On July 2, 2010, in Hebron, a female Israeli settler, Yitaf Alkobi, slapped a soldier, and no one in Israel gave it any importance. The woman was held, questioned and then set free to go home, even though Alkobi was well-known to the military and the police, having been reported several times for her aggressive behavior and for throwing stones.
No Israeli Minister came out to ask for her to be made an example of, as it happened in the case of Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old Palestinian girl from Nabi Saleh who was arrested a month ago after slapping two Israeli soldiers outside her home. No Israeli columnist entered the fray back then to defend the honor of the armed forces, tarnished at the hands of Yitaf Alkobi as she struck a soldier in the face—like the well-known Ben Caspit did in Tamimi’s case. Everyone was as understanding then about Alkobi’s slaps as they are determined now to punish the Palestinian teenager.
They are not willing to consider extenuating circumstances: Right before attacking the soldiers, Tamimi had seen her 14-year-old cousin Mohammed falling to the ground, severely wounded in the head by a bullet fired by the Israeli army.
Wednesday, Israeli military judges decided that Tamimi, who is now facing no less than 12 counts of indictment, will remain in jail for the duration of her trial, which will begin on Jan. 31, the girl’s birthday. Her mother, Nariman, who was arrested for having recorded the scene with her phone—resulting in the video that remains at the top of the viral video lists on social networks—will be tried starting on Feb. 12. Attorney Gabi Lasky, representing mother and daughter, says matters are very serious. It is clear that the exemplary punishment demanded by the Right, with the support of the majority of the Israeli public, will be applied sooner or later.
“The seriousness of the facts of which she is accused offers no alternative other than imprisonment,” commented one of the judges Wednesday, painting the Palestinian girl as a hardened criminal and habitual offender.
The Tamimi family in Nabi Saleh is going through very trying times. Ahed’s father, Basem, a well-known activist, has launched a new appeal for the release of his daughter, who has become a symbol of the Palestinian resistance to the occupation, now famous around the world.
Tamimi will probably not receive a full 10-year sentence, the maximum according to the law, but she is sure to be confined to Hasharon Prison, where she has been locked up for the past month, for a long time. And her mother will likely suffer the same fate.
Meanwhile, one hears almost nothing about the trial against 21-year-old Israeli settler Amiram Ben Uliel, accused of setting a fire in July 2015 to the home of the Dawabsha family in the Palestinian village of Duma, which killed Ali Dawabsha, burned alive at 18 months old, his father Saad and mother Riham a few weeks later. The only one who escaped from the flames alive, although with serious burns, was Dawabsha Ahmed, 6 years old, now an orphan.
And one cannot fail to recall the sentence of just 18 months in military prison given to the soldier Elor Azaria, who on March 24, 2016, in Hebron, killed in cold blood a Palestinian man who was responsible for a knife attack but was lying on the ground injured and posed no further threat. B’tselem, an Israeli nongovernmental organization that deals with human rights violations, reports that more than 300 Palestinian minors are currently being detained in Israel. And the Israeli army has confirmed that 1,400 Palestinian minors have been tried by its military courts over the past three years.
Meanwhile, other children and youngsters are facing punishment for the “crime” of being Palestinians. They are the ones who are living in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, victims of the 1948 Palestinian Exodus, or Nakba. The decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to slash funding for UNRWA, the U.N. agency that is assisting Palestinian refugees, is threatening serious and immediate consequences for the 500,000 students who are attending U.N. schools.
“This reduced contribution threatens one of the most successful and innovative human development endeavors in the Middle East,” warns Pierre Kraehenbuehl, Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, who speaks of a tremendous challenge faced by the agency in fulfilling its mandate and preserving its provision of key services for Palestinian refugees, which it has done for the past decades.
UNRWA is facing the most serious financial crisis in its long history. The U.S. has decided to pay only half of the first $125 million installment in aid that it had previously announced, in retaliation for the condemnation by the Palestinians of Trump’s recognition last month of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a rebuke supported by a resolution of the U.N. General Assembly that has made the White House nervous. To compensate, at least in part, for the reduction in U.S. aid, Belgium committed Wednesday to pay €19 million to UNRWA over the next three years.
According to the Arab League, the step taken by Trump to cut aid is meant to do nothing less than ”liquidate the rights of Palestinian refugees.”