Illustration by Katie Miranda
A little over four years ago, I drove to the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh to spend a day with a 12-year-old girl. Her name was Ahed Tamimi, and I was interviewing her for a magazine article, Children of the Occupation: Growing up in Palestine.
We talked about her life in the village, the constant presence of soldiers, the demolition order on her home, mermaids, football and hopscotch. She was elfin, with an uneasy mix of worldliness and naivety. Of the many children I met in the West Bank and Gaza over almost four years of covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the Guardian, I found Ahed one of the most disturbing.
By then, she was well known in pro-Palestinian circles. In 2012 a video showing her angrily confronting an Israeli soldier had gone viral; Ahed was feted. Now, another video of her slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier has led to her being charged with assaulting security forces, incitement and throwing stones. The teenager is in custody awaiting trial.
The video and the charges have polarised opinion. To many pro-Palestinian activists, Ahed is a symbol of resistance, a child hero, a freedom fighter. Comparisons have been drawn to Malala Yousafzai and Joan of Arc. She has been lionised on social media, and publicly praised by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. On the Israeli side, some have said she is a puppet of political parents, she has been, schooled in violence, and that she deserves stiff punishment.
As usual, it is a little more complicated. Ahed is a member of the second generation of Palestinians to grow up under occupation. Her father, Bassem, was born in 1967 – the year Israel seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights in the six-day war. He and his children have known only a life of checkpoints, identity papers, detentions, house demolitions, intimidation, humiliation and violence. This is their normality.
Read the full article at The Guardian
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