Bethlehem, occupied West Bank — On Thursday night, when residents of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank were sound asleep in their homes, Israeli settlers crept through the village’s streets, vandalizing walls with graffiti threatening jailed teen activist Ahed Tamimi and her family.
Some of the graffiti reads: “Death to Ahed Tamimi,” “There’s no place in this world for Ahed Tamimi,” and another demanding that the Tamimi family be “kicked out of the country.”
Bassem Tamimi, Ahed’s father, told Mondoweiss that none of the village’s residents had seen the settlers enter the village, but that the incident occurred at some point after 1 a.m. “The settlers wrote that Ahed should be killed in order to scare the residents in Nabi Saleh,” he said.
Micky Rosenfeld, spokesperson for the Israeli police, told Mondoweiss that “police units were called into Nabi Saleh after reports of graffiti being sprayed in the village.” He added that the police had opened an investigation into the incident.
Bassem told Mondoweiss that a group of settlers also stated on social media that they would wait outside Israel’s HaSharon prison on the day Ahed gets released and then kill the teen.
“It makes me scared for my daughter,” Bassem said. “Not only is she Palestinian, but her face has become so recognizable that everyone knows exactly who she is and what she looks like.”
‘Escalating to another level ’
Israel’s illegal Halamish settlement sits on a hilltop adjacent to Nabi Saleh. Dozens of hectares of the village’s lands were confiscated in order for Israel to build the settlement.
From Bassem’s home, a large swimming pool can be seen on the roof of one of these American-esque housing units that dot the land.
This is the location where Ahed threw her now infamous slap, which transformed the teen into an international icon for the experiences of Palestinian children under Israel’s more than half-century military occupation.
Shortly before Ahed confronted the Israeli officials outside her home, her 15-year-old cousin had been severely wounded after being shot point-blank in the face with a rubber bullet.
A video of the incident — where Ahed is seen slapping and hitting two Israeli officials — went viral, and Israelis created a social media storm demanding the arrest of Ahed.
Ahed and her mother Nariman were subsequently arrested for the incident and now face numerous charges, including alleged assault and incitement. They have been held for nearly two months in Israel’s HaSharon prison.
Since the slap incident, at least nine other residents have been arrested from the village, mostly during overnight Israeli army raids. On January 3, Musab Tamimi, 17, a distant relative of Ahed, was killed by Israeli forces in Nabi Saleh’s sister village of Deir Nitham.
“We are used to dealing with the Israeli army attacking our homes and raiding the village,” Manal Tamimi, a relative of Ahed, told Mondoweiss. “But it’s escalating to another level, where even the settlers are participating now.”
She added that this incident has created an “even more dangerous” situation for the village.
‘We have to be more careful’
When the village began their weekly protests against Israel’s occupation in 2009, attacks from settlers residing in Halamish escalated, with hundreds of Nabi Saleh’s olive trees being burned and destroyed by settlers.
According to Bassem, after an incident where Israeli settlers attempted to light the village’s mosque on fire, residents developed a strategy to prevent settlers from approaching the village.
They created village watch patrols, in which residents would wander the outskirts of the village and warn other residents if settlers or soldiers were seen.
However, nowadays, village residents typically notify each other on social media or call one another when settlers are spotted near the village, prompting village residents to throw rocks and roll burning tires towards them in an effort to prevent them from approaching.
The village, home to some 600 residents, is small enough that other times residents need only to stand on their roofs and scream “settlers! Settlers!”
But the settler incursion Thursday night left the village feeling uneasy. “No one knows how or when they entered the village,” Manal said.
“We will have to be much more careful,” she noted, adding that residents are considering bringing back the village watch patrols following the incident.
‘Taking the law into their own hands’
According to Israeli rights group Yesh Din, a Palestinian in the West Bank who files a police complaint against an Israeli only has a 1.9 percent chance of it being “effectively investigated, and a suspect identified, prosecuted and convicted.”
The group has noted that settler attacks involve “many Israeli citizens and includes acts of violence, damage to property, takeover of Palestinian land, and other offenses.”
These attacks are “part of a calculated strategy for dispossessing Palestinians of their land,” the group added. According to the UN, at least 150 settler attacks were reported in 2017 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Since Ahed’s arrest, right-wing Israeli leaders have called the teenager a “terrorist” and have advocated extreme measures against the minor.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s ultra-right education minister, said that Ahed and the other women who appeared in the video should “finish their lives in prison.”
Oren Hazan, an Israeli lawmaker from the Likud party, told the BBC this week: “If I was there, she would finish in the hospital. For sure. Nobody could stop me. I would kick, kick her face, believe me.”
According to Manal, these calls for violence and harsh imprisonment of the Tamimi family have emboldened the settlers. “They want to take the law into their own hands and punish the Tamimi family,” she said.
However, Manal made sure to express the seemingly unwavering strength that Nabi Saleh’s residents are famous for. “We are not afraid of the settlers or the army,” she said. “But we will make sure that what happened Thursday night will never happen again.”