Snapshot: Will They Shoot Girls, Too?

The unequivocal and the ambivalent: Is it moral for children to take part in their parents’ national struggle?

Tal Niv
Tal Niv
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Detail from a video showing the Tamimi family fighting to release their son Mohammed from a soldier’s grip at the weekly demonstration in the village of Nabi Saleh, August 28 2015.
Detail from a video showing the Tamimi family fighting to release their son Mohammed from a soldier’s grip at the weekly demonstration in the village of Nabi Saleh, August 28 2015. Credit: AP
Tal Niv
Tal Niv

1. Her brother Mohammed, who was thrust down on the rock – like Isaac in the Bible – does not appear in this detail from the whole video frame. Only the brambles of the field behind, the porous rocks, the symmetrical face of Ahed Tamimi stretched between her eyebrows, her mouth a bit slanted. The hand lies on her windpipe. The video of the event is by now familiar, including the ripping of the mask from the face of the Israel Defense Forces soldier who was sent to arrest 12-year-old Mohammed during the weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh last Friday. But looking at the detail – her arched back, the soldier’s hand touching her collarbone – reminds me that violence, friction, resistance, courage, self-defense, daring are all imprinted in the body’s memory.

Something happens in the psyche of a girl who feels that hand on her neck. That’s obvious. But here, her thick blond braid, combed to one side, is lying on her arm. The soldier’s hand is under her triangular chin. And above the blue eye on her T-shirt, which everywhere else is worn as an ageless hipster gesture and here as a mark of age, is a Tweety print. Global attire. “Western.” Her other braid is plaited on the side of her head – Russian style, like adolescent girls. The black strap across her chest is part of a gas mask.

Should Ahed Tamimi, 14, be fighting soldiers? Maybe not. The important opinion on the subject is that of her parents. Should a child walk across the desert from Eritrea to a better place? Should a Syrian child have to pass through a wretched camp in Calais in his attempt to reach Britain? It’s a flight from disaster. But children live in their parents’ world. Here, the soldiers came to her home – not she to theirs. Whether she should or shouldn’t, not every girl her age sees soldiers armed to the teeth, patrolling around her village every day in order to guard land that was given to settlers. Ahed Tamimi also sees her family resisting. Not just submissive; not just bending. She herself also gets battered, here on the rock, as her family rescues her brother from the soldier.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev thinks every IDF soldier can execute without trial any person – adult or child, armed or unarmed. Contrary to all the rules of engagement. To every criterion. Regev doesn’t care about children, certainly not Ahed Tamimi, who is an extraordinary girl – and not only because she takes part with her mother Nariman, father Bassem and her brother and the rest of the family in the weekly demonstrations they initiated in Nabi Saleh against the expropriation of land for the adjacent Halamish settlement and the occupation. Not only because she is a girl who acts from a different viewpoint. But because she is a girl who speaks out.

2. Minister Regev wants it to be possible to shoot Ahed Tamimi – seen here with the hand of the soldier lying on her neck in a disabling technique, before she bit him. The biting was filmed, too. But Regev wants it to be possible to shoot her immediately, because she’s “touching” the soldier. Because she and her mother and her family “dared” jump on the soldier who was holding Mohammed in a viselike grip. In any case, according to the minister’s logic, everyone – soldier, settler, “Jew,” too – can do whatever he wants to Ahed and her family. Inherently.

Ahed Tamimi confronts soldiers. Always. She’s not the only Palestinian girl who does that, but she stands out because her nuclear family is leading the struggle. Arrested, distanced, beaten, tried, not tried and held, sprayed with gas, shot, dying ... they continue to resist. And they publicize their behavior, film it, give interviews, send emails, are in contact with the whole world, explain – operating with tools which, in Regev’s mind, only Jews are permitted to know how to use.

In view of the blow, the sun, the sweat, the memory of the blows, the thoughts about the way the body always remembers contact, I think: Why do we think we know exactly what this body contact is doing to her? Whoever sent the soldier to arrest a young boy with a cast on his arm – what did he expect? That the boy would raise his arms in surrender? Cry? That his parents would be paralyzed with fear? That he wouldn’t be filmed? “It cannot be that our soldiers will be sent on missions with their hands tied behind their backs. It’s simply a disgrace,” Regev wrote on her Facebook page. “Everyone who tries to harm Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers has to know that his blood is on his own head We must immediately order that a soldier under attack be able to return fire. Period.” Really, Miri Regev, really? Period?

3. Ahed Tamimi also stands out in Nabi Saleh because of her considerable beauty. Her beauty in a Tweety T-shirt makes the demand to shoot her difficult. And also because she’s a girl and not a boy, and because ever since she raised her fist at a soldier in late 2012, after her mother was arrested, the question has been asked whether it’s right, possible, moral, permitted for children to take part in their parents’ national struggle. The answer is not clear-cut. What is unequivocal is that Regev wants it to be possible to kill her.

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