A Palestinian Author, Ahed Tamimi, Faces Indefinite Detention After Hearing

It was around 4 a.m. when Nariman Tamimi’s daughter, Ahed, roused her from sleep and told her that Israeli soldiers had surrounded their home in the occupied West Bank.

Nariman Tamimi had been expecting the raid: Over the previous week, an online campaign had vilified her daughter as a terrorist and demanded Ahed’s arrest. But the expectation did little to dull her terror on Nov. 6, when more than a dozen soldiers ransacked their home and hauled Ahed away in handcuffs.

Ahed Tamimi, 22, is one of the highest-profile Palestinians arrested by Israel since Oct. 7, as it has conducted a sweeping campaign of raids and detentions that it says is aimed at deterring terrorist attacks but has also prompted alarm from international human rights groups.

On Sunday, after holding Ms. Tamimi for nearly three weeks without access to a lawyer or her family, Israel moved to incarcerate her under administrative detention, according to her lawyer, Mahmoud Hassan. She now faces indefinite imprisonment, without charges or trial, based on evidence that neither she nor her lawyer are allowed to view.

Israel’s expansive use of administrative detention has been widely criticized as a violation of international law. The detentions, which Israel maintains are a preventative and necessary security measure, are typically upheld by the Israeli military court system and can be renewed indefinitely. The use of administrative detentions had hit a 30-year high even before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, human rights groups say.

“I’m hopeless to defend her,” Mr. Hassan said.

The Israeli military has said Ms. Tamimi was arrested on suspicion of inciting violence and calling for terrorist activity, but has declined to provide further information. Her mother said the arrest was based on a post to an Instagram account in her name that referenced Hitler and vowed to “slaughter” settlers in the West Bank.

Her family has denied that she wrote the post, saying her account had been hacked months ago and that she is frequently impersonated online.

Ms. Tamimi comes from a family of prominent Palestinian activists and has protested the Israeli occupation of their village of Nabi Saleh for much of her life. Her father, Bassem Tamimi, a longtime activist, was also detained, on Oct. 29, and has been placed in the West Bank’s Ofer Prison under administrative detention for six months.

Ms. Tamimi made headlines as a child for physically confronting Israeli forces, who have wounded, imprisoned and killed many of her relatives. A video of one such episode, in which she slapped an Israeli soldier, went viral and transformed Ms. Tamimi into an international symbol of Palestinian resistance.

She subsequently served an eight-month sentence and spent her 17th birthday in jail. Her memoir, “They Called Me a Lioness: A Palestinian Girl’s Fight for Freedom,” was published by an imprint of Random House in 2022.

The Israeli military estimates that it has arrested 1,800 people in the occupied West Bank since Oct. 7. But the crackdown, coupled with escalating reports of violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers, has left the West Bank in an “alarming and urgent” situation with “multilayered human rights violations,” the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society, a nongovernmental rights group, gives an even higher estimate for the number of detentions since Oct. 7 — more than 3,000 — and says the arrests have been accompanied by abuse of the detainees, threats against their families and, often, damage to their homes. Ms. Tamimi was beaten during her arrest, and then transferred from the West Bank to a prison in Israel, where she was beaten again, her lawyer, Mr. Hassan, said.

PEN International, a writers’ association that defends freedom of expression, has demanded the immediate release of Ms. Tamimi and “all Palestinians who have been languishing in unjust imprisonment for years, many of whom are children.”

“Administrative detention is inherently arbitrary,” the association’s head of the Middle East and North Africa region, Mina Thabet, said in a statement. “This form of detention has been systematically used by the Israeli authorities to subjugate and silence Palestinians, including writers, for decades,” he added.

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