A Family’s Fight: How Palestine’s Tamimi family resists Israeli occupation

Ahed Tamimi

Israeli forces have killed three members of the Tamimi family and arrested scores of others, including 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, but the family continues its nonviolent struggle for Palestinian freedom. Over the past month, people around the world have learned of Palestinian resilience through the plight of the Tamimi family in the occupied West Bank. For years, the Tamimis have led protests against the Israeli occupation and theft of Palestinian land. Then in December, Ahed Tamimi became a global symbol of resistance when she was arrested for slapping an Israeli soldier who was trespassing on her property.

Just days earlier, Ahed’s cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, was shot in the face, leaving him in a coma. Ahed remains in Israeli military prison and is charged with multiple counts of assault. On Jan. 3, Israeli forces shot dead Ahed’s 17-year-old cousin, Musab Tamimi, at a protest in the West Bank. Just before he was laid to rest, Israel released another cousin, Noor Tamimi, on bail. Manal Tamimi, also a cousin, was arrested earlier this month at a protest calling for her relatives’ release.

The Real News Network: It’s hard to know where to start, given how much has happened to your family, but let’s start with your own case. You were arrested at a protest calling for the release of Ahed, Noor, and Ahed’s mother. What happened to you?

Manal Tamimi: We made a protest. First, in solidarity with Ahed and Nariman, because they had the trial in Ofer prison, which is the only Israeli prison in the West Bank, and then also in solidarity with female prisoners in the Israeli prison. After nearly two or three minutes of beginning the protest—actually it was a gathering—suddenly they began to shoot tear gas at us and one of the soldiers, she came to me, and she asked me to go back. When I refused, she immediately arrested me without any justification or without even warning, and then they told me that I attacked this soldier and that I was organizing illegal activity in a closed military zone.

TRNN: What happened to you after you were taken to prison?

MT: When she took me back to the Ofer prison, and there we were away from the media and the cameras, they began, she began to beat me, and I had bleeding in the jaw that I—all the time in the prison I was very sick, and I was under extreme pain, and then they took me to interrogation where they kept me the whole night until 12:30 at night, outside, in cold. They took me inside for interrogation. Then they took me back, took me outside in the cold, and without food, without the water, without anything. And by the end of the interrogation they sent me to HaSharon prison where Nariman and I reached the prison around 4 in the morning, and then after that the trial began. I had two trials. I had to go back to Ofer prison, which is around three hours from HaSharon. HaSharon, it’s in Netanya and the Ofer is in West Bank in the Ramallah area. Of course, just going there from one prison to another, it’s a torture because they put you in a bus made of cells, metal, with metal chair. The cell is very small that you can’t move, and it’s black without windows or anything, and they took us from HaSharon at 2:30 in the morning, and we were back at 12 at night. The next day it’s the same. At 2:30 in the morning, we have to leave to the court and go back. So, it’s exhausting, and in the same time they, in these buses during the taking us to the court, they put us with the Israeli criminals—men, not women, in the same place. So this is also terrifying because most of them are, well, one of them, he was drunk and he was fighting. I think he had drugs or something, and all the time he was trying to attack us and it was so scary. We were terrified that one of them can attack us.

TRNN: As you were released, your cousin, Musab Tamimi, was shot dead in the occupied West Bank at a protest. He was 17 years old. He is the third member of your family to be killed by Israeli forces. Can you tell us about him, and were you able to go to his funeral?

MT: Actually, Musab, he was killed while I was in prison. I was back from the prison clinic because I was very sick, and we were watching TV, and suddenly I saw him on the TV saying that Musab Tamimi, he was shot and killed. Of course, this is one of the most difficult experiences anybody could go through to see your cousin and his blood on TV while you don’t understand what’s going on and what’s happening. Musab, he was an active young man. He had many dreams he wanted to come true. He wanted to study. He was so clever. He was this kind of person who loved life to that end. [His family] used to live in Jordan, and they just came back to Palestine a few months ago, so he was so happy that finally he is in his country among his family with his people. But a sniper, well, he shot him, and it was clear that it—it’s assassination. It’s not a random shooting. Musab, he’s the third member of my family who was killed in the nonviolent resistance that we began in 2009, but actually 22 Tamimi has been killed since 1976 until now, during the resisting of the occupation.

TRNN: Manal, can you tell us about these protests that your family has been involved in for years now against the Israeli theft of your land and water sources?

MT: Actually we are resisting since the beginning of occupation, but our organized resistance, it began on the 9th of December, 2009. After we lost two-thirds of the village land, due to the settlement, expansion. The settlement, it’s called Halamish, and it was built in 1976, after the settler took over British police stations, since the British men did, and since that time, they began to expand the settlement, and they began to get land under different justification, either that natural expansion for the settlement or for the clearing of state land or a closed military zone. So every time they change the excuse, but always it’s about the thefting of the land. So in 2009, when they took the spring, we decided that we have to begin our nonviolent, organized protest in the village. What we mainly wanted to do is to march toward the spring and and plant new trees just to ensure that this is a Palestinian land. But the Israeli response were very violent. They began to use different kinds of tear gas, which contain white phosphorus, nerve gas, and other chemicals of this kind. They began to use live ammunition and steel-coated bullets—the same kind that they shot Mohammed with two weeks ago, and he was so lucky that he survived. In the West Bank, we are living under the military law and they legitimize arresting children from 11 years up, and they can put them in jail for life, and there is another law that they can put children for up to 20 years for throwing rocks only. In the time that the Israeli or the settler child would be living in the same area around only 500 meters from us, they are allowed to throw rocks. They are allowed to threaten our lives, and they will be treated under the civilian law. This is not a democratic state. It will never be. It’s not democratic so these two children, in the same place, different law. One to call him a terrorist, a criminal, and other one to call him a victim.

This interview has been edited and condensed. To view the entire interview, visit therealnews.com where you can find more independent local, national, and international journalism that examines the underlying causes of chronic problems and searches for effective solutions.

  • Wanda Wanton

    This article is so inflammatory that it is disgusting. So much for impartial journalism. I fully expect to see swastikas all over the city after this article

  • Thanks for giving a Palestinian woman a moment to speak to Baltimore and thank you, also, for covering the ongoing and brutal theft of Palestine by Israeli colonists.

    Zionism, a philosophy alien to Judaism and to Evangelical Christianity until recent decades, is immoral as well as illegal. No less a personage than David Ben Gurion admitted this.

    Ben-Gurion said. “We have taken their country”

    “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs.

    “We come from Europe, they have been living and working this land for over 2000 years.

    “There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? Who would accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it’s simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there.”

    David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) was the first prime minister of Israel and widely considered the primary founder of the state of Israel. This quote is taken from The Jewish Paradox : A personal memoir (1978) by Nahum Goldmann (translated by Steve Cox), p. 99.

Sign up for the Beat Blast!

Get news to your inbox every week!