There is, sadly, nothing unusual in Ahed Al Tamimi's story. Like most Palestinian children, the 16-year-old has grown up witnessing unbearable tragedies, inflicted by the illegal occupation of her homeland, that weigh particularly heavily on young shoulders. At 12, her mother's cousin was killed while protesting. At 13, she witnessed her uncle being killed by Israeli soldiers. And last Friday, her 14-year-old cousin Mohammed was shot in the face by an Israeli soldier. Ahed's refusal to be subdued has turned her into an icon of Palestinian resistance – and an object of Israeli vitriol and hatred. In apparent retaliation for a viral video in which she was filmed slapping armed Israeli soldiers during a protest against the occupation, her home was raided a week ago and the teenager was taken into custody. Her mother and cousin were arrested a few days later.
On Sunday, she was hauled before a military court, which extended her detention and refused to grant her bail. Detaining her has become, in the words of Israel's culture minister, a public statement to salvage "the honour of the military and the state of Israel". Ahed, whose West Bank village of Nabi Saleh has been defending attempts by settlers to take control of their natural spring, has been charged with "incitement and harming the security of the area". If anyone is guilty of these charges, it is the state of Israel. It is the Israeli occupation that is provoking and inciting violence and it is Israel that has harmed, and is harming, the security of the area with its aggression.
There is no symmetry of power between the Palestinians and their Israeli controllers; the former are overwhelmingly characterised by bravery such as Ahed's in the face of a brutal occupation while the latter have become so addicted to violence that they refuse to spare even children. There are at least 300 underage detainees currently being held in Israeli prisons, a despicable state of affairs, even for a military aggressor. Yet Israel's education minister Naftali Bennett is probably not alone in believing that Ahed "should spend her life in prison". Tellingly, the right-wing Israeli singer Yoav Eliasi told his fans that Ahed has "castrated" the Israeli army. It says much about a nation that its defence force, which it boasts is the best in the world, can be brought to its knees by a 16-year-old girl.
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