Rallying for Ahed and Palestine

January 11, 2018

Gillian Russom and James Zeigler report on protests in support of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, her family and all Palestinian political prisoners.

SUPPORTERS OF justice for Palestine have organized events in in several cities to show their solidarity with Ahed Tamimi and her family--and to demand the release of the 16-year-old Palestinian activist arrested by Israeli soldiers.

After Tamimi's arrest and detention on December 19, an Israeli military court charged the teenager with at least 12 counts, including throwing stones, incitement and assaulting a soldier. The charges stem from a video of Ahed slapping and kicking two Israeli soldiers outside her home in Nabi Saleh. What's less talked about is that the soldier slapped the teenager first.

Five charges were also filed against her mother, Nariman, including using Facebook "to incite others to commit terrorist acts." Ahed's cousin Nour, who is also an anti-occupation activist, was indicted by the Israeli occupation military court in December.

Over the last week, protests demanding that the Israeli military free Ahed Tamimi and all Palestinian prisoners took place in Paris and London. In New York City, hundreds turned out at Grand Central Station on January 5.

Solidarity activists in Los Angeles rally for Palestinian political prisoner Ahed Tamimi
Solidarity activists in Los Angeles rally for Palestinian political prisoner Ahed Tamimi (Abby Mahmoud Zowidi | LA4Palestine)

IN LOS Angeles, several hundred protesters took part in a protest and speak-out at the Israeli Consulate on January 6, where Ahed's father called in to address the crowd.

Bassem Tamimi compared the struggle for Palestine to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa:

I'm calling to send our appreciation for what you are doing. The struggle for the Palestinian issue is a part of the struggle for humanity. We don't what to present ourselves as victims--we are freedom fighters. We are struggling for our humanity and for our rights.

Protesters demanded freedom and amnesty for Ahed Tamimi and the entire Tamimi family--and made it clear that her incarceration isn't an exception to the rule, but the standard, under Israel's occupation of the Palestinian people.

Several groups and individuals representing Palestinian rights participated in the speak-out, including Jewish Voice for Peace member and Middle East in Focus radio show producer and co-host Estee Chandler, and North American coordinator for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee Garik Ruiz.

Also in attendance were representatives from Peace Project, American Indian Movement, Black Lives Matter (BLM) Pasadena, CODE PINK, Progressive Democrats of America and others.

"If Ahed is not free, then I'm not free, and if I'm not free, then you're not free," said BLM Pasadena's Jasmine Abdullah Richards.

"We know what oppression looks like. We know what genocide looks like," said Idle No More's Lydia Ponce, laying out the parallels to the Native American oppression in the U.S.

Estee Chandler declared: "There are two systems of justice in Palestine. Israelis are governed under and represented by Israeli law, so if an Israeli child (or adult) violates the law, they are tried within the Israeli justice system. However, if a Palestinian child, or adult, breaks 'the law' they are immediately subjected to a military tribunal."

This is what Ahed Tamimi currently faces. This is the system that weeks earlier played its part in the severe disfigurement of Mohammed Tamimi, Ahed's 15-year-old cousin, who was shot in the head by Israeli military police at close range with a rubber bullet, putting him in a coma.

"Israel has a 99.7 percent conviction rate of Palestinians," added Chandler, referencing the "10,000 children since 2000 that have been arrested and detained, or are still detained" in Israeli prisons for "refusing to submit to occupations or surveillance."

She also described how under the military system of policing, these children are subjected to military interrogation tactics like sensory deprivation, denied access to family and legal representation.

RALLY ORGANIZERS called for attendees to back HR 4391, the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, in Congress. The act requires the certification that taxpayer funds won't be used in the violation of international humanitarian law against Palestinian children.

Getting Congress to pass HR 4391 would certainly be a step forward. However, the act falls short of ensuring that all Palestinians will be protected from inhumane treatment while in custody, nor does it end the supply of funds from U.S. taxpayers currently used to supply equipment and aid to Israel's military.

We can learn from the BDS success in Portland, Oregon, in 2017, when the City Council was convinced to end all investment in companies that are complicit in the active oppression of Palestinians.

At the rally, a Palestinian woman named Abir El Zowidi shared her experience:

I lived in Palestine, and I saw the truth. Palestine and its people need your support. I witnessed the young mothers of my family suffering, watched their kids being captured by Israeli soldiers. I remember seeing them, crying and brokenhearted...

Many of my own family members have been taken by the Israeli soldiers, some of them taken [at 16 years old] and freed at the age of 40--not allowed to live their lives. There is no reason or justification...parents will likely not be informed why or where they are being taken. Israel must be held accountable for many crimes against Palestinian children, and it must be stopped!

There are about 450 children 16 [years old] and under who are going to spend most of their life in a prison for no just cause. These kids are not numbers! They are human beings. They have been kidnapped while they are playing with their friends in the street. Or were pulled from warm beds in the middle of the night at gunpoint, from mothers' arms, taken from classrooms...

As long as our U.S. tax money funds the Israeli military warplanes, guns, gas and white phosphorous attacks to target and kill innocent Palestinian people, we must take responsibility. We have to stand up for them and their rights and let the world know that Palestinian kids' lives matter. They deserve to live in peace, to dream, to play and be safe. We have to stop the oppression of Palestine!

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