Editorial

Israel Must Free Ahed Tamimi

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

Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, second right, appearing at a military court in Ofer Prison in the West Bank village of Betunia, December 20, 2017.
Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

Three females from the Palestinian Tamimi family are being held by Israel until at least Monday, by order of the Judea Military Court. Ahed Tamimi was arrested last week after video footage went viral showing her punching and kicking an Israel Defense Forces officer. Her mother, Nariman, was subsequently arrested on charges that she filmed the actions of her daughter and by doing so caused incitement; and Nour Tamimi is suspected of participating in the incident. All three should be released immediately and without charge.

This is a requirement for equality – after all, this is how the government acts with regard to extremist young settlers who sometimes act with greater violence, greater chutzpah and greater risk to IDF soldiers – and this is a requirement for common sense: Ahed Tamimi, 16, has become a popular hero among Palestinians and around the world. Each additional day she spends under arrest will strengthen her image and cause additional damage to Israel.

On the same day her cousin was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers, Ahed went out into the courtyard of her house with a relative and tried to drive out the officer and soldier who stood there – at first with words and shouting, and later with punches and kicks. The two soldiers demonstrated praiseworthy restraint and didnt respond to the attacks. The IDF won respect for the behavior of its soldiers, including an article in the New York Times that praised the soldiers restraint.

As usual, though, it is not the world that interests Israel, but what extremists at home will say. It seems Israel wants to fend off the criticism and scorn voiced in Israel for the restraint the soldiers demonstrated by coming down hard on the Tamimi family. To make it clear to these outraged Israelis that the exemplary restraint the soldiers exhibited is the exception to the attacks that usually characterize relations between the IDF and those resisting the occupation.

Israel will pay a heavy price for its aggression against this girl who resists the occupation, who acted with minimal violence toward the representatives of the army who invaded her home and had earlier critically wounded her cousin. Displaying sensitivity and understanding to these motives will earn Israel compliments, and justifiably so. Leaving Ahed Tamimi in jail for a long time will once again show the ugly face and violence of the Israeli occupation.

There is not and never has been a military occupation that did not arouse justified and understandable resistance from the occupied, and certainly not a 50-year-old occupation whose end is nowhere to be seen on the horizon. Within the framework of the known possibilities for resistance, Ahed Tamimi chose a less violent way.

Just as the IDF officer in the incident chose to forego his honor, and in fact earned great respect for the army, the military judicial system must also act this way too.

Tamimi and her relatives must be allowed to return home, and the IDF needs to recognize the value in moderation and to encourage its soldiers to act with the minimum required force – certainly against unarmed young girls.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel