The Palestinian teenager who became a protest icon after being filmed slapping Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank will serve eight months in prison as part of a plea deal reached with Israeli military prosecutors on Wednesday.
Ahed Tamimi, 17, became a Palestinian hero after the December 15 video of her kicking and slapping two Israeli soldiers in front of her home in the village of Nabi Saleh went viral.
In the video, the then 16-year-old Tamimi and her cousin Nour are seen telling two Israeli soldiers to leave their property, she then pushes, slaps and kicks them.
The soldiers then moved backward after Tamimi’s mother Nariman got involved.
The soldiers responded with restraint and infuriated right-wing Israelis angry over any perceived signs of weakness.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett suggested at the time that the women involved “should finish their lives in prison.”
‘No justice under occupation’
Under the plea deal, Tamimi agreed to four of 12 charges that could have seen her imprisoned for years, her lawyer Gaby Lasky said. She was also fined $1,430 (€1,157). The three months she has spent in a military prison since being arrested in a late night December raid on her home count towards the eight-month sentence.
“There is no justice under occupation and this is an illegitimate court,” Tamimi told reporters at the military court.
Her mother and cousin also reached plea deals, receiving eight months and 16 days, respectively. They were also fined.
“It remains a tragedy that a 17-year-old girl will spend eight months in prison for driving soldiers away from her home, but Ahed and Nariman could never expect a fair trial,” Lasky said.
Military courts are ‘main apparatuses of the occupation’
Tamimi’s case drew international attention to Israel’s military court system used to try Palestinians in the West Bank, while Jewish settlers in the West Bank face Israeli civilian courts.
Each year hundreds of Palestinian youths are rounded up, interrogated and held in military detention. Conviction rates are near 100 percent after many reach plea deals.
“Plea bargains are the norm in Israel’s military justice system, which is characterized by prolonged pretrial detention, abuse of kids and sham trials. Hundreds of Palestinian children remained locked up with little attention to their cases,” said Sarah Leah Wilson, the executive director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch.
In a report released Tuesday, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem said military courts “are not, nor can they ever be, neutral arbiters.”
“They constitute one of the main apparatuses of the occupation Israel uses to oppress the Palestinian population and quell any sign of resistance to its continued control over the Occupied Territories,” the report said.
Tamimi comes from a family with a long history of protests against Israeli occupation. She had been involved in previous acts of resistance and pictures of her confronting troops are widely published.
Residents of Nabi Saleh have staged weekly demonstrations since 2009 against restrictions on Palestinian access to land due to Jewish settlers in the area.
On the day of the incident in December, the Israeli military said soldiers were responding to Palestinians throwing stones. The same day, a soldier fired a rubber bullet at close range which disfigured the face of Tamimi’s 15-year-old cousin Mohammed Tamimi. Ahed Tamimi and her cousin were reportedly angry about the shooting.
Right-wing Israelis accuse Tamimi’s family of using the white-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl for propaganda stunts.
Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin’s Likud party, even suggested the Tamimi family “may not be a real family” and accused them of conducting propaganda against Israel by dressing children up in Western clothes and provoking troops.
“When the European people see my daughter, blonde and blue-eyed, they are shaken, because they see their children in front of them. It broke the stereotyped image of the Palestinian in the international community,” Tamimi’s father, Bassem Tamimi, told Reuters news agency.