More than two years ago, the young Palestinian resistance icon Ahed Tamimi shook the world with a slap to an Israeli occupation soldier in Nabi Saleh.
During Ahed’s sentencing hearing, Israeli peace activist Yifat Doron slapped the chief military prosecutor. It came out of her as a spontaneous reaction to oppression:
“The way I see it, this was in reaction to seeing my friend in distress,” Doron said in an interview with +972.
On Wednesday, Doron was sentenced to eight months prison, plus a fine of 3,000 Shekels and probation entailing a potential 4 months to 3 years prison if she would be convicted of additional ‘violent offenses’. The case was of course held at a civilian court – the Jerusalem Magistrates Court – not the military court in which Palestinians are tried.
Then 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi’s slapping of a soldier occupying her village and backyard in December 2017, shortly after her cousin Mohammed was shot in the head, became famous as a symbol of courage and defiance. Though few Israelis were encouraged by the slap. Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy opined that “she slapped the soldier who invaded her home, and slapped the occupation, which deserves far more than slaps.” More representative was centrist journalist Ben Caspit, who was enraged, and insidious: “In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras,” he wrote.
Ahed and her mother Nariman were both sentenced to eight months prison, Nariman for assisting in filming the event.
Then Yifat Doron ended up doing pretty much the same act as Ahed, in March 2018, during the sentencing. She slapped Lt. Col. Issam Hamad, the military prosecutor at the Ofer military court.
Doron’s slap was, alas, not filmed.
Doron was not kept in prison for months up to her trial, as Ahed had been (Ahed was kept in detention for three months up to her trial). At the time, the Israeli ‘ethicist’ Asa Kasher, known as the author of the Israeli army’s ‘ethics code’, opined that Ahed should indeed remain in prison, because she might, God forbid, slap again.
“Who are you to judge her?!”, shouted Doron when she slapped Hamad. In Hebrew, the plural “you” is different to the singular, and she was using the plural. It was not a personal, singular slap – it was precisely a slap to a whole system. Doron was always very clear about that, and is unrepentant, as she stated to the court this month:
“I will never regret the fact that I stood alongside my friends and acted according to my moral compass. It is a badge of honor to join a list of women whom I respect and admire who have been convicted of violent crimes in the Zionist court.”
Doron did not even want a lawyer:
“Because the arrest happened in a political context, I have no interest in entering into all kinds of legal arguments,” she said of her decision. “I’m going to represent myself politically — I understand politics.”
And she has stood firm all the time. It’s as if everything that the military and the state were saying about her actions, were a confirmation of her own activism.
Attorney Efrat Filzer, who represented the military prosecution, claimed that the assault on Hamad “was not accidental,” and was done because he is the head of the military prosecution in the West Bank. “The very act against him is in fact a challenge to the entire military system,” Filzer told the court. “The purpose here is to undermine and delegitimize the legal system.”
Well, yes – Doron was challenging a whole system. Her slap may have been spontaneous, but it wasn’t accidental. Her purpose, to undermine the Apartheid system, is clear.
The Magistrates Court judge Aharon Cohen wrote:
“It is an error to treat the case before us as a routine one in which one person attacks another. The act must be viewed in the broader context as one that seeks to undermine the principles of government in the occupied territories and is intended to damage them.”
Once again, obviously, Doron is an activist seeking to dismantle the Israeli Apartheid system. Of course she seeks to damage the “principles of government in the occupied territories”.
Doron was essentially saying that she stands by her act, and that the court should come at her with whatever it has. She’s not offering a conventional defense entailing apology or repentance.
And her sentence appears to carry some symbolism; it is similar to that of Ahed Tamimi’s in prison time.
Of course Doron will not be transferred to a prison of an occupying power in contravention of the 4th Geneva Conventions, as is routinely done to Palestinians, including Ahed Tamimi. Still, the length of time seems to suggest an attempt to match that of Ahed’s. In the interview with Oren Ziv of +972 last year, Doron said that “we are not punished the same way the Palestinians are for the same actions”.
In fact, the judge tried to persuade Doron to accept a penalty of community service, which she refused. The military attorney actually requested 10 to 20 months prison. But it ended up with those 8 months – we may never know if there was an intention to duplicate Ahed Tamimi’s sentence. In any event, it doesn’t really matter, because Doron is only emboldened by the notion of solidarity with these oppressed people.
“There are people who accept imprisonment peacefully, like many of my Palestinian friends, who experience the reality of imprisonment, either personally or through their loved ones, on a daily basis”, she told Oren Ziv last year. She explained that prison is simply a part of these Palestinians’ lives.
Doron is taking a noble stance of solidarity with the oppressed, and for this she should be highly respected. This does not come easy, also for the privileged Jews – eight months in prison is not nothing, it’s a heavy price to pay – as mentioned she could have gotten away without prison. She knows that she is representing the oppressed, and she has to reject her inherent and systemic privileges to arrive at a place which to some degree represents what Palestinians have to face when they resist. She is putting her body down to mark this point – it is courageous. She knows that this is still somewhat symbolic – she will not be gunned down for protesting the Israeli oppression – unlike the hundreds of protesters in Gaza, or members of Ahed’s family and village. Doron found an opportunity for her activism in the response that was caused by her slap, where she let the state prosecution run its own course, and slap itself in its own self-righteous, hypocritical face. She put the Israeli state on political trial, and for that we should be thankful.
July 1st, the date on which Doron is set to begin serving her prison sentence, is also the date which Israel has set for the start of its formal annexation of a third of the West Bank, further consolidating its colonialist plans to reduce Palestinians to Bantustan dwellers. And that’s also some symbolism.