(Photo Caption: Photo provided by Kate Daher)
By Kate Daher
On April 11, Pittsburgh Jewish Voice for Peace co-founder, Dani Klein, artist and professor Hyla Willis, Bret Grote from the Abolitionist Law Center, and this writer delivered a letter to Representative Mike Doyle’s Southside office, signed by 50 well-known clergy, professors, lawyers, writers, and artists demanding that he use his position as an elected official to fight for the release of sixteen-year-old Palestinian child-prisoner Ahed Tamimi.
On December 18, 2017, Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian from the small village of Nabi Saleh, slapped an Israel soldier who had planted himself on her family’s land–what is called the slap heard round the world. Ahed struck the soldier in defiance after her fifteen-year-old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, was shot by an Israeli bullet, causing him to lose one half of his skull. (Mohammed was arrested before he could complete his medical care). After a video of the incident went viral, Israeli occupation forces violently invaded the Tamimi family home and arrested Ahed. Her mother, Nariman Tamimi, was arrested a short time later.
The outcry for the teenager’s freedom was immediate and international. Demonstrations were held in cities around the world, as the young activist became a cause célèbre for the abuse suffered by those living under military rule, especially children.
Like all Palestinians living under the illegal occupation, Ahed was tried in an military court, for which she received an eight-month prison sentence.
According to Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, “The vast majority of all military court cases in occupied Palestine end in plea bargains. Palestinian prisoners are forced into plea bargains, with threats of lengthy sentences that pose an all-too-real danger, especially with the inflated charges and lengthy indictments proffered against Palestinians.”
The letter to Rep. Doyle includes a request that the Congressman sign on to HR 4391, a bill that prohibits the use of U.S. financial assistance to Israel from being used to for the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in military detention.
The bill was introduced into the House by Minnosota Representative Betty McCollum and is supported by 21 representatives, but not one from Pennsylvania.In a call to McCollum’s Washington DC office, this writer learned that the Congresswoman considers this bill a high priority.
Since the start of the Second Intifada (Uprising) in September 2000, Israel has killed 2,000 children and imprisoned more than 14,000, of whom 350 are still held in Israeli prisons. Israel’s human rights record has been widely condemned by human rights organizations and activists worldwide.
According to the Congressional Research Report dated April 2018, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding.”
In the last three weeks the Israeli army has lobbed chemical gas canisters and bullets at unarmed Palestinians who are demonstrating for their internationally recognized right to return to their homeland in what is known as The March of Return. At least 17 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 1400 wounded.
Pittsburgh activists organized several events and activities focusing on Ahed’s arrest and imprisonment, including a December protest outside of the William S. Moorhead Federal Building in -8 degree wind chill weather, several letter-writing events and a petition campaign. Jewish Voices for Peace members met with Rep. Doyle to request that he use his office to petition for Ahed’s release.
The Tamimi family has a long history of resistance to the occupation and the theft of their land, illustrated in the film, “Radiance to Resistance,” which debuted at the Carnegie Library in East Liberty on March 12th. To schedule a screening of “Radiance to Resistance,“ or for more information about the campaign to release Ahed or to support HR 4391, contact this author or go to the link http://bit.lig/doyle4391..
Kate Daher is a member of the Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee.