Fear. Anger. Vengeance. These are some of the terrible emotions that war evokes in people. That being said, war also has the ability to bring out the best qualities in people that makes ordinary people do extraordinary things and become an inspiration of resilience. Yet, something else war does is expose the values of society, shining a light on the double-standards practiced in the western world.
In 2012, the world was introduced to Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head for blogging on a BBC Urdu Blog about the Taliban’s growing influence in her native Swat Valley. After recovering from her injuries, Malala has become a global activist championing female education around the world. Currently, there’s another girl making the news headlines for standing up against injustice. Ahed Tamimi, a sixteen-year-old Palestinian girl is seen as a symbol of Palestinian activism against the military occupation of the West Bank by Israel. However, it seems that while Malala received enormous support from people around the world, the lack of any such support by global humanitarian groups for Ahed Tamimi is stark. As is often the case, debut actions of resistance against oppression get word attention while equally important repeat actions too often escape the scrutiny of the global press. No doubt, this is unjustifiable and quite hypocritical on the part of the western world.
Who is Ahed Tamimi?
On the 15th of December, Ahed Tamimi, a sixteen-year-old Palestinian became famous on the internet after a video was released of her slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier stationed outside her home in the village of Nabi Saleh. In the video, Ahed can be seen pushing the officers away, telling them to get off the land surrounding her family’s home whilst standing next to her twenty-year-old cousin, Nur Tamimi. When one of the soldiers attempts to swat Ahed away with his hand, she responds by kicking and slapping him. Nur Tamimi then starts pushing the soldiers while the altercation between Ahed and the soldiers continues. Soon after, Ahed’s mother, broadcasting this situation on facebook live, urges the soldiers to leave. And so, all three women face charges of assault by Israeli authorities. Ahed’s mother faces an additional charge of incitement for broadcasting it while Ahed faces twelve charges including incitement and throwing stones.
While some people understand Ahed’s anger and frustration, there are others who hold the opinion that she was being overly dramatic. But all that anger and frustration has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it? Her family has said that Ahed’s anger was sparked by an incident earlier that day. An hour before the above-mentioned incident took place, Ahed’s fifteen-year-old cousin Mohammed was shot in the head by a rubber-coated steel pellet – a type of bullet that is commonly used by the Israeli military. Her family said that Ahed lashed out at the soldiers she had seen in a video of her cousin being shot.
A few days after that streaming incident, Ahed was arrested by the Israeli armed forces in a night raid and has been charged in military court along with her mother and cousin Nur.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough hardship for the family. On January 3rd, in the adjacent village called Deir Nidham, another member of the Tamimi family was killed. Seventeen-year-old Musab Tamimi was shot by Israeli soldiers who claim that the teen was carrying a weapon though they failed to provide any evidence of such a claim.
While Ahed and her family are well known to be Palestinian human-rights activists, it is
surprising to see how little support they have received from the west. A younger, smaller Ahed can be seen in a 2013 video threatening to punch an Israeli soldier twice her size. In 2015, in another video filmed in Nabi Saleh, we can see Ahed biting the hands of an Israeli soldier who had detained her brother on stone-throwing charges. Despite all her bravery and the grief faced by her family, the west (be it media, politicians, or concerned citizens like me) has so far done nothing in support of her.
However, when it came to Malala, our reaction was quite the opposite. A fifteen-year-old shot in the head by a member of Tehrik-e-Taliban logically shocked the world. The former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown issued a petition entitled “I am Malala” to raise awareness. UNESCO launched a worldwide campaign called “Stand Up For Malala.” From a personal invitation to meet President Obama, to an audience with the UN General Assembly, Malala and her tragic story received accolade after accolade.
So why such distinct reaction?
The one difference between Malala and Ahed is that Ahed had lashed out that day due to her family being attacked by the Israeli authorities while Malala wants to help children all around the world who are denied the opportunity to go to school. Clearly, the non-violent and more worldly issues raised by the Malala case are more easily defended in the media. Malala spoke in Strasbourg, France, about the need to help the 57 million people worldwide who are simply denied the opportunity to go the school. She said, “Those children do not want an iPhone, a PlayStation or chocolate. They just want a book and a pen.” That being said, Ahed’s actions were a bit more self-serving (and, in fact, in self-defense) as she and her family have demonstrated continued resistance against the Israeli authorities. And that’s where the west’s willingness to help becomes a little unbalanced.
I decided to bring this issue to the students of SAS and here are some of their opinions:
Serena Brown, an 11th grader here at SAS found a form of understanding with the West’s approach, or rather preoccupation, with its own concerns. She said: “Other countries just don’t want to get involved … it’s kind of like what’s happening in the U.S. with police officers shooting teenagers without any evidence [or justification to do so]. So, I think it would be kind of hypocritical if the U.S did something about [the Ahed issue]. They have to deal with issues within the US before they can deal with Ahed in far-away Palestine.”
Furthermore, do they really want to get between Israel and Palestine? She continued, “The west can’t really help everyone who has stood up for what they believe in. Other countries just don’t want to cause more tension. It might make things worse if they did something about it”.
However, another junior, Maya Rallapalli had a slightly different opinion. “The whole Palestine-Israel conflict has gone on for years and is yet to be solved. Ahed Tamimi resorted to violence to get her message across. In my opinion, her actions were honestly in the realm of “reasonable” and the fact that she’s facing punishment is ridiculous. Her family has faced many hardships and she isn’t getting support. Who wouldn’t be upset when their cousin was shot?”
The whole Palestine- Israel conflict has gone on for years and is yet to be solved. Ahed Tamimi resorted to violence to get her message across. In my opinion, her actions were honestly in the realm of “reasonable” and the fact that she’s facing punishment is ridiculous. Her family has faced many hardships and she isn’t getting support. Who wouldn’t be upset when their cousin was shot?
But at the same time, she understood, like Serena, that everything has a consequence. “I do think that western countries should support her but, at the same time, it is so difficult because they would be inserting themselves into a conflict. And that would lead to more complications.”
It is very unfortunate to witness what is happening to Ahed Tamimi and her family. On the other hand, there’s a big question that everyone needs to ask: is the west willing to face the repercussions of supporting this one girl? While we find reason in our silence, one can’t help but hope for another way of helping out this girl and her family or any others facing such injustices. Hopefully, one day we will find a solution that maintains a cold practicality without sacrificing the warm glow of humanitarianism.