Citing their respective experiences of racism and state violence, over two dozen African-American public figures expressed their support for Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian girl facing years in prison for daring to confront an Israeli soldier, as her trial opened - behind closed doors per judge's orders - and quickly adjourned. Ahed has been in prison, along with her mother and cousin, since being detained almost two months ago in a night raid in her occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh; IDF forces arrested her for slapping and shoving two armed Israeli soldiers after one shot her 15-year-old cousin in the face during a protest. Ahed, who recently turned 17 in detention, faces a dozen charges that could keep her in prison for years. She arrived in court with her hands and feet shackled.
Her imprisonment, like that of thousands of Palestinian minors, has been blasted by rights groups that include Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International: “It would be an unconscionable travesty of justice if Ahed Tamini’s act of defiance in the face of relentless oppression earns her a long prison sentence." Amnesty notes that Ahed will be tried in an Israeli military court "that does not ensure basic fair trial standards,” as evidenced by its 99.7% conviction rate of Palestinians. Ahed's father Bassem likewise called out "the farce and racism" of Israel's courts after the judge, on their first day, banned media, diplomats and everyone except family or lawyers from the proceedings.
A longtime activist who has spent years in Israeli prisons, Bassem sat awaiting his daughter in the courtroom; when she appeared, he waved and called to her to "stay strong." After the judge swiftly cleared the court, he slammed the move: "They don't want the world to see this theater, which they call a court." Ahed's lawyer also criticized the media ban: "The court decided what is good for the court and not what is good for Ahed," she said. "They understand that people outside are interested in Ahed's case..that her rights are being infringed and her trial is something that shouldn't be happening. So, the way to keep it out of everybody's eyes is to close the doors." Ahed’s next appearance was set for March 11, while her mother and cousin will reappear March 6. Meanwhile, they all must remain in prison.
In solidarity with them, the Florida-based Dream Defenders released an open letter from black actors, activists, authors and public figures - from Angela Davis to Alice Walker to Cornel West - denouncing their imprisonment and calling on US lawmakers to support a bill introduced in November that would prohibit US aid to Israel from being used for the detention and abuse of Palestinian children. "While our struggles may be unique, the parallels cannot be ignored," they wrote. "Too many of our children learn that they may be imprisoned or killed simply for who they are...The Tamimi family stands up to Israel’s brutality because they believe Palestinians, like ALL people, should be free. (We stand) with them and all Palestinians in their righteous struggle."
Ahed has been here a while
Her father waves
Naomi Shihab Nye: They Are Not Much Fun
For Ahed Tamimi
Israeli soldiers, exhausted from carrying
so many weapons for so many years,
have lost their humors, you know this.
Tear-gassing, shouting, pummeling, pushing, bullying,
it’s a rough life for them. They can only smile or laugh
when they’re alone. On the day they tear-gassed my
100 year old grandmother, they had headaches.
On the day they blackened and bruised the tender face
of my 11 year old naked cousin in the shower,
they were getting the flu.
On the day they pointed huge guns at my daddy and me
as we stood speaking to an ancient farmer
and I screamed at them and my daddy
placed his hand over my mouth…
I’m so sorry you’re in jail, Ahed.
Hopefully they’ll be feeling better soon and let you out.
When the American Vice President wore a yarmulke
to pray against the wall, what was he praying for,
if not their better moods?
It’s so hard to be them.
Exhausted from battle against
thin, strong people who only wanted
a drink of water, those devils.
How could they want so much?
How could they think picking tangerines would be allowed?
Israeli soldiers were born right and everyone else,
ahhhhhhhh. They have to let them know
how wrong it is they were born. They have so much
work to do.
Copyright 2018 Naomi Shihab Nye