Even though the teenager has been in a coma ever since, the story has been pushed aside by Israeli and American media, explained away as a consequence of Palestinians’ own actions. In the case of Nabi Saleh, the media pay even less attention because residents there have been protesting Israel’s illegal occupation almost every week for years.
Most of the residents are part of the extended Tamimi family, and the majority of the population have been seriously injured or killed by Israeli soldiers in those protests. Nabi Saleh lives the nightmare of Israel’s atrocities every day.
In 1977, Orthodox Jews who came to Israel from Europe through Israeli government subsidies founded the illegal settlement of Halamish on Nabi Saleh’s lush farmlands. The heavily armed and violent Halamish settlers have terrorized the residents of Nabi Saleh ever since.
American and Israeli media have manipulated her story to make it look like it is a consequence of Palestinian aggression against Israeli soldiers.
From the day he was born until the moment he was struck in his face by a rubber-coated steel bullet, Tamimi lived every day of his life in this atmosphere of Israeli terrorism and the constant threat of Halamish violence. American and Israeli media have marginalized the story and put it into a context that defines events there as a consequence of Palestinian aggression against Israeli soldiers.
In fact, every day Palestinians are brutalized, beaten, arrested on fake charges that are never brought to trial, and portrayed by Israeli and American media as “terrorists.” They are protesting against the real terrorism they face every day at the hands of the Israeli military and armed settlers.
As Tamimi lay in a coma breathing with the help of an oxygen machine, protests resumed in Nabi Saleh, but this time something happened that forced the world to take notice. Heavily armed Israeli soldiers gathered around as villagers mounted another protest against the theft of their land, years of brutality, Halamish terrorism and the shooting of Tamimi the week before.
One of his cousins, 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, slapped armed soldiers on their arms and yelled at them to leave her home. She has faced off against Israeli soldiers since she was only 8 years old. Her relatives did what Palestinians have been doing for years: They videotaped the confrontation on their mobile phones. The next day, the video went viral and Western media could not deny its existence.
Israeli and Palestinian civil rights organizations have been documenting a new trend in violence by Israeli soldiers and settlers against Palestinian children. It is a new form of Israeli collective punishment, which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Israel has been destroying the homes of Palestinians accused (but never convicted) of engaging in violence against its soldiers.
Now it is targeting children of Palestinian protesters. According to Israeli human rights watchdog B’Tselem, there is a “clear policy” of arresting Palestinian children to punish their parents who are involved in non-violent protests. The children are arrested and exposed to violence during their interrogations and detention.
The day after Ahed’s video went viral, Israeli soldiers kicked down the door of her home and arrested her, accusing her of fomenting violence. Concerned by rising criticism that it is targeting children, Israel has launched a PR campaign to inundate YouTube with videos that mock her and accuse her of being an “actress” staging the protests.
The campaign does not address the violence caused by Israeli soldiers and settlers, instead depicting them as the victims. It does not point out that no charges have ever been filed against Halamish settler terrorists involved in violence against Palestinian civilians.
Despite the heavily financed Israeli campaign, Ahed has pushed the Palestinian struggle for justice to the frontlines of public awareness, with no budget. She is just one of hundreds of Palestinian children who are standing up to Israel’s powerful military and its brutal oppression. That is a story no real human being can ignore.
• Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American columnist.