Free Ahed Tamimi

Until I went to the protests over the arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, beaten up and arrested by Israeli soldiers at her home in the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank at 4am on Tuesday 19 December I wasn’t aware of the personal connections I had with her and her family.

Someone I’d known for some years turned out to be a cousin of hers, something she had only found out a few years ago when she started to research her family history, as her mother who had come to live in this country had never talked about it. Another friend, a photographer, told me while we were watching one of the protests how he had visited Nabi Saleh, staying with some of the family and playing football and other games with the children, as well as photographing the protests while he was there.

Of course I know other Palestinians and have talked with them, and have read the history of Palestine, from biblical times and more recently, listened to people, Palestinians and Israelis speaking about the situation there, read books, watched films and TV and listened to the BBC’s correspondents as well as many interviews with Palestinians and Israelis, getting views from all sides.

One man I know married a Palestinian and spent some years living in Palestine. As well as meeting the couple on visits here, he gave regular long e-mail reports on the problems that he faced from both settlers and the Israeli security forces. In the past I have worked with people who had lived and worked in Israel and talked with them about the situation there. In my first teaching post I was declared an honorary Jew by my Jewish head of department so we could hold departmental meetings while school assemblies took place. Back in those days, like almost all on the left, I was of course a supporter of Israel.

So although I’ve not lived there, or been there, its an area I have a considerable interest in, and have tried hard to cover protests about Palestine and Israel, mainly by pro-Palestinian groups because those are the people who protest, but also the counter-protests by pro-Israel groups. And I try to photograph them without bias, showing them as they present themselves to the world, and to caption them objectively, though on my web site I often make my opinions clear.

I have long hoped for a just settlement in Palestine, one that in the words of Balfour does not “prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” Unfortunately it now seems further away than ever, though perhaps not beyond the realm of possibility, with and optimistic view by Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka in the Washington Post recently. Perhaps,as with North Korea, Trump will surprise us all – but at least equally likely his interventions will be disastrous.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the Israeli arrest of Ahed Tamimi who slapped a soldier who entered her home is that she was tried and found guilty by a military court – where the conviction rate is said to be 99.7% – which doesn’t sound like justice. This is a part of what seems rightly to be called an ‘apartheid’ system, with different laws, different roads, fences and checkpoints etc.

Two men came to try and shout down the protest in Trafalgar Square, and there was an argument in which one of them told a protester that he was not British and should “go home”, a clearly racist sentiment against someone settled in this country – and whose family had I think lost their home in Palestine. Later they were joined by a woman whose face screwed up with hate as she tried to shout down the protesters. Activities such as this do the Israeli case no good.

Earlier in the day the Palestinian Forum had held a protest against the US Embassy being moved to Jerusalem and the arrest of Ahed Tamimi. Speakers condemned Trump for his decision to move the embassy and called for peace and freedom for Palestine. And from there I went to a protest outside Marks & Spencer, a major supporter of Israel, where the Revolutionary Communist Group was supporting the very successful BDS movement worldwide calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from Israel and sanctions, who were also specifically protesting against Tamimi’s arrest.

Free Ahed Tamimi
Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi
Jerusalem, Capital of Palestine

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