Palestinian civil resistance leader Bassem Tamimi was arrested at his home in the village of Nabi Saleh, in Palestine’s West Bank, on 29 October. Eight days later, his daughter Ahed was also arrested. Footage taken by her mother shows an armoured vehicle with an Israeli flag pulling up to their house and soldiers piling out.
Palestinian journalist Dena Takruri was told by Ahed’s mother that Ahed is being held in Damon prison in Israel and has been beaten.
Ahed is one of the most prominent faces of Palestinian resistance. Footage of her defiant stance against Israeli soldiers as a child have been shared across the world. She and her father have led ongoing protests in Nabi Saleh against Israel’s occupation since 2009.
“Nabi Saleh is the pulse of the street and interacts immediately with any events in the homeland”, Bassem told Red Flag last year. The arrests show that Israel is determined to punish any Palestinian who resists, including those who do so peacefully. The Tamimi family has long faced violent repression by the Israeli state because of their nonviolent protests against Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank.
“With the occupation forces in the village of Nabi Saleh, during less than ten years of popular resistance, seven martyrs fell”, Bassem continued. “[There are] hundreds of wounded and detainees. The policy of Zionist colonialism is killing, violence and terrorism in order to break the will of the Palestinian people in the struggle to achieve their right to self-determination, to achieve their national independence and deliverance from colonialism.”
Bassem and Ahed consistently organised peaceful resistance against the military and the Israeli settlers. “They were the initiators most of the time”, Waleed Tamimi, Bassem’s nephew, tells Red Flag. Waleed is talking about the weekly protests organised by residents in Nabi Saleh for more than a decade.
“The demonstrations began in late 2009 after settlers seized a water spring belonging to the village”, he says. They continued every Friday. Sometimes small numbers participated. At other times, the protests swelled and were violently repressed.
“Demonstrations are a legitimate right of the Palestinian people, and those in Nabi Saleh were very necessary to stop the ongoing settlers’ seizure of lands. Without these demonstrations, you and many people around the world would not have known about our story and our suffering with the occupation”, Waleed continues.
“Ahed and Bassem opened their house to thousands of the foreign and Jewish sympathisers who came from everywhere to the village [to show solidarity with the protests] over the last twelve years. They provided them with sleep and housing, and later it became the same in all the homes of the village.
“I want everyone who reads this to know that the rights and freedom of the Palestinian people do not conflict with the rights and freedom of the Jews. Standing with Palestine does not mean you are hostile to the Jews.”
Nabi Saleh illustrates the settlement process that has progressively stolen more and more land from Palestinians living in the West Bank.
“Twenty percent of the settlement’s area belongs to my family. They stole it in 2001 and prevented us from entering it. We filed a case in the Israeli courts and [they] ruled in our favour”, Waleed says.
“The land belongs to its owner: my grandfather Tamim Tamimi. But when we wanted to go there, we were shot by settlers. We had no choice but to demonstrate to obtain our rights. We were peaceful and strong, and used the media to show the world their real face. That’s hurt them more than anything.
“We know that we don’t have the power to stand against their army. But we must stand to make our next generation and all the world know that it’s our land, our rights, and we will never leave it; whatever the cost that we will pay.”
The arrests of Ahed and Bassem come amid a massive increase in settler violence and a military crackdown. More than 170 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since 7 October; more than 2,000 have been arrested.
“The security situation in the West Bank has been witnessing an escalation of violence by the occupation for two years”, Waleed says.
“Last year recorded the highest number of Palestinian martyrs in sixteen years, accompanied by the deduction of the Palestinian Authority’s clearance funds. It became unable to provide salaries to employees, which in turn affected the economy in general and increased the pressure on citizens.
“There are no courts ... only military law. They arrest anyone who shows sympathy with the resistance in Gaza. And under a law passed by the Israeli Knesset [parliament], all the prisoners have an ‘administrative sentence’ of six months. This sentence can be extended without charges.
“The settlers are also a great danger ... They have killed quite a few [Palestinians] since the beginning of the war. But now you imagine it in the West Bank with all this. Watching what they did in Gaza with no work, no money, no food. I see people feeling very angry and stressed, and this will lead to a big explosion.”
As Israel carries out genocide in Gaza and tightens its hold on the West Bank, it matters more than ever for those who stand with Palestine to protest.
“It is very important, especially in countries that have influence over Israel and support it, through these demonstrations to force them to stop their support and demand that Israel stop committing its crimes. And to convey the issue to new people and make them learn about the reality of the injustice that the Palestinians have been experiencing for many years”, Waleed says.
“They make me happy and optimistic that freedom and security for the Palestinian people are near, and that the people are the ones who will change this bloody history.”