NEW YORK – Twenty-seven American cultural figures signed a petition Monday calling for the release of Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi, who was jailed by Israel in December after she was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier.
Actors Danny Glover and Rosario Dawson, novelist Alice Walker, famed activist Angela Davis and philosopher Cornel West are among those who signed the petition, in which Tamimi’s fate is compared to the children of immigrants and communities of color who face police brutality in the United States.
The petition explicitly compares Tamimi to Trayvon Martin, the African-American teenager who was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012. The document states that U.S. immigration authorities, police, border patrol and FBI agents train with Israeli counterparts and use “similar repressive profiling tactics to target and harass our communities.”
“Too many of our children quickly learn that they may be imprisoned or killed simply for who they are,” the petition states. “From Trayvon Martin to Mohammed Abu Khdeir and Khalif Browder to Ahed Tamimi – racism, state violence and mass incarceration have robbed our people of their childhoods and their futures.”
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The petition is organized by Dream Defenders, a group that, according to the New York Times, was formed following Martin’s death in 2012 to fight for social change. After George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of the teen, a group of young members of the Dream Defenders, college and high school students, camped for weeks in the office of Florida’s governor in protest.
According to Dream Defenders, a delegation traveled to the West Bank last year and met with the Tamimi family in the village of Nabih Saleh. Ahed is not the only member of the Tamimi family who was arrested in December. Her father, Bassem, as well as her mother and cousin were detained and charged with assaulting soldiers. After the video of the incident went viral, the youngest Tamimi became a Palestinian cultural hero.
Dream Defenders sees the petition, which features prominent figures from the civil rights movement as well as African-American hip hop artists and football stars, as a continuation of a “long history of Black-Palestinian solidarity and struggle to end occupation, apartheid, police brutality, and mass incarceration.”
Some of the American intellectuals to sign the petition have been longtime critics of the occupation. In an interview with Haaretz last year, Cornel West wondered whether the occupation is “devouring the very democratic soul of Israel,” and expressed his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as the “only non-violent response I can see to the very ugly occupation.”
West added that he considers “Israelis my brothers and sisters, whether they are Jewish or Arab, just as I consider Palestinians, who are wrestling with the Israeli occupation.”