A Palestinian teenage protester who was captured on video punching and kicking a heavily armed Israeli soldier last year made a high profile appearance Tuesday in an Israeli military courtroom packed with activists, human rights lawyers and journalists.
Israel has brought 12 charges against 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi, including aggravated assault against a soldier, incitement, obstructing a soldier in the performance of his duty, threatening a soldier and throwing stones at troops. Her mother, Nariman Tamimi, also faces charges including incitement.
Ahed Tamimi has become a symbol of Palestinian unity.
She entered the courtroom in Israel’s Ofer Military Prison in the West Bank wearing an olive-green prison uniform and flanked by prison guards. The fiery-haired teenager scanned the courtroom for a familiar face. Her father, Bassem Tamimi, waved his hands and shouted out, “Ahed, be strong, my darling.” He had missed her 17th birthday, which she spent in prison.
Both mother and daughter are represented by the same attorney. They have not entered pleas.
Despite the unusually high attendance, the judge ordered everyone out of the courtroom except for family members because the defendant is a minor. Her lawyer, Gabi Lasky, objected to the order, telling the judge “if the minor and the family agree to have an open session, it should be open.” The judge denied her objection and kicked everyone out but Tamimi’s family.
“The court decided to close the doors because they think it’s not good for Ahed (as a minor),” Lasky told journalists in the prison’s courtyard before the session. “The court decided what is good for the court and not what is good for Ahed.”
Tamimi was arrested on December 19 after a video emerged of her punching a heavily armed Israeli soldier on her family’s property in the West Bank town of Nabi Saleh. The soldier can be seen pushing her away. The incident occurred shortly after a soldier gravely wounded her 15-year-old cousin nearby by shooting him in the head with a rubber bullet.
Gabi Lasky, Tamimi’s attorney, also explained she will argue the legality of the court proceeding itself because she says Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is illegal, the injustice of having two sets of laws in the West Bank for the Palestinians and Israelis, and the validity of some of the charges.
Lasky also accused the court of trying to “deter Ahed and other young people from resisting the occupation with non-violence,” she said.
Israel captured the West Bank and other territories during the 1967 war. Much of the international community, the United Nations, and Palestinians view these lands as occupied.
Tamimi’s supporters said the video presented her as an inspirational symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israeli security forces. Her critics praised the soldier’s restraint and dismissed the video of the incident, shot by Tamimi’s mother, as a publicity stunt. Tamimi’s family is known for its activism, regularly leading Friday demonstrations against Israeli soldiers in their village. Rights groups have called for her release.
After the incident, Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett said authorities should lock Tamimi up and throw away the key. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also praised the soldier’s restraint but added a warning that anyone who would attack the army would be arrested.
Ahed Tamimi first came to international prominence in 2012 – as a child – when a photograph of her with a clenched fist, staring down an Israeli soldier, received widespread attention.
Her protests have made her a folk hero among many Palestinians. Her image also adorns a wall on a street in Gaza.
The session adjourned after two hours and will resume on March 11.