Audrey Bomse, Co-chair, Palestine Subcommittee
15-year-old Mohammad Tamimi was hit point-blank in the face with a rubber-coated bullet fired by an Israeli occupation soldier on December 14, 2017, in Nabi Saleh, a small Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank. The boy had to undergo six hours of surgery and was placed in a medically induced coma.
An hour later, Mohammad’s 16-year-old cousin, Ahed Tamimi, slapped and kicked at an armed Israeli soldier, demanding he leave the family’s property. Early the next week, after video of Ahed’s actions went viral, Israeli soldiers raided the Tamimi home at 3 AM and arrested her.
Ahed has been charged with a range of offenses, including assaulting an armed Israeli soldier. Her real crime, however, is being a defiant young woman standing up for her people, the next generation of resistance. Israel wants to use Ahed’s case to deter other Palestinian youth who might want to similarly resist Israeli colonialism.
Hundreds of children between the ages of 11 and 17 are arrested by Israeli soldiers each year, most in night-time raids. Israel systematically prosecutes as many as 700 children in military courts each year (see the May 2014 NLG delegation report). There are currently approximately 350 Palestinian children in Israeli custody.
Ahed will be tried by the same occupying military that shot her cousin, in a military court that is part of a system which denies basic due process rights and notoriously has a self-reported 99.74% conviction rate for Palestinian defendants. Israel is the only country in the world that tries children in military courts.
According to Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP), a group that has consultative status with the UN, three out of four Palestinian child detainees are subject to physical violence. And Israeli military court judges, who are either active duty or reserve military officers, “rarely exclude evidence obtained by coercion or torture, including confessions drafted in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian children do not understand.”
Only Palestinians are tried in this separate and unequal military ‘justice’ system. Israeli settlers who commit crimes in the West Bank are tried in civilian courts, with all the rights and privileges that entails. As Gaby Lasky, Ahed’s lawyer stated, “The real task of the military court is not to enact justice, but to perpetuate occupation.”
An Israeli military court has denied bail and refused to release Ahed pending trial, calling her too dangerous. If convicted on charges that include throwing stones, incitement and assaulting and threatening a soldier, she could remain in Israeli prisons for up to 10 years.
UNICEF charges Israel with subjecting Palestinian youth to “practices that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including children “being aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation center tied and blindfolded, sleep-deprived” and being “threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member.”
Concerned about Israel’s systematic abuses, 20 members of Congress are backing legislation, introduced by Barbara McCollum, H.R. 4391, which would prevent the use of US tax dollars for the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children like Ahed Tamimi.
The NLG Palestine Subcommittee of the International Committee has been involved with multiple efforts to support Palestinian child prisoners, including advocacy for H.R. 4391. Demonstrations have been organized in cities around the world to support Ahed and her fellow Palestinian prisoners, and the NLG has been an endorser and co-organizer at protests in Fort Lauderdale, FL, New York City, and elsewhere.
NLG members interested in working to advocate for freedom for imprisoned Palestinian children and adults are invited to become members of the Palestine Subcommittee. Contact the author at email@example.com for more information.