When Ahed Tamimi tried to defend herself and her home from an armed Israeli officer she became an international heroine. Images of her were plastered everywhere and she was named a “Lioness.” As she candidly admits in her soon to be published memoir (co-written with Dena Takruri) she did not want, nor did she seek this fame. She just wanted to go to school and play soccer.
What Ahed’s story demonstrates is that we have forsaken the Palestinian people. Even Palestinian children are left alone to defend themselves with their bare hands against a vicious occupation force that sends soldiers and officers who are armed to the teeth to attack Palestinians in their homes and are never held accountable for their crimes.
Who defends Palestinians?
The answer is no one. When Palestinians risk their lives as they do regularly in their heroic efforts to stay alive and resist oppression, there is no one that stands between them and the Israeli war machine. Ahed Tamimi was recently targeted again. However, the bullet intended for her hit her cousin, who was standing next to her. The soldiers actually called her by name.
Then we saw the same thing in the case of Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known and respected journalist. Shireen was assassinated in broad daylight. There was no accountability at all, from the shooters to the decision makers who gave the orders. We have come to learn that when Palestinians are targeted we can expect no arrests or serious investigation.
Noted activist Issa Amro is another example. He is thankfully still alive, but there is no certainty that he will be tomorrow. In the city of Hebron where Issa lives and works, soldiers and settlers surround him as he stands in the front line trying to free himself, his city and indeed his country from their brutality. The Old City of Hebron is perhaps one of the most dangerous places to be a Palestinian. Issa is well known for his commitment and dedication to resistance, albeit a dedicatedly unarmed resistance. The soldiers and the settlers recognize him and he is in constant danger.
Issa has been detained, arrested, beaten and dragged to military court enough times to fill the pages of a thick memoir. A new escalation in his persecution seems to have begun in the summer of 2022. In a matter of weeks, his house has been raided several times and he was detained and harassed by soldiers who handcuffed and blindfolded him, keeping him like that for hours.
Defending the defenders
People often use the term “for no reason,” when speaking about their unjust harassment, detention, arrest and killing by Israeli forces. However, this term is misleading. In the case of Issa Amro, as in the case of Shireen Abu Akleh, Ahed Tamimi and countless others, there is an excellent reason. The motive for the killing of Shireen and the constant brutal assault on people like Issa is that they have a voice that is heard around the world. Israel is terrified and when an armed bully is scared, it reacts with violence.
Another aspect of Issa Amro’s case is that he was designated a “human rights defender” by the United Nations in 2010. The U.S. State Department followed suit in 2011, as did the European Union in 2013. A 2016 Amnesty International report entitled “Israeli Government Must Cease Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders, Protect Them From Attacks,” lists Issa and several others as human rights defenders and details the ways in which the Israeli government regularly harasses them. Since the report came out, six years have passed and nothing is being done to see to it that these defenders are protected. The question that needs to be answered without delay is, who defends the defenders when they are attacked brutally and with impunity by Israel?
Every bullet has a name
How far back do we need to go in order to demonstrate how Israel gets away with murder? From its very founding moment, Israeli forces have been murdering Palestinians with impunity. Raids on homes and arrests and detention of political activists have been part of the daily life of Palestinians from the very beginning of the Apartheid regime in 1948.
Israel targets people and then executes its plan whether it is to detain, arrest, or otherwise harass them. In some cases, their targets are shot and killed. When they kill a well-known Palestinian, we hear about it, talk about it and then move on until we hear of another name. Each one of these Palestinians had a bullet with their name on it and it was just a question of time until that bullet found its mark. Unless the supply of bullets to Israel is brought to an end, the killing of Palestinians will continue uninterrupted.
International organizations that claim to stand for the rights of the oppressed need to have their feet on the ground. Like soldiers, they must have people there to stand in the midst so that Palestinians are protected. With all due respect, the designation of a human rights defender may help but it does not guarantee the lives or even the safety of those who carry it. Any organization, governmental or non-governmental that claims to have the interests of the oppressed on its agenda needs to stand in front of Israeli soldiers as they harass and endanger the lives of Palestinians.
Not all soldiers wear a uniform
Indeed, some soldiers wear suits. In capitals around the world, representatives of the state of Israel walk around in suits. But they are no less violent and racist than the soldiers in uniform in Hebron or the settlers in El-Lyd or the Yoav unit of the Israeli police that operate in the Naqab. They are all equally dedicated to the destruction of Palestine and to the preservation at all costs of the Apartheid regime.
The soldiers in suits walk through the halls of governments, the offices of big corporations, and the headquarters of NGOs to ensure that the Apartheid regime’s interests are protected. So far the evidence shows that their work is rewarded and their interests are protected.
What is also clear is that the lives of Palestinians, be they unarmed activists or fighters, be they children, women, men, or the elderly, are only worth the price of the bullet that carries their name. And while we will talk and write about the next Palestinian who is killed for a few days, their children will remain orphans for life.
Feature photo | Slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is depicted in a poster at right, near murals of George Floyd, left, a Black American killed by police in Minneapolis in 2020, and Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, center, on Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, June 19, 2022. Maya Alleruzzo | AP
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”