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We Are All Ahed Tamimi

Palestinian Ahed Tamimi in a courtroom at the Ofer military prison near Jerusalem. The Israeli military judge overseeing the trial has ordered all proceedings to take place behind closed doors. (Ariel Schalit / AP)

Very few Palestinians are terrorists.

According to the U.S. State Department, the number of Palestinians classified as terrorists is estimated to be around 5,000 people. With a total of 12.37 million Palestinians in the world, less than 1 percent of them—or .04 percent, to be exact—are “terrorists.”

Most Palestinians, like most human beings, just want to live in peace. But living under the occupation of the Israeli military makes peace difficult, if not impossible, for the 5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Ahed Tamimi is one of those Palestinians living an occupied life. The 17-year-old girl is on trial in an Israeli military court for slapping and punching two Israeli soldiers on Dec. 15 in her West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Tamimi, who was 16 when the incident happened, was upset after her 15-year-old cousin was shot in the head with a rubber bullet (requiring the surgical removal of part of his skull). The protest was about Donald Trump’s decision in early December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. After learning about her cousin’s injury, Tamimi confronted the soldiers with her mother and cousin in an event captured on video. The teenager was arrested four days later at her home in the middle of the night. The next night, her cousin was arrested.

Some people believe the filmed action was staged.

Others call Ahed Tamimi an opportunist and troublemaker.

Tamimi’s “father has rejected allegations he is exploiting his daughter for political objectives,” The Associated Press reports. “He said the occupation has robbed her of a normal childhood, that it’s better for her to confront it than to fear it, and that he believes her generation will lead Palestinians to freedom.”

Palestinians say Ahed Tamimi’s actions embody their David-vs.-Goliath struggle against a brutal military occupation, while Israel portrays them as a provocation meant to embarrass its military.

Journalist Abby Martin and many human rights advocates around the world agree that Tamimi is a freedom fighter.

In 2016, Martin produced an on-the-ground investigation in Palestine that examined how it became colonized. She discovered “one of the biggest human rights disasters on the planet, a brutal and growing military occupation that thrives off U.S. sponsorship.”

Imagine if you had to live under martial law 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Imagine if your family was at risk of being killed at any moment.

Imagine if you were treated as less than human.

What would you do?

Rafeef Ziadah, a Palestinian-Canadian poet and human rights activist, wrote a poem that conveyed the humanity of Palestinians and the injustice of Palestinian treatment in the winter of 2008-09, during the Gaza War, or Gaza Massacre—an armed conflict between Palestinians and Israelis that resulted in 13 Israeli deaths and more than 1,100 Palestinian casualties. Ziadah served as a media spokesperson for an activist coalition. Her words were a response to a journalist, who asked: “Don’t you think it would all be fine if you just stopped teaching your children to hate?”

The poem is called “We Teach Life, Sir”:

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits filled enough with statistics to counter measured response.

And I perfected my English and I learned my UN resolutions.

But still, he asked me, Ms. Ziadah, don’t you think that everything would be resolved if you would just stop teaching so much hatred to your children?

Pause.

I look inside of me for strength to be patient but patience is not at the tip of my tongue as the bombs drop over Gaza.

Patience has just escaped me.

Pause. Smile.

We teach life, sir.

Rafeef, remember to smile.

Pause.

We teach life, sir.

We Palestinians teach life after they have occupied the last sky.

We teach life after they have built their settlements and apartheid walls, after the last skies.

We teach life, sir.

But today, my body was a TV’d massacre made to fit into sound-bites and word limits.

And just give us a story, a human story.

You see, this is not political.

We just want to tell people about you and your people so give us a human story.

Don’t mention that word “apartheid” and “occupation”.

This is not political.

You have to help me as a journalist to help you tell your story which is not a political story.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.

How about you give us a story of a woman in Gaza who needs medication?

How about you?

Do you have enough bone-broken limbs to cover the sun?

Hand me over your dead and give me the list of their names in one thousand two hundred word limits.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits and move those that are desensitized to terrorist blood.

But they felt sorry.

They felt sorry for the cattle over Gaza.

So, I give them UN resolutions and statistics and we condemn and we deplore and we reject.

And these are not two equal sides: occupier and occupied.

And a hundred dead, two hundred dead, and a thousand dead.

And between that, war crime and massacre, I vent out words and smile “not exotic”, “not terrorist”.

And I recount, I recount a hundred dead, a thousand dead.

Is anyone out there?

Will anyone listen?

I wish I could wail over their bodies.

I wish I could just run barefoot in every refugee camp and hold every child, cover their ears so they wouldn’t have to hear the sound of bombing for the rest of their life the way I do.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.

And let me just tell you, there’s nothing your UN resolutions have ever done about this.

And no sound-bite, no sound-bite I come up with, no matter how good my English gets, no sound-bite, no sound-bite, no sound-bite, no sound-bite will bring them back to life.

No sound-bite will fix this.

We teach life, sir.

We teach life, sir.

We Palestinians wake up every morning to teach the rest of the world life, sir.

Palestinians still are teaching life and living. Yusuf Omar, a journalist, traveled to Palestine in January for a documentary series called “Hashtag Palestine” and found it was not the place he imagined. Instead of seeing rubble and a depressed scene, Omar found a vibrant community of artists, scholars and people who enjoy good coffee and cool coffee shops. Living a good life is winning, explained one of the Palestinians he met in Ramallah.

Many Israelis view Palestinians as less than human. A few weeks ago, a filmmaker named Nas, who comes from Arab-Palestinian roots and whose name means “people” in Arabic, witnessed this reality while filming a video in an orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem. Nas is a self-described “Palestinian-Israeli,” but the orthodox Jewish man he encountered did not believe he was Palestinian, because he was too intelligent and cultured and Palestinians are “barbaric.”

Nas was speechless. Then, the Jewish man’s 15-year-old sister appeared, and she had an incredible amount of hate for Arabs.

“Why is he proud of being Palestinian?” she asked. “All they do is kill us.”

The filmmaker said, “I don’t kill anybody. There are millions who don’t kill.”

She believed all Arabs were terrorists. Since he was an Arab, she believed he was a terrorist.

“I want to be your friend,” he said.

After processing the interaction, he observed: “Receiving hate from a grownup is understandable, but receiving hate from a 15-year-old hurts a little bit more, and it came from Jerusalem, the city where Jews and Muslims are literally neighbors.”

He concluded: “The only people these guys know are the ones on TV. The Arabs trying to kill Jews and the Jews trying to kill Arabs. On TV, they don’t see the people who have no desire for war. People like you and me.”

Money often trumps peace. As Smedley Butler, a U.S. Marine Corps major general, recognized, war is a racket.

Hate is good for business, but it’s terrible for life. Arabs do not need to hate Jews, and Jews do not need to hate Arabs.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is a complicated issue. As a friend of an American journalist (who rethought his position on the conflict after living in Jerusalem) said, “The reason the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so intractable is that both sides have a really, really good point.”

No one should be denied basic human rights. All people—no matter their race—are human beings. Only a small percentage are terrorists. Yet terror is what many governments and the media broadcast. That narrative is pure propaganda, meant to divide and control people.

We need to humanize the narrative and break the cycle. Just as people have been taught to hate, they can be taught to love.

Let’s start with Ahed Tamimi, a hero in the struggle for justice and human rights. Each year, Israel prosecutes 500 to 700 Palestinian children in military court. Today, the Israeli army imprisons an estimated 350 children. Tamimi’s father, mother, uncle and brother all have been imprisoned for nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation.

“All I wish is for Palestine to be free,” Ahed Tamimi has said. If found guilty of her 12 charges, she faces a lengthy prison sentence.

Ahed Tamimi is you. She is me. She is all of us.

Until she is free, none of us will be free.

Then 12-year-old Ahed Tamimi attempts to punch an Israeli soldier during a protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. (Majdi Mohammed / AP)

We are all Palestinians.

Their suffering is our suffering.

Their freedom is our freedom.

And our freedom, as Nelson Mandela said, is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians.

Until we accept that reality, we will never have peace in the Middle East—or anywhere else.

Eric Ortiz
Managing Editor
Eric Ortiz is the managing editor of Truthdig. A journalist and innovator with two decades in digital media, Ortiz founded the mobile app startup Evrybit, a live storytelling and reporting tool, as a 2014 John…
Eric Ortiz

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