On January 30, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights gathered on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle to stand in solidarity with Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi. January 30 was the date that Ahed Tamimi was scheduled to be sentenced for slapping an Israeli officer outside her home in December 2017. This date also marked Ahed’s 17th birthday, drawing attention to mistreatment and imprisonment of Palestinian youth by the Israeli government.

“On behalf of all the Palestinian children unjustly held in Israeli prisons, we loudly condemn the egregious human rights violations carried out by Israel against Palestinians,” announced SUPER representatives. The group shared messages of solidarity and held a moment of silence for the
victims of the Israeli government, military and police, and the estimated 350 Palestinian children currently held in Israeli prisons.

Unlike Israeli citizens, Palestinians (including youth like Ahed) accused of alleged crimes against Israelis are not tried in civil courts; instead, they are tried in Israeli military courts. An estimated 700 Palestinian youth are processed through these military courts every year. These courts have an astonishing 99 percent conviction rate, effectively making legal proceedings little more than show-trials. (Haaretz)

“There’s this liberal image of Israel that is commonly held in the United States, like it’s some kind of progressive, inclusive democracy,” members of SUPER stated. “Nothing could be further from the truth. But while many people aren’t educated on the crimes that Israel perpetrates against the Palestinian people, Ahed Tamimi’s story shows what’s really going on in the occupied territories.”

Ahed herself was charged on 12 different accounts including incitement and aggravated assault and even “stone throwing,” the latter of which can carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison in the Israeli legal system. SUPER loudly condemned such policies and referred to the systematic injustices carried out against Palestinian youth and activists. “Israeli soldiers are allowed to break into houses and abduct people, including children, without ever having to tell their parents where they are held and in what conditions. All this is legal in the Israeli apartheid state.”

Already a committed activist at a young age, Ahed Tamimi recently soared to fame after she was filmed slapping an armored Israeli officer and kicking another soldier at her home in the West Bank on December 15, 2017. She was arrested a few hours later in a night raid on her house. The video footage, posted online by her mother, soon went viral and garnered global support for Ahed’s plight, as well as fury at the Israeli government’s draconian measures. Ahed’s actions came just an hour after learning that her 15 year-old cousin had been shot point-blank in the face with “rubber” bullets (which are in fact stainless-steel bullets coated with a thin layer of rubber) by Israeli soldiers, leaving his skull partially caved-in and causing severe internal bleeding. Ahed’s mother was arrested for assault and incitement soon after posting the video online.

“We can’t simply wait for the UN to issue some non-binding condemnation of Israeli brutality,” said representatives of SUPER, addressing the gathering. “We need to do what we can to influence people in the United States, which is the largest supporter of Israel and its injustices.”

SUPER drew attention to H.R. Bill 4391  “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.”  The bill, introduced in November of 2017, would prohibit U.S. assistance to the Israeli government from being used to support “military detention, interrogation, or ill-treatment of Palestinian Children in
violation of international humanitarian law,” ranging from torture and degrading treatment, physical/psychological abuse, denial of parental and legal access and more.

“The prison-industrial complex is global,” said Layyan, a university student and member of SUPER UW. “This isn’t just limited to Palestine; we can see the commonalities of many people suffering under militarism and militarized police right here in the United States, which is the biggest supporter of Israeli apartheid,” concluded Layyan. “To quote Angela Davis, freedom is a constant struggle, and it’s a global one. So it’s a global fight as well. Free Ahed and free Palestine!”