She is an impressive young woman – surely everyone can agree on that, no matter which side of the Palestinian/Israeli wall your sympathies lie.
She has almost certainly grown up in a world totally unlike yours; a world characterised by violence and protest against what is regarded even by the United Nations as an army of occupation. Check out her story, here. She has watched parents and brothers arrested for protests against this occupation, as they have thrown words and rocks at men carrying American automatic weapons.
To much of the world, she represents the best of us. A child still, who has been brave enough to stand up against oppression. A young girl whose photogenic shock of curly hair and gift of erudition has made it on to the international media outlets. She has become the face of a whole people. What a burden for one so young.
To many others however, she is part of the problem. Yes, she may have been one of the hundreds of Palestinian children jailed by Israeli courts, but she was in fact convicted of an assault that is there for all to see. She taunted, slapped and insulted an Israeli soldier, who did his best to ignore her. She was convicted of something that she had in fact, done.
There is a danger here however that we judge her actions by the things that happen on our streets, and the law practised in our courts. The West Bank, where Tamimi and her family live, is a war zone under military law. What this means for children is that since 2000, some estimates say that over 1500 children have been killed, and 10,000 have been arrested. What the Israeli state describe as moderate, appropriate response to terrorism and public unrest has to be seen in this context.
Think about this for a moment. Let us make a comparison with Northern Ireland. It is not a very good comparison for all sorts of reasons that I will not go in to here, but certainly at times the streets of NI were full of rioting, stone throwing young people. This led to ugly violence as locals and soldiers alike were brutalised. The event known as Bloody Sunday, in which soldiers fired into a crowd of people, killing 28, took years to be acknowledged by the Government, but the use of live ammunition to suppress protest was an extremely rare abomination, even in that poisoned atmosphere. Compare that, to this;
I think that most of us will find this utterly abhorrent, even if we agree that the Israeli forces have to confront violent unrest in some fashion. Shooting unarmed kids throwing rocks? Really? Is this what passes for crowd control in a democratic western country? Note how shooting people has become normalised, like putting a bullet in the leg or shoulder of a child is nothing. Just something that has to be done.
This is the context into which we have to place the story of Ahed Tamimi. Routine violence has led to more and more… violence. In such a polarising context, where one side views the other over Trump style ‘Beautiful Walls’, or through the sights of high velocity weaponry. The layers of hurt lie on the land like strata, each layer absorbing the bones of another generation of martyrs.
So, is the belligerent, teenage protest of Tamimi part of the problem or part of the solution?
It is not a fair question is it? She is far too young to carry such terrible responsibility.
But what would you do? What other means of expression are available to the children of the West Bank?
She wants to become a solicitor, because perhaps justice can be pursued through the law. That does not seem to be working at the moment, but perhaps in the future, the tide of history will turn, and then there may be a moment when the laws of the land will have value once again. But not now. Think of all those UN resolutions that are being ignored. Think of the Biblical commandments not to kill (muddied as they are by all the stories of a God who seems just as bloodthirsty as we are.)
Perhaps the question is one of those both-and dichotomies. Perhaps Tamimi is part of the problem. How could she not be? But perhaps too she might be part of the solution.
She has been given a platform. She is far too young. She will make mistakes. Powerful forces will be trying to undermine and vilify her at every turn. But she is from a new generation and that in itself is a source of hope.
May her heart be turned to love. May her hands be hands of peace. And may she see the tumbling of walls, not their increased fortification.
Of course, if this is to happen, the democratic state of Israel, forged as it was out of genocide and oppression, will have to come to realised the now THEY are the oppressors.
Or am I being antisemitic?