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West Bank Teen Ahed Tamimi Becomes Poster Child for Palestinians

This West Bank teen has become the poster child for the Palestinian fight against Israeli occupation.
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NABI SALIH, West Bank— This teen has become the poster child for the Palestinian fight against Israeli occupation.

A picture of 14-year-old Ahed Tamimi biting and hitting a masked and armed Israeli soldier who was thrusting her 12-year-old brother down onto a rock in the West Bank has gone viral.

Not that celebrity phases her.

“All I did was help my brother — if the soldier’s mother was also present she would have hit me because in the end he is her son and this is what we did,” she told NBC News. “There are many Palestinian children who went through the same thing or something more difficult but there was no camera to film them.”

Image:  Ahed Tamimi
Aug. 28 pictures of Ahed Tamimi, 14, biting and fighting a masked Israeli soldier who was restraining her 12-year-old brother, have gone viral.ABBAS MOMANI / AFP - Getty Images

The Aug. 28 incident followed a march against the confiscation of Palestinian land to expand the nearby Jewish Halamish settlement near Ramallah.

Tamimi's activism already made her a fixture in social media. In December, 2012 she was filmed shouting at and shoving soldiers twice her size, which earned her an invitation to Turkey to receive a "courage" award.

But since the viral image, journalists have beaten a path to her family’s door in the village of Nabi Saleh to speak to her about her ultimate goal — the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank. Israel has occupied the area since 1967 but Palestinians see it as integral to a future state.

Tamimi’s looks — long, flowing blond hair, jeans and cartoon-emblazoned T-shirt — belie firmly-held convictions shared with her family, which has a history of confrontations with Israeli soldiers. Her father, Bassem Tamimi, was convicted of sending people to throw stones and holding a march without permit — a charge he denies.

Image: An Israeli soldier detains Mohammed Tamimi
An Israeli soldier detains Ahed Tamimi's brother, Mohammed, on Aug. 28, 2020ABBAS MOMANI / AFP - Getty Images

The family, including Ahed, are frequently seen at demonstrations against the growth of Jewish settlements and against the detention of Palestinians. Some Israeli commentators call the Tamimis provocateurs and characterize Ahed of being a "performer" and "actress." In contrast, Tal Niv, an editor at Haaretz, called her an "extraordinary girl" after the Aug. 28 incident.

“We the Palestinians are not going to wait for Saladin to liberate us,” she said, referring to a 12th-century leader who united Middle Eastern armies to fight European crusaders. “We are going to make our own Saladin and liberate ourselves.”

There are a few corners of Tamimi’s life that aren't ruled by politics, but not many.

“If there’s no occupation, I would go watch a soccer match because I like soccer a lot and my favorite team is Barcelona and my favorite footballer is Neymar,” she said, referring to the Brazilian superstar.

“I would love to go out every day with my friends and go with them to the sea," she added. "There are many things I would do, such as going anywhere I want, and there would be no checkpoints to stop me."

Image: Ahed Tamimi bites a masked Israeli soldier in the midst of a melee
Aug. 28 pictures of Ahed Tamimi, 14, biting and fighting a masked Israeli soldier who had her 12-year-old brother in a chock hold in the midst of a melee, have gone viral.ABBAS MOMANI / AFP - Getty Images