Palestinian national icon Ahed Tamimi (nicknamed “Shirley Temper”) was freed after serving an eight-month sentence in Israeli prison for recording herself punching, kicking and slapping two Israeli soldiers. The incident was streamed live by her mother, who was also released by Israeli authorities.
“It’s hard to put my experience into words. I can’t even explain how oppressed I felt while I was there,” said Tamimi after being freed. “I’m glad I ended up there for my beliefs and I’m ready to go to prison 100 more times if it serves the good of my country.”
How on earth did Tamimi survive those long, oppressive months in an Israeli prison? Surely this modern-day Jean Valjean has a harrowing tale of how she displayed unparalleled resilience in the face of adversity.
“There were many things I did there,” said Tamimi. “I took the law course [offered by the prison], studying for high school. I was reading books. We were singing, we were even making group breakfast, every room brings their own stuff and we have breakfast together outside. Also having lunch together most of the time.” When Tamimi wasn’t “singing and dancing,” she was having wild parties and watching TV.
The breakfasts and lunches at that Israeli prison must have been delicious, considering how eager Tamimi is to go back. Dr. Edy Cohen, an expert in inter-Arab relations at Bar-Ilan University, writes that Tamimi’s weight actually increased by 9 kilos (19.8 lbs) during her stay in prison. Images of Tamimi upon her release circulated the Arab Twittersphere, drawing the attention of Syrian human rights activists in particular.
“Israel released Ahed Tamimi full of health and without a scratch,” wrote Syrian activist and photographer Yasser Wardh, contrasting Tamimi’s release with the thousands of Palestinian refugees that are killed under the Assad regime. Imam Kais, who has 100,000 followers on Twitter, also contrasted Tamimi’s experience with Arab prisons. “She [Tamimi] says she learned to love life, whereas those imprisoned in our Arab countries can reach a stage where they wish their mother didn’t give birth to them.”
Nedal Alamari, a Syrian journalist and critic of Assad’s human rights abuses, tweeted a photo of a murdered Syrian woman and contrasted it with the newly-released Tamimi. Alamari noted the bitter irony of how Tamimi’s father supports the Assad regime. Many profiles tweeted photos of Tamimi next to a murdered Syrian woman, trying to draw attention to how Israel humanely treats its prisoners.
The fact that Tamimi claims to be oppressed is especially absurd, considering the extraordinary measures taken by Israeli prisons to be as comfortable as possible. Jordanian journalist Yousef Alawnah, who served a 30-month sentence in Israel for smuggling explosives, told Saudi 24 that being jailed in an Israeli prison was like “an institute of education.”
“There are 30,000-40,000 books in the library of an Israeli prison,” said Alawnah, noting the wide selection of Arabic books. “They have all the important books, history books, books against Israel and against Zionism. … Even Hitler’s Mein Kampf is there. We had an opportunity to acquire culture, to read, and to study many things in prison.”
Until 2012, hundreds of Palestinian terrorist prisoners could pursue academic studies in Israeli jails and even complete degrees from an Israeli university. Education for prisoners was provided free of charge. Though the program was halted, 484 Palestinian prisoners earned their BA degrees last year in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministry of Education. One of these terrorists was even involved in the murder of the Israeli minister of tourism.
Tamimi and her family are among the strongest supporters and enablers of terrorism against Israelis. One of the worst is Tamimi’s aunt, the unrepentant mastermind behind the 2001 Sbarro Pizza suicide-bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 civilians (including eight children and a pregnant woman) and wounding 130 others. Tamimi herself has even called on Palestinians to murder Israelis through “martyrdom-seeking operations” [i.e. suicide bombings], stabbing attacks and throwing rocks.
Tamimi is not a victim of Israeli oppression, unless she wants to blame Israel for acting like a stereotypical Jewish mother, smothering her with food and facilitating completion of her high school education. Reality check. If this were any other country in the Middle East, neither Tamimi nor her family would survive long enough to even see the inside of a prison.
Bradley Martin is a Senior Fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center and Deputy Editor for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.