The story of Ahed Tamimi’s resistance to 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 to it 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 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.
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.
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?”
— Robert Martin (@Robert_Martin72) January 2, 2018
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
@LaraFriedmanDC: 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
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 deeply 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 watching the Israeli belligerence toward demonstrators in Nabi Saleh was where her Zionism ended:
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.
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 Zigby 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 on board in this aim.
But people of conscience have responded to Ahed Tamimi’s courageous gesture with compassion and inspiration.
Thanks to James North.