Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian heroine or dedicated trouble-maker?

Ahed Tamimi is instantly recognizable. The fiery haired Palestinian girl can be seen in several viral videos and phot...

Posted: Jan 5, 2018 4:15 PM
Updated: Jan 5, 2018 4:15 PM

Ahed Tamimi is instantly recognizable. The fiery haired Palestinian girl can be seen in several viral videos and photographs confronting Israeli soldiers near her West Bank home of Nabi Saleh.

The latest shows the 16-year-old punching a heavily-armed Israeli soldier on her family's property last December. Tamimi can be heard yelling, "get out or I'll punch you!" The soldier pushes her away.

The clip has captured imaginations and divided assessments in the region and further afield - the court of public opinion trying the case, as it always does, on the internet.

For supporters, the video showed an inspirational heroine and an international symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israel's occupation. By contrast, many Israelis focused on the behavior of the soldiers. Some praised them for showing restraint; others said they had showed weakness, with the video itself dismissed as a PR stunt.

Ahed has been called "Shirley Temper" because of her long ginger curls, and has been accused of starring in carefully choreographed "Pallywood" videos, a dismissive characterization of protests considered staged for the camera.

Israeli Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, said authorities should lock her up and throw away the key. Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the soldier's restraint, but added a warning to anyone who'd attack the army.

"Whoever goes wild during the day, will be arrested at night," he told reporters. "Not only the girls and the parents but others around will not escape punishment."

A few days later, Israeli forces raided the Tamimi's house in the early morning and arrested Ahed. The army filmed the arrest and released a video of it on the Internet. Ahed's mother and cousin were also later taken into custody. An outcry over her detention quickly grew.

A mural of the teenager sprung up in Gaza. Further up the coast, in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, graffiti in Hebrew read, "Ahed Tamimi is a hero" and "Ahed Tamimi, we love you." Two thousand miles away in London, bus stops started showing posters with a stylized image from the video, along with the message, "Free Ahed Tamimi."

At its heart, the image is simple and striking: a teenage girl standing up to the much larger soldier. A post in the online Jewish magazine, +972, compared it to David and Goliath, with Israel representing Goliath.

Critics charge that is exactly what you are supposed to see.

They point out the Tamimi family is known for its activism, regularly leading Friday demonstrations against Israeli soldiers and the occupation in their village. The demonstrations often turn into clashes with Israeli forces. Events are filmed and then disseminated on social media making Ahed and her family online celebrities.

To be sure, Ahed has been feted for several years. Her introduction to the world stage came in 2012 when a photograph of her with a clenched fist, staring down an Israeli soldier, went viral. Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted her in Turkey where she received an award for courage. Her star would continue to rise in 2015 when a video showed her biting and hitting a masked Israeli soldier who had grabbed her 12-year-old brother.

But her activism would come at a cost. Israel has now brought 12 charges against Ahed -- including aggravated assault against a soldier, incitement, obstructing a soldier in the performance of his duty, threatening a soldier, and throwing stones at troops.

Nariman Tamimi -- Ahed's mother -- also faces charges of incitement.

Ahed's lawyer, Gabi Laski, says the case has been blown out of proportion. The military court "exaggerated the indictment by looking into, and judging her on, incidents that happened in previous years," Laski told CNN. "This doesn't show the other side. [It is] as if her behavior took place in [a] sterile environment without taking into consideration the occupation."

Marwan Barghouti, a high-profile prisoner who enjoys considerable support among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, also commented on Ahed Tamimi's situation in a letter posted on Facebook by his wife.

"My pain was not confined to the child Tamimi, who is being held in Israeli jails, but to all her generation, who are considered the most courageous generation among the Palestinians, who offer a model of sacrifice and redemption," Barghouti's letter said.

If convicted, Ahed could face years in prison. Prominent Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti says her detention will not be in vain.

"Ahed Tamimi exemplifies the spirit of non-violent resistance that is growing in the Palestinian territories because of the occupation," Mustafa Barghouti told CNN. "If they put her in jail for a long time, it'll destroy her childhood but it will send a very powerful message to Palestinians and hurt Israel's image internationally."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
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Scott315373
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Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530988

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765291522
Mobile40971804
Madison34751503
Tuscaloosa25775452
Montgomery24329589
Shelby23431249
Baldwin21131308
Lee15884171
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Limestone9960151
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Dale4831111
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Chilton4290112
Franklin425782
Covington4121118
Tallapoosa4027152
Escambia393376
Chambers3563123
Dallas3551151
Clarke351061
Marion3118101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274472
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Geneva249977
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Washington167339
Macon159150
Clay156256
Crenshaw152257
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Lowndes138853
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