When You Look at Her, See Every Palestinian
As of last night, my eight-year-old wants to design and live in, when he grows up, an all-glass home under the ocean that you can take a tunnel to get to that has every imaginable wild animal (including dragons, of course), a roof top pool, all of his best friends, and he says I can visit sometimes.
I don't discourage this, of course, because he is a child. I thought I would have a white tiger as a pet someday until I was at least seventeen...
We were there, nearby, the day seventeen year old #AhedTamimi and her mother, Nariman, were released from prison.
We were there the last day the incredible artists who painted the stunning mural of Ahed on the apartheid wall had the chance to work on it, as they were arrested in the middle of the night that night.
And we were there, in the Tamimi back yard, with this family I'm going to tell you about, just one day after the IDF (IOF - occupation, not defense) raided their family home and shot up the very space we inhabited. While this is a dizzying context for me, they have to live this every day. All Palestinians do.
We didn't expect Ahed to join us as we showed up to meet with her father, Bassem (who hugged me and tousled my hair and told me to "wait for the book" when I pressed him to share with me more about the 52 additional methods of nonviolent civil resistance he has discovered, adding to Gene Sharp's 198 -- I'm beginning my PhD next week with a fellowship through the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, so I had to ask...).
She was two days out of prison. (I've been two weeks home from Palestine, harassed by IOF, but far, far from imprisoned, and I have not wanted to see anyone)... But she stood there and greeted each of us and then sat and answered questions while news cameras rolled in and out and diplomats sat and listened alongside us.
A mutual friend has shared that, in another life, in a life out from under the brutal oppression of Israeli occupation, Ahed would love to be a soccer coach when she grows up. Instead, she plans to become a human rights lawyer. Every young Palestinian I've met has similar plans -- something, anything, to move them toward freedom. I wonder what my son's vision for his future would look like right now, were he living such a life. It breaks my heart to imagine it.
There is so much more to say, and so much has been said (Eyewitness Palestine does a great job of sharing resources you should absolutely read/watch/engage), but I want to say that in meeting with Ahed, with Nariman, with Bassem, it was so clear that they understand that they are not special.
According to Defense for Children International, "each year, the Israeli military arrests and prosecutes around 700 Palestinian children." When Ahed talked about the hunger strikes she participated in to force her jailers to stop withholding education in the prison, she was not alone.
What is my point? Ahed is out of jail, for now, but so many others, including so many *children*, are not. Furthermore, if you know anything about Palestine, the whole of it is an Israeli controlled prison, with the most extreme manifestation of this, but far from the only one, being Gaza.
And while Ahed has, indeed, become, to the world, the face of the resistance, she knows that she is one face and what she wants, when you look at her, is to see every Palestinian. And what she demands, when you listen, is that you hear each of them. Please honor that.
While she owns her agency and her responsibility, no seventeen year old should need to be the face of any resistance. But I met eight year olds, kids my son's age, well on their way to joining her. They should never have to.
So, Free Palestine. Free Palestine.