Monday, August 20, 2018

REDFLAG: In Palestine, two heroes of the resistance are finally freed

Dear friends,
my latest article for REDFLAG on the release of my dear friend Nariman Tamimi and her daughter Ahed.  

In solidarity, Kim

Al Jazeera on the arrest of Ahed Tamimi



REDFLAG // 15 August 2018

After eight months in an Israeli prison, 17-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi and her mother Nariman Tamimi were released on 29 July.

The Tamimis were arrested in December, after Israeli television screened a video, shot by Nariman, of Ahed and her cousin Nour confronting a heavily armed Israeli soldier who had intruded into the Tamimis’ home. Nour was also arrested, but released after 16 days.

Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, a former military spokesperson, was among those who called for retribution against the Tamimis, saying that after watching the video: “I felt humiliated, I felt crushed”.

According to Regev, the footage of a teenage Palestinian girl standing up to an Israeli soldier – which occurred less than half an hour after her 14-year-old cousin Muhammed had been shot in the head by another soldier – was “damaging to the honour of the military and the state of Israel”.

Israeli education minister Naftali Bennet called for Ahed and Nour to “spend the rest of their days in prison”. Prominent Israeli journalist Ben Caspit hailed the soldier’s “restraint” and called for violence against the young women. “In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”, he wrote.

After Nariman and Ahed were jailed, settlers from the nearby Israeli colony of Halamish, built on land belonging to the residents of Nabi Saleh, the village in which the Tamimis live, staged protests. They carried makeshift coffins and chanted, “Death to Ahed Tamimi!”

Speaking at a press conference near her home on the day of her release, Ahed drew attention to other political prisoners. She was relieved to be home, but said, “My happiness is incomplete because my sister prisoners are not with me”.

Ahed was imprisoned with three other female Palestinian child prisoners: Lama al-Bakri, Hadiya Ereinat and Manar Shweiki.

According to Palestinian political prisoner support group Addameer, there are more than 5,900 Palestinians held in Israel’s prison. Of those imprisoned, 60 are women and 49 are under the age of 16.

Israel is the only country that systematically detains and prosecutes children – between 500 and 700 each year, some as young as 12, according to Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCIP).

Last year, Palestinian child prisoners made up 1,400 of the more than 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners jailed. According to the US State Department, the conviction rate for Israel’s military occupation court is more than 99 percent. Lawyer Gaby Lasky, who regularly acts on behalf of Palestinian prisoners, noted in 2014 that Israel military courts were not “courts of justice” but instead “the long arm of occupation”.

In prison, Palestinian child political prisoners – like Palestinian adults – suffer torture and abuse at the hands of the Israeli state. In its 2016 report “No Way to Treat A Child”, the DCIP documented testimonies of 429 Palestinian child political prisoners.

The research revealed that three-quarters of the children endured physical and psychological violence. Children were threatened, put in isolation and denied food, water and access to the toilet to coerce confessions from them.

A 2014 Jerusalem Post article revealed that Palestinian children were held in outdoor cages overnight, including during snowstorms. It was only after the practice became public that Israel stopped doing it.

Despite their ordeal, Nariman and Ahed remain defiant. Arriving back in Nabi Saleh with her mother, Ahed told the waiting media, “I did nothing wrong that I should regret … the resistance continues until the occupation is removed”.

Friday, August 17, 2018

AHED TAMIMI: "I am a freedom fighter"

Dear friends,
apologies for the delay in posting about the release of my good friend Nariman Tamimi and her daughter Ahed Tamimi.  As you will be aware, both Nariman and Ahed were arrested in December after video footage shot by Nariman of Ahed slapping an Israeli solider who had invaded the yard in front of their home.  Nariman, along with Ahed and her cousin Nour were arrested.  Nour was released after 16 days but Nariman and Ahed have spent the last 8 months in Israel's jails as political prisoners.

Since her arrest Ahed has become very much the face of the Palestinian resistance.  Not only is she a child political prisoner, her courage and defiance in the face of Israel's military occupation have helped shine a light - once again - on not only Israel's apartheid laws but its ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.
Please find below copies of both Al Jazeera & the Guardian's articles on Ahed and Nariman's release.

In solidarity, Kim



Tamimi was arrested after a video of her slapping and hitting two Israeli soldiers went viral.

Nabi Saleh, occupied West Bank - Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi, whose eight-month sentence for slapping and hitting Israeli soldiers sparked international condemnation, has been released from Israeli prison .

Tamimi broke down in tears as an emotional crowd welcomed her in the village of Nabi Saleh on Sunday. 
She was released with her mother, Nariman, who was also sentenced to eight months but, like her daughter, served three weeks short of that in line with remission policy. 

Addressing the crowd, Tamimi thanked activists and the media for their support during her prison stay. She said she was "extremely happy" to be "in the arms and embrace of my family" but added that her "happiness is not full" when others are still behind Israeli bars.

"My happiness is not complete without my sisters [Palestinian female prisoners], who are not with me. I hope that they will also be free," she said.

'Leave occupation'

The 17-year-old also relayed messages delivered to her by Palestinian female political prisoners, saying that they "call for national unity inside Palestine; for the people of Palestine to remain strong and united in their resistance; and for everyone to stand with the rights of political prisoners and work for their release".

Tamimi said she was planning to pursue a career in law in order to "hold the occupation accountable".

"In the end I want to say that the power is with the people, and the people will and can decide their destiny and decide the future. Women are a key part of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and the women’s role will continue to expand, not only in the struggle but by producing new generations that can continue the struggle. We say: 'Leave, leave occupation.'"

For her part, Nariman Tamimi said: "As a parent, I want to say that we shouldn't be afraid of our children and we should support them in whatever they choose to do. They are being killed whether in our homes or resisting in the streets, so support them in resistance."

Speaking to Al Jazeera prior to the release of his daughter and wife, Bassem Tamimi described their release as "a very happy moment".

He added: "We have missed them a lot. But I am also worried because the [Israeli] occupation is continuing and still in our lives."

Bassem's happiness, however, was overshadowed by a heavy heart, as his 21-year-old son, Waed, remains in Israeli detention since being arrested in an overnight raid on his home in May.

International condemnation

Tamimi and her mother were arrested by Israeli forces in December 2017 after a video went viral showing the young woman, then 16, hitting and slapping two armed Israeli soldiers outside her home in Nabi Saleh.

At the time, the teen was reacting to news that her 15-year-old cousin Mohammed had been shot in the face by Israeli forces with a rubber-coated steel bullet earlier in the day, leaving him in critical condition.

 Ahed Tamimi and her mother were arrested in December 2017 [Abbas Momani/AFP]

The teen's arrest drew international condemnation and again put the spotlight on Israel's treatment of Palestinians, especially Palestinian youth.

Tamimi was indicted on 12 charges in Israel's Ofer military court in Ramallah two weeks after her arrest. In March, Tamimi and her mother accepted plea deals that would see them serve eight months in prison, including time served, in exchange for pleading guilty to some of the charges.

Israeli forces initiated a crackdown on Nabi Saleh after the video went viral, arresting residents and shooting dead Ahed's 21-year-old relative Izz al-Din Tamimi during a raid on the village last month.

Tamimi's cousin Mohammed, who is still healing from his injuries, has also been detained by Israeli forces twice since Israeli forces shot the teen in the face.

 Ahed Tamimi greeted by her father, Bassem. Her case drew international condemnation [Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP Photo]

 According to Tamimi's aunt, Manal, who is also a prominent activist in the village, 15 Nabi Saleh residents are still in Israeli custody, four of whom are minors.

Meanwhile, Bassem said he was worried about the safety of his daughter after her release, noting that she had been threatened by right-wing Israeli politicians and settlers.

Earlier this year, Nabi Saleh residents woke up to Hebrew graffiti splashed around the village, some of which read "Death to Ahed Tamimi" and "There's no place in this world for Ahed Tamimi."

Residents believe it was the act of Israeli settlers from the adjacent Halamish settlement, which was built on top of Nabi Saleh's lands.

In another incident, settlers from Halamish demonstrated on a road that divides the village and the settlement, carrying makeshift coffins and chanting "Death to Ahed Tamimi."

Manal, whose two sons Mohammad, 19, and Osama, 23, have continued to be held in Israeli detention since their arrests in January, said she is also worried about how Tamimi will cope with her experience in Israeli prison.
“We are worried about the experiences
 that she’s been through,” Manal said. “In the end, Ahed is a child and what she went through is very difficult. I think she will need some time to be a child again.”

'Inform the world about Israeli prison'

 As of June 1, there are more than 290 minors in Israeli custody, according to rights groups [Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP Photo]

Manal said Ahed's imprisonment has "made it so the name Nabi Saleh and the name Tamimi have become global".

However, she hopes that Tamimi's release can shift the international conversation from Nabi Saleh to the experiences of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

"Now the whole world knows about what's happening here [in Nabi Saleh]," she told Al Jazeera. "But what's important now is for Ahed to inform the whole world about the experiences and treatment of [Palestinian] women and minors in Israeli prison."

According to Dawoud Yusef, advocacy coordinator for Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer, Palestinian women experience severe mistreatment in Israeli prisons, noting that Israeli guards are "commonly involved in the sexual abuse of female prisoners, whether verbally or physically."

Palestinian women also face extreme forms of neglect in the prisons, such as Israeli prison authorities refusing to provide "necessary sanitary products" to Palestinian female prisoners, Yusef said.

In the case of female minors being held in Israeli prisons, "the things that stand out are the mental effects of such abuses, combined with a sense of shame over the whole ordeal," Yusef added.

According to Addameer, of the 5,900 Palestinians who were being held in Israeli prisons as of June 1, 60 were women and 291 were minors - 49 of whom were under the age of 16.


Ahed Tamimi: 'I am a freedom fighter. I will not be the victim'

Day after her release, teenage Palestinian activist says she hopes to become lawyer and lead cases against Israel

  Ahed Tamimi: ‘The experience of being arrested was really hard. This experience added value to my life, maybe it made me more mature. More conscious.’ Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

The teenage Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi has said she used her eight months in prison as an opportunity to study international law and hopes to one day lead cases against Israel in international courts.

“God willing, I will manage to study law,” the 17-year-old from Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank told the Guardian a day after her release. “I will present the violations against the Palestinians in criminal courts. And to try Israel for it and to be a big lawyer, and to return rights to my country.”

Tamimi, who rose to global prominence as a child living under military occupation, said she and other Palestinians in her all-female prison unit would sit for hours and learn legal texts. “We managed to transform the jail into a school,” she said.

To an outcry from rights groups, the teenager was arrested in December after slapping and kicking Israeli soldiers on camera outside her home. The soldiers had been deployed at one of Nabi Saleh’s weekly protests, where residents have thrown stones at troops who have responded with teargas, arrests and, at times, live ammunition.

She later accepted a deal in court to plead guilty to assault, incitement and two counts of obstructing soldiers.

“The experience of being arrested was really hard. As much as I try, I cannot describe it,” Ahed said. But she added: “This experience added value to my life, maybe it made me more mature. More conscious.”

Her trial was held behind closed doors. Concerns about her treatment in detention were raised after a video emerged in which a male Israeli interrogator threatened the then 16-year-old, commenting on her body and “eyes of an angel”.

Ahed said her treatment was not unusual. “It was not the first, and it was not a coincidence. This is their style of interrogating,” she said.

Her case has highlighted the arrest and detention of what local human rights groups say are more than 300 Palestinian minors.

Ahed said her experience in jail helped with her ambitions to become an international lawyer. “For example, I was under interrogation. There were violations against me. 
International law says that this should not happen to me,” she said, adding that in another life she would have trained to be a professional footballer.

  Nariman (lef) and Ahed Tamimi (on right), 17, at her home in Nabi Saleh on Monday. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

Nabi Saleh is populated almost exclusively by members of her extended family and is a focus of the anti-occupation movement. Images or videos of Ahed throughout her childhood, often grappling with or staring down soldiers during village protests, have gone viral.

After gaining worldwide attention, the Tamimi family say their daughter has been offered scholarships to study at a university abroad but that she is still deciding.

The Palestinian government has launched several international complaints against Israel, including for alleged war crimes and what it says is a system of governance that amounts to apartheid. Israel has vehemently denied the allegations.

Ahed’s family home is filled with activists and Palestinian officials, who sit drinking coffee in small paper cups on plastic stools outside. Within hours of her release, the teenager met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Two Italian artists were arrested for painting a mural of Ahed’s face of the Israel separation barriers that divides the Palestinian territories.

  One of the two Italian artists works a mural of Ahed Tamimi on the Israeli separation barrier. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Her international recognition infuriated the Israeli government, Ahed said. “They are afraid of the truth. If they were not wrong, they would not be afraid of the truth. The truth scares them. And I managed to deliver this truth to the world. And of course, they’re afraid how far I reached. They always fear the truth, they are the occupier, and we are under occupation.”

Some in Israel believe the focus on and arrest of the teenager was a self-defeating move for the country, while others have praised the soldiers’ apparent restraint and have accuse Nabi Saleh residents of provocations.

Ahed has no regrets about the day she hit the solider, a man she believed had earlier that day shot her 15-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet during a clash. 

She was reunited with her cousin upon release and he was at her home on Monday, a large scar marking his face.

But fame has also taken a toll on a girl who was seen as a local hero before she was in secondary school. “I feel proud that became a symbol for the Palestinian cause in order to deliver the message of Palestinian to the whole world. Of course, it is a heavy burden on me. It’s true; it’s a big responsibility. But I am totally confident that I am for of it.”

 Ahed Tamimi, centre, with her friends at the family home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP

For now, she hopes for a little rest and to decide her next steps, still enjoying the high of leaving prison. “At last, I saw the sky without a fence. I can walk on the street without handcuffs. I can see the stars, the moon. I haven’t seen them for a long time and now I am with my family.”

Yet her 22-year-old brother, Wa’ed Tamimi, is in prison awaiting a sentence for his involvement in confrontations with soldiers. And the conflict is never far away. An Israeli military outpost and settlement can be seen from the garden where she speaks.

“I’m not the victim of the occupation,” Ahed said. “The Jew or the settler child who carries a rifle at the age of 15, they are the victims of the occupation. For me, I am capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. But not him. His view is clouded. His heart is filled with hatred and scorn against the Palestinians. He is the victim, not me. I always say I am a freedom fighter. So I will not be the victim.”

Thursday, August 16, 2018

RED FLAG: Apartheid becomes official in Israel

Dear friends,
please find below my article for Red Flag on Israel's new "nation-state" law.

In solidarity,


REDFLAG // 28 JULY 2018

The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has enshrined decades of apartheid policy, voting 62-55 for the Jewish Nation State Bill. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gloated that it was “a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the annals of the state of Israel”. 
He is not wrong. The lie peddled by Zionists and their supporters that Israel is a model of democracy rather than a discriminatory, racist oppressor state has been exposed once and for all. 
The bill codifies within Israel’s Basic Laws (the country’s de facto constitution) that Israel is the “national home of the Jewish people” and that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” – denying Palestinians and other non-Jews such a right. 
It strips Arabic of its former status as an officially recognised language of the state, and declares Jerusalem – in violation of international law – the capital of Israel. It also legalises segregated Jewish-only communities and townships. “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation”, it reads. 
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has used both legal discrimination and military force to ethnically cleanse and oppress the indigenous Palestinian population, imposing an apartheid system inside both the Zionist state and the Palestinian territories seized in 1967. 
Adalah: the Centre for the Arab Minority in Israel notes 65 discriminatory laws in Israel, which ensure the second class status of 1.8 million Palestinians and other non-Jewish citizens. The laws cover such things as land ownership, employment, housing, education, culture, marriage and citizenship. 
The Jewish Nation State law does more than simply reaffirm discrimination. It enshrines discrimination as a “constitutional value” – allowing Israel to continue and extend its oppression of Palestinians. According to Adalah, the new law will entrench “the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimising exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality”.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Avi Dichter, originally introduced it in 2011. After its passing, Dichter – an anti-Arab racist and former head of Israel’s secret police responsible for Shin Bet’s program of extrajudicial murders – clarified its purpose: “We are enshrining this important bill into a law today to prevent even the slightest thought, let alone attempt, to transform Israel to a country of all its citizen[s]”. 
Dichter’s declaration cuts to the heart of Zionism since its inception: the so-called Palestinian demographic threat. An inherently racist and dehumanising concept, it considers the growth of the Palestinian population as a “ticking time bomb” and existential threat to the Zionist state. 
Prior to the establishment of Israel, the primary concern of Zionism was to gain control of the Palestinian homeland, while ensuring that the smallest number of Palestinian Arabs (who made up the overwhelmingly majority of the population) remained. 
After creating a Jewish majority by ethnically cleansing more than 500 villages and forcing more than 750,000 Palestinians into exile in 1948, the Zionist state’s primary concern shifted to the repression of the 150,000 Palestinians left inside the newly formed state and ensuring that they remained an ethnic minority with no national rights. 
In 1967, Israel extended its regime of oppression and repression to another 1.5 to 2 million Palestinians when it illegally occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Today, the Palestinian population inside Israel, occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza is about the same as the number of Jewish citizens of Israel. 
Because it is an expansionist settler-colonial state, this presents a “demographic dilemma” not only inside Israel. There is a long-held Zionist aspiration to annex the territories seized in 1967 – an aspiration reiterated by the central committee of Netanyahu’s Likud Party on the last day of 2017. In a unanimous vote, the committee called for annexation of the West Bank and for the Likud leadership to work toward “unhindered construction” of settlements and the extension of “Israeli law and sovereignty”.
Netanyahu is emboldened by the ascension of Donald Trump, whose brand of anti-Muslim ethno-nationalism entirely fits with Likud’s hard right Zionist desire to be rid of the “Palestinian problem”.  
Israel has for decades created “facts on the ground” in illegal colonies in the West Bank. But the formal annexation of Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 would mean the Zionist state would have to contend with a Palestinian demand for full equality. 
The Jewish Nation State law therefore has been passed not only to prevent the creation of a bi-national state, enshrining apartheid within Israel. It has been passed also with an eye to ensuring that any expanded Israeli state will privilege the rights of Jewish citizens above those of any Palestinians and other non-Jews.