This past Monday Israel’s military prosecution filed an indictment against Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old Palestinian who has been held in custody for two weeks – ever since she was yanked out of bed in the middle of the night, after footage of her attempts to drive soldiers out of her West Bank home went viral. Indictments have also been filed against her mother, Nariman Tamimi, who was arrested the next day, when she came to the police station to accompany her arrested daughter, and against her cousin, Nur Tamimi. Later, Manal Tamimi and Jamil al-Barghouti were also arrested, while demonstrating in front of the military court against the arrest of the three women. These are but five of hundreds of Palestinians arrested in recent weeks by the Israeli military, in its attempt to suppress Palestinian protest following President Trump’s declaration regarding Jerusalem.
The military prosecution asked the court to remand the women in custody and, as usual, the judges accepted most parts of the prosecution’s request, while rejecting the request for release and the appeal filed by their attorney, Gaby Lasky. This is standard practice in the military apparatus euphemistically known as Israel’s courts in the West Bank: On one side are the Tamimis, subjects of Israel’s military occupation; on the other are the prosecution and the judges, who are always military officials, i.e. part of the very system that runs the Tamimis’ lives. The military orders – which establish what a Palestinian can and cannot do – are all written by Israeli officers and reflect what they believe to be protection of Israeli interests, in total exclusion of the Palestinians themselves, who are denied the ability to influence the content of the orders that dictate all aspects of their lives. This reality is what Israel’s military courts refer to as “the rule of law”.
Remanding the suspects in custody has allowed the military prosecution to build up a litany of charges against them: suspected of throwing stones on such and such date, of disturbing the peace on another, of incitement to hurl objects, of assaulting an officer, of disturbing a soldier in the line of duty, of offending a public servant, of compromising regional security, of agitation, of undermining the public order. This long line of allegations stretches back to April 2016, stopping there only because a military order does not allow the prosecution to go further back in its search for damning possibilities. Coming up with alleged new evidence for alleged past offenses is fodder for the prosecution to request remand in custody and for the judges to grant it – and to hell with the fact that at the time these offenses were supposedly committed, the authorities saw no reason to arrest the supposed suspects nor summon them for questioning.
The vindictive punishment of these audacious women continues to unfold, with the judges showcasing the principles of Israel’s occupation regime. When the military judge says “the suspect’s actions indicate that she has no fear or respect towards the security forces and has attempted to injure them in a way that clearly and unequivocally exceeds the boundaries of legitimate resistance and protest,” he is obfuscating Israel’s baseline assumption that Palestinians have no right to demonstrate, and that no form of protest is considered legitimate. As far as Israel is concerned, Palestinians have no right to freedom of expression and in particular not to voice objection to the occupation, which is considered a form of incitement that violates a military order. According to the protocols of the court sessions, even filming and broadcasting events via Facebook Live is considered dangerous by the military prosecution.
When an entire system works in unison to humiliate and penalize a 16-year-old on the grounds that “she has no fear,” it gives us an excellent opportunity to understand its essence. Let us state the obvious: If Ahed Tamimi were Jewish, chances of her being arrested would have been negligible; only Palestinians are tried in Israel’s military courts in the West Bank; the conviction rate in these courts is almost 100%. Behind this carefully staged roleplay, cloaked in well-reasoned legal verbiage, lies one of the occupation’s most injurious apparatuses. Its goal is not to seek justice or truth, but to maintain Israeli control over the Palestinian people.
There is nothing unusual about the arrest of Ahed Tamimi, other than its sensationalization, courtesy of the IDF spokespeople who released the video documentation. But this high profile arrest does serve to illustrate how Israel uses “the rule of law” to oppress Ahed Tamimi, her family, the residents of her village – a-Nabi Saleh – who have been fighting nonviolently for a decade against the state-backed settler takeover of their land, and the Palestinian people as a whole. Thousands of other Palestinian women and men, young and old, renowned or unknown, blonde or not, will continued to pay the inconceivable price of Israel’s greed for land every year, until the occupation ends.