AMMAN: After eight months in an Israeli jail she emerged with her head held high and her eyes blazing defiance.
“Inqalie ya ihtilal” — in Palestinian slang, “May the occupation be uprooted” — said Ahed Tamimi, 17, her fist raised and her blonde hair flurrying, as a crowd of wellwishers welcomed her on her return home to the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
Ahed was sentenced in March to eight months in prison for slapping an Israeli soldier outside her home, backdated to when she was first detained in December.
Released two weeks early, her first task was to visit the grave of Yasser Arafat, where she kissed the late Palestinian leader’s tomb.
Ahed spent her time in jail studying, and she now wants to study law and to focus on holding the occupation accountable through legal means.
“I learned in jail how to communicate the message of my people, I learned to be patient, to love life and also I learned the importance of working together,” she said.
“I will continue my university tuition and I will study law so that I can address the cause of my country in all of the international forums and to be able to represent the prisoners’ cause.
“Prison taught me a lot of things, I was able to figure out the right way to deliver the message of my homeland.
“Peace is all of us living in peace and equality without borders and occupation, with justice as our universal reference point.”
Brian Reeves, the spokesman for Peace Now, told Arab News Ahed’s story was a classic case of double standards and self-defeatism. “Time and again, settlers are caught on camera violently attacking soldiers and the government doesn’t lift a finger.”
Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to Washington who has been recalled to Ramallah after the US embassy move to Jerusalem, said Ahed humanized the Palestinian cause.
“For years we have suffered from the fact that our martyrs and prisoners were nothing more than numbers. Now we have a global phenomenon who can represent our suffering, our struggle and our aspirations.”
Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that Ahed’s release was a victory for Palestinians who have united generation after generation to fight the occupiers.