Ahed Tamimi provides powerful icon but also distraction from real issues
On the first day of 2018, more than 1,000 members of Likud voted for the unlimited construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank, shortly after the Israeli parliament decided to remove two Palestinian neighbourhoods from the jurisdiction of East Jerusalem, purging more Palestinians from their capital.
On January 2, the Knesset passed a measure saying that a two-thirds vote would be required to relinquish sovereignty over any parts of Jerusalem — in clear defiance of UN resolutions that refuse to recognise Israel’s rights over all Jerusalem.
A third Israeli bill was passed, loosening restrictions on the death penalty, which previously could only be applied on Nazi criminals if tried in Israeli civil courts. It can now apply to any person convicted of “terrorist activity” in clear reference to the Palestinians.
Perhaps more disturbing is the “Greater Jerusalem Law,” which is gaining steam in the corridors of the Knesset. It calls for expanding the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include all illegal settlements in the West Bank, such as Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion, bringing 150,000 settlers into the city.
These major developments did not feature heavily in prominent Arab news outlets or on the social media networks of Arab writers and activists. Instead, they were all busy posting flowery prose in homage of Ahed Tamimi, the fearless, unarmed, charismatic 16-year-old girl arrested in December for slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier at the courtyard of her home in Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah.
In a video that went viral, she is heard saying: “I destroy your face!”
Celebrities across the Middle East hailed her heroism and major Arabic television channels ran non-stop coverage of her arrest and trial — with good intention.
Many see her as a beautiful manifestation of the Palestinian struggle being passed down to a new generation, hailing her as a heroine, which she is, undoubtedly. Arab secularists were thrilled with the rise of a young teenager, with bouncing curls and piercing blue eyes who is unveiled, unlike previous activists who emerged under Hamas.
Many sincerely think that the more they eulogise Ahed, the more disturbing this would be for the Israelis, forgetting that Tel Aviv is benefiting from diversion of Arab attention from what really matters in terms of demographics, politics and future of Jerusalem.
Focused on Ahed, the Arab world has failed to notice legislation recently passed by the Israeli Knesset. Even staunch anti-Israeli outlets such as Iranian state-television and Hezbollah’s Al- Manar TV are more occupied with Ahed than anything else.
Ahed is no newcomer to Palestinian activism. She made headlines in 2012, raising her clenched fist before an Israeli soldier arresting her mother. At the time she was only 11 but apart from a visit to Turkey and a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, got none of the international attention she is now receiving.
In a 2015 video, she was seen biting and hitting an Israeli soldier, yet, apart from attention by Palestinian and Arab activists, didn’t qualify for online celebrity status. Why, then, has the world suddenly noticed her? She is certainly not the first Palestinian teen to be filmed taking jabs at occupation forces — and will not likely be the last.
Human rights observers said the Israeli army has killed approximately 11 Palestinian children a month since 2001.
Ahed acted out of conviction and with good cause and those supporting her are doing so in good faith but she is getting exaggerated attention, even from the Israelis. Three Israeli ministers and nearly every major analyst across the spectrum have commented on her affair.
Ahed will probably get released but only after all the Knesset legislation passes. Arab masses will celebrate her freedom, without noticing that, while they were busy and she was away, Jerusalem was swallowed completely and so was the entire West Bank.