Sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi may not be what Israelis had in mind when, over many years, they criticised Palestinians for not producing a Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.
Eventually, colonised peoples bring to the fore a figure best suited to challenge the rotten values at the core of the society oppressing them. Ahed is well qualified for the task.
She was charged last week with assault and incitement after she slapped two heavily armed Israeli soldiers as they refused to leave the courtyard of her family home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. Her mother, Nariman, is in detention for filming the incident. The video quickly went viral.
Western commentators have largely denied Ahed the kind of effusive support offered to democracy protesters in places such as China and Iran. Nevertheless, this Palestinian schoolgirl – possibly facing a long jail term for defying her oppressors – has quickly become a social media icon.
While Ahed might have been previously unknown to most Israelis, she is a familiar face to Palestinians and campaigners around the world.
For years, she and other villagers have held a weekly confrontation with the Israeli army as it enforces the rule of Jewish settlers over Nabi Saleh. These settlers have forcibly taken over the village’s lands and ancient spring, a vital water source for a community that depends on farming.
Distinctive for her irrepressible blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, Ahed has been filmed regularly since she was a small girl confronting soldiers who tower above her. Such scenes inspired one veteran Israeli peace activist to anoint her Palestine’s Joan of Arc.
But few Israelis are so enamoured.
Not only does she defy Israeli stereotypes of a Palestinian, she has struck a blow against the self-deception of a highly militarised and masculine culture.
She has also given troubling form to the until-now anonymised Palestinian children Israel accuses of stone-throwing.
Palestinian villages like Nabi Saleh are regularly invaded by soldiers. Children are dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, as happened to Ahed during her arrest last month in retaliation for her slaps. Human rights groups document how children are routinely beaten and tortured in detention.
Many hundreds pass through Israeli jails each year charged with throwing stones. With conviction rates in Israeli military courts of more than 99 per cent, the guilt and incarceration of such children is a foregone conclusion.
They may be the lucky ones. Over the past 16 years, Israel’s army has killed on average 11 children a month.
The video of Ahed, screened repeatedly on Israeli TV, has threatened to upturn Israel’s self-image as David fighting an Arab Goliath. This explains the toxic outrage and indignation that has gripped Israel since the video aired.…
No one wants to believe “their” government or “their” country is responsible for toxic evil. The USA is a case in point. The need for self deception regarding one’s own perceived identity as a free citizen of a free country is the glue that holds empires together, and is probably the most useful tool of the psychopaths.
Corporations are not people. Governments are not people. Political parties are not people. Ricky Ricardo’s wife in the “I Love Lucy” TV show was not a person. She was a carefully constructed persona. But reality is not a TV show, and emergent self-organized social and economic systems are not moral agents with a conscience. Such beliefs are mind control, carefully cultivated and easy abstractions and metaphors which fall far short of an accurate description of reality. Beware of your own identity when it depends on entities outside your body.
Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. — Voltaire