Feminist silence over Ahed Tamimi exposes the racist consensus at the heart of western feminism
Feminist silence over Ahed Tamimi exposes the racist consensus at the heart of western feminism
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Show trial and
gaol looms for 16 year old Palestinian girl for defending herself
In the 10+ years that this blog has existed I’ve posted over 2,200 different stories. This post has recorded the highest number of hits. Some 70000 and rising. Don’t ask me why!
Consider this – a 16
year old girl, Ahed Tamimi, whose 14 year old cousin Mohammed has just been
shot in the head by an Israeli soldier, challenges two Israeli soldiers who
invade the grounds of her home. After
being assaulted by one of them she slaps them back and is immediately demonised
in the Israeli press for attacking an armed goon. Israel’s press doesn’t even mention the fact
that her cousin was nearly killed nor the fact that she was assaulted first.
Ahed Tamimi surrounded by 4 burly prison guards
At 4 am the following morning Ahed is seized from her bed by armed Israeli
soldiers and taken to an unknown destination.
On the way she is almost certainly assaulted since abuse
and torture of Palestinian children is routine. She is denied food, sleep and verbally and
physically abused by Israel’s heroes. She
is put in a cold cell and when she comes to her remand hearing she is looking
dazed and suffering from sleep deprivation.
The hearing is conducted in Hebrew and the translator, who is piss poor,
walks out in the middle. Her father is
obstructed from even seeing her by 3 military officials. Because she is a Palestinian child she is
tried in a military court that has a 99.74% conviction rate.
It goes without saying that a Jewish child of her age would not even
appear in a military court and nor would they be imprisoned.. A Jewish child would have immediate access to
a lawyer and their parent. A Jewish child
would never be put into a damp dark cell (apparently orders were given that Ahed
should be placed in the ‘darkest’ cell available.
Labour’s Zionist Shadow Secretary Emily Thornberry is a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel – she has kept quiet about Israel’s child abuse but voluble about the ‘right’ of a racist state of exist
And what is the reaction of Western feminists? The Jess Phillips and Harriet Harmans and all
those Labour Party feminist clones who are so hot about abuse on social media? Where is the voice of Labour’s Shadow Foreign
Secretary Emily Thornberry who believes that those opposing the right of a
racist Israeli state to exist should be expelled? Nothing, absolute silence, because of course
Ahed Tamimi is one of them, the other.
Thus western feminism buys into a racist Orientalist discourse.
Ben Caspit, Ma’ariv journalist, makes thinly veiled rape threats
the reaction of one, well known, ‘liberal’ Israeli, a journalist Ben Caspit from
Israel’s Ma’ariv. He shared the outrage of his Israeli audience,
women included, about the affront to national pride. Caspit wrote that:
“In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”
There is only one way to
interpret this, call to ‘exact a price…
in the dark without witnesses and cameras.’ It is a call to rape and sexually abuse
Ahed. Yet still the silence of the
Jasmine Beckett’s and Labour’s right-wing feminists is inaudible. The call to use rape in Israel’s military and
Orthodox echelons is common.
Michael Oren MK is a Zionist ‘moderate’
Or consider this comment from Michael Oren, a member of Israel’s Knesset and
a member of the governing coalition, as well as former Israeli Ambassador to
the United States. He is a ‘moderate’, a
member of the ‘centrist’ Israeli party Kulanu.
Centrism in Israel however means somewhere to the right of UKIP in
‘The Tamimi family – which may not be a real family –
dresses up kids in American clothes and pays them to provoke IDF troops on
Usually Israeli politicians like the Defence Minister Eli Dahan are more
straightforward. In a radio interview he observed
that ‘To me, they [Palestinians] are like animals,
they aren’t human.” Before going on to enlighten his interviewer
about the nature of the human soul, being a Rabbi, that “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a
What Oren was saying
was two things. Firstly Palestinians,
because they are not human beings don’t have families like we do. They also don’t
have feelings but react like animals.
Secondly that being a Muslim, Ahed should have been in a chador or
burka, veiled like her mother not dressed in the clothes of a western
teenager. Her appearance is therefore a
trick, designed to deceive westerners and because she is white, this is further
proof that they are not the same family. The racism oozes out of these people like
dirty oil and yet, despite these attacks on a symbol of a woman standing up to Israel’s
colonialist military and despite the petition below attracting 200,000
signatures, no prominent feminist or feminist group has raised their voice
against the forces of Zionism because in Israel there is a consensus, including
amongst women, that Ahed should be punished for her ‘crimes’.
has been a curious lack of support for Ahed from Western feminist groups and
human rights advocates’
Harry’s Place and the racist Sarah Brown
Consider the pro-war site Harry’s Place, which is widely quoted by the
media, including the Labour Right. In an
article Ahed Tamimi and Ben Caspit their ‘liberal’ Zionist moderator Sarah Brown, who likes to present herself as reasonable
and not a frothing at the mouth Zionist first quotes the
viciously racist Miri Regev as saying that ‘‘When I watched that, I felt humiliated.’
Regev, Israel’s ‘Culture’
Minister (culture as in Goebbels) is one of the true Judeo Nazi members of the
Israeli Cabinet. She likened
the Black African refugees in South Tel Aviv, who are now facing deportation to ‘cancer’ and when people protested
apologised to cancer victims for comparing them with refugees! Indeed in her
viciously racist speech to a demonstration in South Tel Aviv Regev single
handedly provoked a pogrom and physical assaults against these refugees from
Eritrea and Sudan mainly.
In other words Regev is
the Katie Hopkins of Israeli politics except that, even the Daily Mail
eventually sacked Hopkins, whereas Miri Regev was promoted to Israel’s cabinet. What is Ms Brown’s reaction? Feminist solidarity with a 16 year old woman, who is still a child? Outrage at the suggestion by Ben Caspit that she should have something horrible happen to her in a ‘dark place’? No apologetics throughout for her favourite racist regime.
Sarah AB also mentioned
that ‘others praisedthe soldiers’ restraint’ quoting Avi Buskila, Chairman of Peace Now as saying that “The soldiers
acted heroically, exactly how is expected from them.”
Peace Now, for those
who don’t know, is an Israeli Labour Party front organisation, which 35 years ago organised a demonstration of 400,000 in the wake of the Sabra and Chatilla massacres. Today it is a shadowand an apologist for Israeli colonisation. In other
words this racist discourse was framed entirely from the standpoint of the
racists and colonialists. None of it
from the eyes of Ahed.
Of course Sarah AB is a
Zionist feminist and one can expect little better from racists like her but she
is indicative of a wider phenomenon amongst western feminists. Israel is still seen as an island of women’s
liberation in the medieval Middle East rather than an imperialist force which,
together with the United States, helps preserve the most reactionary and
backward regimes and social relations in the area – from Saudi Arabia to Egypt
and Iran. Again this is the Orientalist discourse.
There is a petition for
Ahed. We want to obtain at least ¼ million
signatures though really it should be ten times this amount. So please share this on social media and
demonstrate some real solidarity with Ahed Tamimi and all the Palestinians, men
and women, that she represents. The case
of Ahed is indicative because it demonstrates that womens liberation is not a
western phenomenon based around sexuality, gender and lifestyle but it is bound
up with the liberation of humanity from racism and imperialism and the violence
it engenders. Womens liberation is not
separate from human liberation and the forces of exploitation and is not based
in academic ivory towers and interesting dissertations.
895 had signed at the time of posting. The aim is to get 250,000 signatures.
demand that Ahed and all Palestinian children are released from Israeli prisons
Ahed with her mother and father
international community must put an end to the ill-treatment and detention of
Palestinian children. Enough is enough.
Ahed and all the children in Israeli jails: We stand by your side, and are
holding you in our hearts. We will not give up until you are free. You are not
Tamimi was dragged out of her bed in the night and arrested.
is a child, and like thousands of Palestinian children she could be humiliated
and abused if we don’t get her out fast.
been on the frontline defending Palestine since she was 7 years old. Now Ahed
needs us to stand up for her.
your name to free Ahed and all child prisoners, it will be delivered to leaders worldwide and to
Ahed’s lawyer, to give to Ahed in prison to give her strength as she faces the
Israeli military’s terrifying interrogation tactics.
Palestinian activist Ahed with her mother Nariman. Photo by Al Jazeera
By Shenila Khoja-Moolji, Al Jazeera December 28, 2017
Ahed Tamimi, a
16-year-old Palestinian girl, was recently arrested in a night-time raid on her
home. The Israeli authorities accuse her of “assaulting” an Israeli soldier and
an officer. A day earlier she had confronted Israeli soldiers who had entered
her family’s backyard. The incident happened shortly after a soldier shot her
14-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet, and fired tear-gas
canisters directly at their home, breaking windows.
Her mother and cousin
were arrested later as well. All three remain in detention.
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.
Ahed, like Malala,
has a substantial history of standing up against injustices.
Their campaigns on
empowering girls in the global South are innumerable: Girl Up, Girl Rising,
G(irls)20 Summit, Because I am a Girl, Let Girls Learn, Girl Declaration.
Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of
Tehrik-e-Taliban, the reaction was starkly different. Gordon Brown, the former
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, issued a petition entitled “I am Malala.”
The UNESCO launched “Stand Up For Malala.”
Malala was invited to
meet then President Barack Obama, as well as the then UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon, and addressed the UN General Assembly. She received numerous accolades
from being named one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine and
Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine to being nominated for the Nobel Peace
Prize in 2013, and again in 2014 when she won.
such as Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard as well as prominent journalists such
as Nicholas Kristof spoke up in support of her. There is even a Malala Day!
But we see no
#IamAhed or #StandUpForAhed campaigns making headlines. None of the usual
feminist and rights groups or political figures has issued statements
supporting her or reprimanding the Israeli state. No one has declared an Ahed
Day. In fact, the US in the past has even denied her a visa for a speaking
Ahed, like Malala,
has a substantial history of standing up against injustices. She has been
protesting the theft of land and water by Israeli settlers. She has endured
personal sacrifice, having lost an uncle and a cousin to the occupation. Her
parents and brother have been arrested time and again. Her mother has been shot
in the leg. Two years ago, another video featuring her went viral – this time
she was trying to protect her little brother from being taken by a soldier.
Why isn’t Ahed a
beneficiary of the same international outcry as Malala? Why has the reaction to
Ahed been so different? There are multiple reasons for this deafening silence.
First among them is the widespread acceptance of state-sanctioned violence as
legitimate. Whereas hostile actions of non-state actors such as the Taliban or
Boko Haram fighters are viewed as unlawful, similar aggression by the state is
often deemed appropriate.
This not only
includes overt forms of violence such as drone attacks, unlawful arrests, and
police brutality, but also less obvious assaults such as the allocation of
resources, including land and water. The state justifies these actions by
presenting the victims of its injustices as a threat to the functioning of the
Once declared a
threat, the individual is easily reduced to bare life – a life without
political value. Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has described this as a
time/place sanctioned by sovereign power where laws can be suspended; this
individual can therefore now be made a target of sovereign violence. Terrorists
often fall within this category. Thus, the execution of suspected terrorists
through drone attacks without due judicial process ensues without much public
The Israeli police
have deployed a similar strategy here. They have argued for extendingAhed’s
detention because she “poses a danger” to soldiers (state representatives) and
could obstruct the functioning of the state (the investigation).
Palestinians like Ahed – who was simply exercising her right to protect her
family’s wellbeing with all the might of her 16-year-old hand – in the same
light as a terrorist is unfathomable. Such framings open the way for
authorising excessive torture – Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett,
for instance, wants Ahed and her family to “finish their lives in prison.”
Ahed’s suffering also
exposes the West’s selective humanitarianism, whereby only particular bodies
and causes are deemed worthy of intervention.
Ticktin argues that while the language of morality to alleviate bodily
suffering has become dominant in humanitarian agencies today, only particular
kinds of suffering bodies are read as worthy of this care.This includes the
exceptionally violated female body and the pathologically diseased body.
Such a notion of
suffering normalises labouring and exploited bodies: “these are not the
exception, but the rule, and hence are disqualified.”
unemployment, hunger, threat of violence, police brutality, and denigration of
cultures are thus often not considered deserving of humanitarian intervention.
Such forms of suffering are seen as necessary and even inevitable. Ahed,
therefore, does not fit the ideal victim-subject for transnational advocacy.
Relatedly, girls like
Ahed who critique settler colonialism and articulate visions of communal care
are not the empowered femininity that the West wants to valourise. She seeks
justice against oppression, rather than empowerment that benefits only herself.
Her feminism is
political, rather than one centred on commodities and sex. Her girl power
threatens to reveal the ugly face of settler-colonialism, and hence is marked
as “dangerous”. Her courage and fearlessness vividly render all that is wrong
with this occupation.
Ahed’s plight should
prompt us to interrogate our selective humanitarianism. Individuals who are
victims of state violence, whose activism unveils the viciousness of power, or
whose rights advocacy centres communal care, deserve to be included in our
vision of justice.
Even if we don’t
launch campaigns for Ahed, it is impossible for us to escape her call to
witness the mass debilitation, displacement and dispossession of her people. As
Nelson Mandela said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without
the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Ahed Tamimi and her parents Nariman
(also now arrested) and Bassem. Throughout their show trial in Ofer military
court, police officers stood in front of him so that he could not see them and
they could not see him. Photo byJaclynn
Ashly, Al Jazeera
West Bank – On a day when millions of people around the world spent time with
their families, laughing and exchanging gifts, Bassem Tamimi sat for hours in
an Israeli court anticipating the fate of his daughter, wife and niece.
For the second time
in less than a week, the Tamimi women’s detentions were extended for another
four days as the police prosecution continues an investigation into a case that
has attracted worldwide attention.
Bassem told Al
Jazeera that the court sessions, held in Israel’s Ofer detention centre in
Ramallah, went on for more than six hours on Monday.
“Ahed looked so
tired,” he said, referring to his jailed 16-year-old daughter, and expressed
worry concerning her treatment in Israeli jail.
officials stood in front of Bassem the entire court proceeding, blocking his
view of Ahed.
“I wasn’t even
allowed to see her,” he said. Bassem attempted to speak to his daughter, eager
to hear her familiar voice that could assure him she was continuing with the
strength the teenager is famous for.
However, “any time I
tried to speak to her, the Israeli officers would tell me to shut up and would
threaten to kick me out of the court”, he explained.
“They just want to
show us that Israel controls everything.”
Ahed was detained by
Israeli forces on Tuesday following a raid on the family’s home in the village
of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank during the pre-dawn hours.
Hours later, his wife
Nariman travelled to the Binyamin detention centre, where Ahed was being held,
to check on her condition and insist on being present while her daughter was
She too was arrested
upon arrival. Israeli authorities are accusing Nariman of “incitement” for
filming a video showing Ahed slapping and kicking two Israeli officials outside
cousin Nour, who studies journalism at Al Quds University, was also arrested
during a raid on her home the following morning.
An Israeli army
spokesperson previously told Al Jazeera that Ahed was suspected of “assaulting
a soldier and an IDF officer”.
Tear gas canisters
collected by residents of Nabi Saleh village [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]
The video went viral
and spurred an Israeli social-media campaign demanding the arrest of the teen,
who has been an icon for the village’s long-standing resistance since she was
Nour also appeared in
the video. Following the arrests, Israeli authorities summoned Bassem for
interrogations and questioned him for two hours about the video.
According to Bassem,
Ahed and Nour were attempting to push the soldiers away from their home in the
video after their 15-year-old cousin Mohammad was struck point-blank in the
face with a rubber bullet, which left him in a coma for 72 hours.
The Tamimi women have
not yet officially been charged with a crime.
According to Gabi
Laski, Ahed’s lawyer, the women are also being investigated for other incidents
unrelated to the recent video.
Laski said the teen
is being held in the first section of Israel’s HaSharon prison in Israel, which
holds child “security prisoners”.
No change of clothes
Nariman and Nour are
being held together at HaSharon in the third section designated for Palestinian
women prisoners, Laski said.
Ahed has not been
provided with a change of clothes since she was detained almost a week ago,
Laski told Al Jazeera.
Since her detention,
Ahed has also been transferred between several prisons in Israel.
According to Laski,
such Israeli policies are meant to “break your spirit”.
are typically handcuffed and have their feet shackled during prison transfers.
The trip between prisons is often uncomfortable and can result in serious
physical and emotional exhaustion.
transfers occur despite being a violation of international law, which prohibits
the transfer of Palestinians from the occupied territory into Israeli
percent of Palestinian child detainees are transferred into Israel from the
occupied territory, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
Addameer has reported
that many Palestinian children are interrogated while “sleep deprived and often
bruised and scared”, and called the process “coercive”.
‘Abuse and humiliation’
According to the
group, Palestinian children are often “shown, or made to sign, documentation
written in Hebrew”, despite most Palestinians in the occupied territory not
understanding the language.
Defence for Children International – Palestine noted
in a new report that out of 520 cases of Palestinian children being detained by
Israel between 2012 and 2016, 72 percent faced physical violence and 66 percent
experienced “verbal abuse and humiliation”.
Nour’s father Naji
told Al Jazeera that the threats his family has received from Israelis have
left him anxious and concerned about Nour’s safety in prison.
The idea of rape as a weapon of war is widely held among certain sections of Israel’s security establishment
According to Naji,
Israelis have demanded that the Tamimi women be held in the “darkest cell” of
Israel’s prisons and have expressed their hope that the women “get raped”.
“What if some
right-wing Israeli is working in the prison, and they actually follow through
with these threats?” he said.
In the early morning
hours on Monday, as the Tamimi families were resting before another long day at
an Israeli court, Israeli forces crept into the village once again and raided
Manal Tamimi, a
relative of the women, told Al Jazeera that Israeli forces broke into Naji’s
home and ransacked the place, before raiding two more homes in the village.
Izz al-Din and
Mutasim Tamimi, both 20 years old, were detained during the raid.
Both had previously
spent time in Israeli prison – between five to eight months, according to
Neither of the youths
was involved in the case that Ahed, Nariman, and Nour are being held for.
Manal said that for
the past two weeks, Israeli forces stationed at the checkpoint positioned at
the entrance of Nabi Saleh have been stopping the young residents of the
village and interrogating them for hours.
“This has nothing to
do with anyone breaking the law. This is just harassment and collective
punishment on the village,” she said.
telling Al Jazeera that the Tamimi women’s court proceedings are a form of
“Israel wants to show
the world that they have a trial, a court, and a legal system. They want people
to believe they have laws and a democracy,” Bassem said.
Bassem said that the
village did not see Israel’s courts as “legitimate”.
“It’s all fake. The
courts are just another component of the occupation. There’s no difference
between this court and an Israeli settlement,” he told Al Jazeera.
“They are targeting
us because we are Palestinian and we resist Israeli occupation and its
colonisation of Palestinian lands. They want to break Nabi Saleh.”
The video is striking
— no pun intended. A 16 year-old Palestinian girl in the West Bank village of
Nabi Saleh grapples with Israeli soldiers in full combat gear and armed to the
teeth. Despite the fact that she swats and kicks at them, the soldiers, likely
hardly older than their tormentor, show admirable restraint, doing nothing to
escalate the situation from a scuffle into something much worse.
more video emerged, this time of the IDF raiding Nabi Saleh in the middle of
the night to pull this same teenager, Ahed Tamimi, from her bed and arrest her.
Since then, her mother and a female cousin have also been arrested.
In Israel, and among
defenders of Israel, two questions dominate the debate: How could any
Palestinian have been permitted to abuse and humiliate the IDF in this manner?
And what can Israel do to ensure that it doesn’t happen again?
Israel’s Minister of
Education, Naftali Bennett and Defence Minister Avigdor Leiberman, both of whom
support pardoning an Israeli soldier who was caught on video killing a
Palestinian who no longer posed any threat, have ideas. Bennett called for Ahed
and those who joined her in the attack to be jailed for the rest of their
lives. Lieberman threatened ominously:
“Everyone involved, not only the girl but
also her parents and those around them, will not escape from what they
Knesset member Oren
Hazan, from the Likud party, suggested that the soldiers’ failure to react with
force was a mistake:
is a failed and dangerous policy. Next time it must end differently.”
Bezalel Smotrich, of the Jewish Home party, called on the IDF Chief of Staff
order that every encounter or friction between the enemy and our troops end
with a painful and decisive outcome.”
All of these reactions
gloss over the key question: How did Israeli soldiers come to be grappling with
this Palestinian teenager in the first place? Were they minding their own
business, taking care of the security of Israel or Israelis, when Ahed and her
relatives suddenly turned up to “provoke” them? Or rather, since the action in
the video takes place in the front yard of Ahed’s house, were the soldiers in
Nabi Saleh at the Tamimi residence to arrest someone, hunt for weapons or foil
a planned attack against Israel?
The answer to all of
these questions is: no. The reason IDF soldiers are regularly in Nabi Saleh,
and regularly haunt the Tamimi family — week after week, for nearly the past
decade — has nothing to do with the security of Israel.
It is because the
inhabitants of this village, in existence since long before the establishment
of the modern state of Israel, refuse to submit quietly to the Occupation. They
refuse to cease protesting against an authority that over time has taken their
lands and resources for the benefit of settlements, and has seen soldiers, year
after year, arrest, injure and kill village residents and especially Tamimi
family members as they engage in unarmed protest.
To be clear: this
isn’t just about Nabi Saleh. What is happening in this one village encapsulates
the ineluctable and self-defeating logic of Israeli occupation. According to
this logic, all Palestinian protest, including unarmed protest, is intolerable,
undermining the IDF’s absolute authority and its deterrence.
Consistent with this
logic, quashing Palestinian protest is a top priority of the IDF, not because
such protest threatens Israel’s security, but because occupation requires that
the Palestinians never forget who is in charge. In support of this logic,
Israel maintains laws in the West Bank that render virtually all Palestinian
protest illegal and permit Israel to impose heavy penalties on those who refuse
And as a consequence
of this logic, unarmed or non-violent protest — including by young Palestinians
like Ahed Tamimi — represents in many ways an even greater challenge to the IDF
than armed attacks; as one senior Israeli defence official admitted, “We don’t
do Gandhi very well.”
If Israel continues
to seek military solutions to quash Palestinian resistance to the occupation,
the results will be predictable and tragic. While Israeli leaders worry about
the political costs of videos showing soldiers abusing, or being abused by,
Palestinian children, Israelis as a whole will continue to pay the ever-growing
costs — moral, financial, social, security, and diplomatic — imposed on them by
governments that prioritize occupation over virtually all else and undermine
the humanity of the nation’s own sons and daughters by sending them on missions
the sole purpose of which is to humiliate, subjugate, and break the spirit of
fellow human beings.
And as the costs to
Palestinians continue to be measured in blood — deaths and injuries — and time
lost in Israeli jail, Palestinian grievances will only deepen, and the
determination to resist will only grow stronger. In short, Nabi Saleh and
villages like it are where Israel’s occupation logic hits a wall (no pun
intended): there is no military answer to Ahed Tamimi or others of her
generation, who see that they have no hope and no future under Israeli rule.
The only solution is an end to occupation.
Lara Friedman is the President of the Foundation
for Middle East Peace (www.fmep.org).
The government has to
start caring more about what the international community thinks and less about
extremists on the far right, which is why the detained 16-year-old Palestinian
girl should be released…….