Washington, DC (TFC) – Each year The Fifth Column will honor a person under the age of 18 who has contributed to free speech or whose actions greatly altered the way the public sees an international narrative. This year Ahed Tamimi was selected.
The young Palestinian made headlines earlier this year when she fought back against an Israeli soldier attempting to arrest her younger brother. She jumped on the soldier; biting, kicking, and fighting. The soldier was not able to make the arrest. Years earlier, Tamimi had gone viral in a video where she chased Israeli troops down a road screaming at them after one had tossed a concussion grenade near her. She was nicked named “Shirley Temper” because of her golden curls and fiery attitude. This time, however, Tamimi made herself available to the press. She spoke openly about her life under Israeli rifles and what the fight for freedom meant to her. In her interview with The Fifth Column, she expressed her fear at losing a loved one but made a point to say, “Palestinian children are not afraid [of] the occupier.”
Tamimi’s willingness to speak with the press brought the occupation into the homes of the West in a new way. No longer was it a bearded PLO representative. American soccer moms were confronted by a young blonde girl in her early teens who had just struggled with an armed soldier. She was wearing a Tweety Bird shirt and she looked too much like the All-American girl next door. She has a Facebook account. Her photo stream could be that of a normal American teenager, except that mixed in with the selfies are photos of her staring down the barrel of an American-made M203 grenade launcher. It made Americans ask questions.
Tamimi would be quick to point out that she isn’t special and that all Palestinian children would fight back for their loved ones. Shortly after the incident, she told TFC that “Every Palestinian, since the day he was born, he has this courage and this spirit because he’s born in such difficult conditions.” What separated her from the other children who go out to play with gas masks hanging at their hip is that she was willing to speak with the press. After her interview with The Fifth Column, she was profiled by NBC, The Guardian, Mondoweiss, and many others.
She became the poster girl for Palestinian resistance. Her face is now synonymous with the fight in the Occupied Territories. Her defiance, coming on the heels of the Assault on Gaza, breathed new life into the fight for Palestinian independence. Her willingness to bring the grim realities of Palestine out of the shadows and into the public eye have changed the narrative. The images of a young girl dodging grenades, fighting soldiers, and staring down the rifles of the occupation are not going to be pushed from the collective mind of the West. Most Americans know that if there was any justice in the world, she would be at the movies with her friends, not making international headlines.
Her outspoken behavior leading to a change in the narrative, unwillingness to bend to an oppressive state, and courage in extreme situations make her an honorary part of the infiltration and TFC’s inaugural Young Person of the Year.