Calling for continued Palestinian resistance against the “occupation,” 17-yearold Ahed Tamimi received a hero’s welcome when she returned to her home village of Nabi Saleh on Sunday, after spending seven months in an Israeli jail for slapping an IDF soldier.“The power is with the people, and the people will decide their destiny and their future,” Tamimi told a gaggle of reporters in Arabic, while many of her statements were translated into English. “Our resistance will continue.”She said that international solidarity is important particularly with regard to isolating the Israeli government and imposing sanctions on it.
Tamimi wore a black T-shirt and a white and black Keffiyeh (scarf) around her neck, as she sat with her parents, Nariman and Bassem, next to a table set up by a sculpture of a masked figure with a pencil in a sling shot, on a base of books.With her long, tawny curls, Tamimi was considered a popular poster child for Palestinian resistance long before her arrest. Her time in jail has only increased her fame.Right-wing Israelis have nicknamed her “Shirley Temper,” because of her repeated appearance in viral YouTube videos going back at least seven years that showed her confronting IDF soldiers in Nabi Saleh.After she was freed, Tamimi visited the tomb of former Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat, where she laid a wreath and kissed his stone grave.She also received a hug from his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, sitting next to him in a chair often used for visiting heads of state.“Ahed Tamimi is a model for the Palestinian struggle to achieve freedom and independence,” Abbas said.People like Tamimi and the residents of Nabi Saleh have “proven to the world that our Palestinian people will remain steadfast on their land and stick to their rights, defending them regardless of the magnitude of sacrifices,” he said.“The popular resistance is the ideal weapon to confront the arrogance of the occupation and expose its barbarism in front of the whole world,” Abbas said.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Tamimi to congratulate her on her release. When she was 13, Tamimi had breakfast with him in Turkey.Sunday morning, Beit Aryeh- Ofarim Regional Council head Avi Naim manned an almost solo protest against her release, as he stood near Route 455 with a large Israeli flag.“The terrorist Tamimi is a product of a Palestinian education system that incites violence and terror. We are not afraid. We will continue to stand firm as a wall in the face such incitement,” Naim said.But in Nabi Saleh, Tamimi spoke of Israeli violence against the Palestinians and her anger at the Israeli media for the way it portrayed her family.“I am boycotting the Israeli media because of how it attacked and defamed our family, and because of the policy that it has pursued consistently against us,” she said.Tamimi called for her supporters to continue to campaign for the release of Palestinians in Israeli jails, especially those who are minors.Tamimi sent a message of solidarity to the people of Gaza and to the Bedouins in the West Bank herding village of Khan al-Ahmar who are under threat of a forced IDF evacuation. “Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Palestine,” Tamimi said.She brought a message from the prisoners who called for “national unity inside Palestine,” for the Palestinians to remain strong and resist, and for the continued campaign for their freedom.“I’m very happy that I’m back with my family. But this happiness is incomplete because my female and male prisoner sisters and brothers are still in prison,” Tamimi said.While in prison, she said, a class was formed to help prisoners like herself study for their matriculation exams. She had feared that her time in prison would keep her from taking the test and graduating with her class.“We faced consistent threats and abuse from the Israeli occupation that tried to shut down the class,” Tamimi said.Among the topics they studied were international law and human rights, she said.“As for my future plans, I want to complete my university studies. I want to study law so that I would be able to bring the case of my homeland to all international forums. I also want to speak about the case of the prisoners to the whole world and at international courts,” Tamimi said.“Women are a key part of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. The women’s role will continue to expand,” she said.
Ahed Tamimi addresses the press after her release from jail, July 29, 2018. (Credit: Tovah Lazaroff)