Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Trial Set To Start For Young Palestinian Activist Who Struck An Israeli Soldier


A 17-year-old Palestinian girl who has been jailed by Israel is being portrayed as a symbol by both sides of the conflict there, and each has a starkly different view of her. The girl was videotaped slapping and kicking Israeli soldiers at the end of last year. This happened outside of her home in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Tomorrow she goes on trial in a military court. NPR's Daniel Estrin has this report.


DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: It's mid-December, and Israeli troops are clashing with Palestinians in the village of Nabi Saleh. Israel says kids have been throwing rocks. A young villager is seriously wounded by an Israeli rubber bullet to the head. This video shows Ahed Tamimi, 16 years old, walking up to two Israeli soldiers standing in her driveway.


AHED TAMIMI: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: Get out of here, Tamimi says. She taunts them and pushes their arms. One of them tries to swat her away.


A. TAMIMI: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: She screams and kicks him in the leg. She slaps and hits the soldiers in the face. The soldiers don't respond, and eventually they walk away. Her mom posted the video on Facebook, and it went viral in Israel. Ahed Tamimi became headline news.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: (Foreign language spoken).


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: It outraged Israelis, who said she shouldn't be allowed to get away with doing that to their troops. Israeli government ministers said she should go to prison, and soldiers arrested her in the middle of the night.

This is Ahed's room.

BASSEM TAMIMI: This is her bed, yeah.

ESTRIN: She's been confronting soldiers throughout her childhood. Her father, Bassem Tamimi, says it's a natural reaction to a life surrounded by violence, relatives wounded and killed. He shows me an award on her bookshelf and says it's from the Turkish president, who gave it to her when she was 11 after she was filmed raising a fist at an Israeli soldier about twice her size. Bassem Tamimi has helped lead protests against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Now his daughter's supporters around the world have started an online campaign - Free Ahed Tamimi. Here's Bassem Tamimi.

B. TAMIMI: I hope she can be a symbol to her generation and to the future of Palestine. I hope that she represent the real face of our struggle and the real face of our issue.

ESTRIN: Some see her as an example of the issue of Palestinian juveniles detained by Israel - hundreds a year, according to human rights advocates. Others see her video as an example of Palestinian propaganda. A prominent critic is Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Michael Oren, who served as Israel's ambassador to the U.S.

MICHAEL OREN: You've heard of Hollywood. You've heard of Bollywood. This is Pallywood. Pallywood is an industry - mostly video clips - against Israel that can cause a strategic damage around the world by influencing world opinion against us.

ESTRIN: In 2015, Oren led a classified parliamentary inquiry to investigate whether the Tamimis were a real family and not actors dressed in Western clothing, provoking soldiers on camera. He acknowledges the inquiry found no proof. The Tamimis are a prominent family in the area. Now Israel faces another dilemma. Her arrest has given her even more international attention.

OREN: On the other hand, our soldiers are our children. And for an Israeli audience to see again and again photos of our children being beaten up and not have the army react in any way was very, very difficult for the society.

ESTRIN: Ahed Tamimi's been in jail since December. She marked her 17th birthday there last month. Israel says she'd pose a threat if she were released on bail. She's facing several counts of assaulting soldiers, including throwing stones towards soldiers in other instances. Her mother, Nariman, is detained, too, and charged for uploading the video. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.