’s real crime is more basic: Shaming Israel’s occupation and refusing to bow down to Israeli dictats.

      “Ahed has spent her entire life not only living under Israeli military rule, but under the guise of Oslo and the false promises of negotiations.

      “She has never seen a day without Israeli checkpoints blocking her movement, without Israeli settlers stealing her land and without seeing the army trample upon her village – often in the dead of night – to kill, maim and injure her loved ones.

      “But, alongside these daily acts of aggression, she has, in her short lifetime, had to endure talk of a ‘peace process’ and of ‘negotiations’ towards a ‘two-state solution’ – but never ‘freedom'”.

      • just on January 3, 2018, 6:18 pm

        It’s a very good piece by Diana Buttu. Thanks for posting it.

        The very next paragraphs gripped me:

        “… For Ahed was born after the false promises of Oslo, and after the diplomatic community turned its attention away from holding Israel accountable for its now 50 years of colonization and military rule to, instead, press for “both sides” to come together.

        In short, while the world is living in the fantasy world of negotiations and recognition, Ahed is living in the brutal reality of occupation – where the settlers of nearby Halamish have superior rights to her, even though they live illegally in the West Bank, and she is considered a “security threat” for daring to challenge this reality. …”

        read more:

  2. amigo on January 2, 2018, 3:57 pm

    Many long time close observers to this asymmetric affair have suggested that a seemingly ordinary event would one day herald a sea change in how Israel,s so called victim status would be viewed.This may well be that event. 2 weeks ago I might have said it was Trump,s Jerusalem gaffe but this is far more significant .

    Zionists know this but they will react as they always do , with more violence and oppression.Zionists know no other way.

    Normally I do not derive satisfaction watching people committing hari kari but for zionists I bend the rules.

    Zionists are a lost people and are barely hanging on by their thumbnails.

    One thing for sure , a good slap in the face is far more effective than a swift kick in the butt.

  3. eljay on January 2, 2018, 4:28 pm

    … Robert Martin, the Australian activist, has posted several videos of armed soldiers being belligerent in the Tamimi driveway and asked, “What would you do?” …

    Mr. Martin cuts nicely through the “who slapped first” bullshit: If Mooslim or Russian or Chinese soldiers were stationed on your driveway as part of an on-going occupation and colonization of the United States, what would you do?

    … The former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren continues to spew rage over the Palestinian embrace of Ahed Tamimi:

    … In what democracy would a legislator embrace the attackers of his own country’s soldiers and remain in office? In what democracy would that legislator not be in jail?

    By contrast, Mr. Oren – a hateful and immoral Zionist – deliberately fails to get it: In what democracy should a legislator embrace the military occupation and colonization of a foreign territory?

    • Citizen on January 2, 2018, 6:57 pm

      Imagine Oren’s outrage if his water supply was stolen by foreigners , and he had to deal with foreign soldiers in his front and back yard. What would Ann Frank write in her diary? Rachel Corrie’s ghost is rising high in the eyes of another blonde, Ahed Tamimi — even as impoverished Americans follow neocons like sheep, pouring their dollars into Israel’s military coffers.

  4. just on January 2, 2018, 5:16 pm

    “…In Hebron the settlers – who make up less than one per cent of the total population – exert a disproportionate influence. Not only do they regularly trade acts of violence with the Palestinians, but, according to many reports, they also attack Israeli soldiers when they take a softer line towards the Arabs, or attempt to curb settler activity.

    Nadav Bigelman, a former Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldier who served in Hebron, has witnessed this first-hand. …”

    Remember the vicious and despicable Anat Cohen?

    “You are a Jew, you need to stand with the Jews’: Peace activist Ariel Gold assaulted by settlers in Hebron …”

    She’s injured and slapped many folks… and she is free and protected by the IOF.

    “Anat Cohen hitting international in the face”

    “Illegal settler attacks school-children”

    Free Ahed and her family! Celebrate their courage and resolve and sumud!

    • JWalters on January 2, 2018, 10:06 pm

      “In Hebron the settlers – who make up less than one per cent of the total population”

      Less than one percent?! For all the trouble they cause that is shocking! The Israelis’ beliefs that justify this are beyond insane.

  5. Maghlawatan on January 2, 2018, 5:49 pm

    “In what democracy would a legislator embrace the attackers of his own country’s soldiers and remain in office? ”

    Oren is an asshole. Israel isn’t a democracy. Giving Jews the vote doesn’t qualify .
    And if the soldiers of a country are involved in something illegal they deserve to be bitch slapped.

  6. JWalters on January 2, 2018, 10:01 pm

    “Indeed, the reactions to Ahed’s slap, of celebration or condemnation, reveal that there is no real middle ground left in the discourse of the conflict.”

    A similar revelation occurred shortly before the American Civil War. A pro-slavery senator severely beat an anti-slavery senator with a heavy cane on the Senate floor. The supportive comments in the Southern press shocked the anti-slavery Northerners into a realization of how deeply entrenched the pro-slavery beliefs were. It shifted a lot of thinking on both sides away from the idea of a peaceful outcome through discussion.

    Similarly today, the Zionists have demonstrated their barbarity thoroughly, despite cloaking it in lies and “religion”.

    Let’s hope BDS can succeed and avoid a battle of armageddon.

    • YoniFalic on January 3, 2018, 6:30 am

      When I was at Columbia, I took a good number of American history courses. I focused on slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and post-Reconstruction Southern Redemption ideology.

      Comparative analysis is a major component of the modern study of history.

      Zionism is itself a form of white racist genocidal European colonialism and should be scorned for that reason alone, but the similarity of white racist Southern Redemption ideology to white racist Zionist Jewish redemption ideology is most impressive.

      • Mooser on January 3, 2018, 12:47 pm

        Good to hear from you again, “Yoni”.

      • YoniFalic on January 4, 2018, 7:52 am

        I was disgusted because moderators were filtering comments directed to known historical facts that are completely undisputed while the moderators persistently allow Zionist propagandists to make completely false and ridiculous claims.

      • Keith on January 4, 2018, 10:41 am

        YONI FALIC- “I was disgusted because moderators were filtering comments directed to known historical facts that are completely undisputed while the moderators persistently allow Zionist propagandists to make completely false and ridiculous claims.”

        I know what you mean and appreciate how you feel, however, we should all be aware that Mondoweiss operates within an unusual and hostile environment where discretion is well advised. I second Mooser’s comment. Every little bit of actual history helps us understand what Zionist myth-history seeks to misrepresent. Remember, what is accepted among scholars may be virtually unknown to the general public including, perhaps, the moderators and me.

  7. inbound39 on January 3, 2018, 12:29 am

    Legally as I see it Ahed has every right to defend her home against Occupying soldiers who have no legal right to be on her land ,in her land especially when they arrive to intimidate. Ahed has the right to resist even by use of arms to fight the illegal occupation of Palestine. Trump and former US Presidents could have ended the occupation years ago simply by cutting off the MASSIVE AID PACKAGE it gives to Israel.America always claims to fight for justice and freedom….why are they complicit in aiding and abetting an illegal, apartheid ,subjugating violent occupation.Its disgusting.Trump is not transmitting the message America is Great….He is telegraphing to the World America is Shameful.

  8. Kay24 on January 3, 2018, 7:55 am

    Once again the double standards and hypocrisy, is so obvious. It is a shame that those who cannot see the difference, take the side of the zionists.

    “Nine Attacks by Settlers Have Been Caught on Camera in Two Months. Zero Have Been Indicted
    Nine violent incidents have been caught on video in which settlers have thrown stones and attacked Palestinians, activists and even Israeli soldiers. Why no suspects are in custody?

    The video footage is clear: At least 10 settlers who set out from the direction of the Givat Ronen outpost to the adjacent West Bank village of Burin are seen throwing stones at Palestinians. The footage leaves no room for doubt. Five or more of the settlers’ faces are visible, and there were soldiers in the area who witnessed the stone-throwing. But indictments have yet to be filed in regard to the incidents, and there is no evidence that any suspects have even been detained for questioning.
    read more:

    This poor girl is being used as a tool, to intimate other Palestinians, and warn them to not dare stand up to those who occupy them.

    So why has this girl being treated like a criminal, while the illegal settlers get away with it?

    • Talkback on January 3, 2018, 8:26 am

      Kay24: “So why has this girl being treated like a criminal, while the illegal settlers get away with it?”

      Cause she’s not Jewish and the illegal settlers are. That’s why the call their Aparheid Junta a “Jewish deomcracy”. I wonder if this self description is somehow antisemitic.

  9. JimMichie on January 3, 2018, 9:33 am

    Outstanding use of a video portraying typical daily obnoxious and fascist “behavior” of Zionist Israel’s “soldiers” in threatening, frightening, intimidating Palestinians in their on neighborhoods and on their own property. Zionism “practiced” in Palestine is brutal, ruthless, terrorist, fascist, genocidal, ethnic cleansing and land-stealing for the past six decades! FREE AHED TAMIMI!

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