News last week featured the story of Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, and her cousin who confronted two Israeli soldiers raiding her home. Another cousin of hers had recently been shot in the head with a rubber bullet, leaving him in a coma. She was detained that night in a raid by Israeli forces and brought to the Binyamin detention center. Her mother, who went to the jail to see her daughter, was arrested as well.
Yesterday, the detention of the mother and daughter, with their cousin Naji, was extended for a third time.
Ahed is still yet to be charged with a crime. This teenage girl has not been allowed a change of clothes since her arrest a week ago. Since then, she has been transferred to several prisons with her hands and feet in shackles.
Ahed's resistance against Israeli soldiers, who are symbols of the occupation of her homeland, and subsequent persecution has attracted significant attention on social media. Many were angry about the way the teenage girl was treated by Israel. It became a cause célèbre, and that is why Twitter's decision, without any explanation, to remove her account the other day, infuriated so many.
Social media, as usual, featured people's humanity and inhumanity. While many criticized the Israeli conduct, there were many Israeli tweets calling for the mother and daughter to be placed in the "darkest cell" and "be raped."
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennet called for Ahed's imprisonment for life.
Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador, criticized the Tamimi family for not dressing up as stereotypical Palestinians, accusing them of purposefully wearing American clothes.
Ahed's father said the family was attracting a lot of criticism for not conforming to the norms, with Ahed being blond and not wearing a headscarf. We know that Westerners can empathize with victims of persecution only if they look like themselves, but still, Ahed's case seemed to be outside the pattern.
Ahed did not become blond or a protester on purpose. She was born into an illegal military occupation and resisting is the only thing she has known to do all her life. She does not abide by our clichéd norms of a victim. She is obviously a self-confident young girl who knows right from wrong. I wonder what feminists think about Ahed's defiant struggle?
In her article in Al-Jazeera, Shenila Khoja-Moolji tackles this important issue. "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."
She naturally asks whether Ahed will find a place in campaigns in the West like #GirlUp, #GirlRising, #G(irls)20Summit in the West.
Ahed's unusual appearance belies her natural instinct to resist the occupation. What she does and suffers in her youth is a selfless embodiment of women's empowerment and makes plain the obvious racism that governs Western perception of victim identification and discrimination in legitimate causes. Victims do not always recoil in fear. Sometimes they rise up and strike against the oppressor.
The Western narrative of the case centers on the virtue of the two fully armed Israeli soldiers who did not react to the two teenage girls slapping them. They seemed to be blind to the courage on display by the two young girls who have known nothing but oppressive occupation all their lives. The West, in its praise of the Israeli soldiers' conduct, forgot to ask why the soldiers were there in the first place.
An article that in The New York Times, described the affair from both sides, trying to dismiss the core of the matter. It was careful to avoid any reference to Israel's occupation, giving the impression that there were two equal sides to this story.
The article even made the spurious claim: "That her family appears to encourage the children's risky confrontations with soldiers offends some Palestinians and enrages many Israelis," ignoring tens of thousands of supporters of the Tamimi family around the world on social media. And worse, it tries to portray the Israeli soldiers as the victims.
Ahed was resisting a brutal occupation. She stood up to and prevented an Israeli soldier from invading her home. She is now detained for this. She is among the many children who are detained for resisting the occupation. Some 300 Palestinian children have been detained since U.S. President Donal Trump's irrational decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Fawzi al-Juneidi, the 14-year-old Palestinian boy led away by 20 soldiers, was released only yesterday. He said his shoulder was broken because of the torture he suffered in detention. Many children are put in a cage in front of prisons before interrogation.
According to Addameer, a group that works for Palestinian children, many of the detained teenagers are bruised and scared and sleep deprivation is a common means to force them to talk. Most were transferred from the West Bank, where they were detained, to Israel, in violation of international law. Israel wants to give the impression that the rule of law governs the way it treats Palestinian children, but nowhere in the world are children treated this way.
The day-to-day reality is life under suffocating occupation led by Palestinian children like Ahed. Her blonde hair and American-style clothes cannot and should not blind us to the moral courage she and many like her personify.