What I learned from Ahed Tamimi and spending my birthday with her family

This article is based upon a talk given at a recent meeting of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in New York City.

Many of us are familiar with Ahed Tamimi who is illegally detained by the Israeli occupation military, a force as illegitimate as Trump’s announcement of his acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jan. 28 was Ahed’s birthday. She was 17 years old. That day demonstrations demanding her release and in solidarity with Palestine were held around the world.

Ahed and her mother, Nariman Tamimi, are both unjustly imprisoned by Israel. Ahed is charged with five counts of assaulting security forces, as well as with incitement. Nariman is accused of incitement via social media.

After attending a recent court hearing for the two, Ahed’s father said:

“While in jail, my daughter Ahed informed us that she studies four classes from her school curriculum and she read two books outside the curriculum. She additionally asked us all to focus on every imprisoned woman and child and to work towards a campaign to highlight their cases.

“My wife Nariman suffers from a stress disorder and diabetes, but her morale is high. She said that she and Ahed are transported constantly but in different vehicles. Ahed is transported with criminals who intimidate her with threats and insults. The military prison officials begin transporting her at two in the early morning and return after midnight. They affirm that there is a problem with the quality of food, saying the prison needs to improve the quality and quantity of food.”

This is a glimpse of the lives of West Bank Palestinian families with members in jail, which is very common. The Israeli military shamelessly targets those they have labeled as weakest– children, women, the elderly and disabled folks already struggling to survive in the open air prison that is the West Bank.

Ahed Tamimi has consistently asked for one thing since her arrest and her famous resistance: When you mention her you must mention that she represents hundreds of children, some as young as 5 years old, who, like her, have been illegally snatched off the streets by Israeli soldiers.

Spending my birthday with the Tamimi family

I was able to spend a couple weeks in Palestine this past summer on a fact-finding and solidarity trip sponsored by Existence is Resistance. I actually spent my birthday there. I tried to keep my birthday a secret, feeling it was inappropriate to even bring it up on this trip. But of course our guide, and others, found me out. Then I learned most of our team wouldn’t be there for my birthday. Most were heading back home the night before and morning of my birthday.

But then our guide mentioned having some folks she wanted us to meet–this extra special family she wanted us to spend this day with. She drove us up a mountain, talking of a family that marches and resists on a weekly basis. Some members even traveled outside of Palestine and received international attention for their message and their unified fearlessness. It was the Tamimis.

I fell in love, honestly. Every family you meet in Palestine will make you fall in love, but its such a painful love! Nariman made us a beautiful meal and we ate talked and watched videos nonstop until the late evening. While eating that meal on their porch, we laughed and greedily went back and piled more and more food on our plates.

Then we heard a loud buzzing. The sound was coming from and Israeli spy drone that quickly flew away. A drone y’all! Who were we to attract this much attention? The conversation shifted. The spy drone was a reminder of the occupation, one of so many reminders experienced on any day.

Ahed’s village, Nabi Salih, stands right outside of the West Bank city of Ramallah. Nabi Salih is known for holding weekly protests against the occupation from 2009 to 2016. These demonstrations have slowed down in recent months due to the injuries inflicted on more than 300 community members by Israeli soldiers. Nabi Saleh is only a town of about 600 people.

This town is in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians who live there must use passports, must go through checkpoints, are subject to violence from the Israeli state and at the hands of racist settlers who are allowed to attack Palestinians. Israel also controls access to water, food, and electricity.

I saw Israeli soldiers, armed with guns, tanks and bombs. They know international delegations like ours are watching and they don’t care! The Pentagon funds the Israeli military with about $ 10 million a day for the very weapons that have put Ahed and other Palestinians in this situation.

This is about two birthdays—Ahed’s in jail, mine with her and her family. I learned a lot from both. I I got a taste of what occupation is like. I learned from Ahed and her family that Palestinians will fight until they are liberated.

I learned that people in the U.S. have a critical role to play in ending the occupation, and that we too must fight–to end all U.S. aid to Israel.

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