[Pnews] Why is the West praising Malala, but ignoring Ahed?

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 28 16:50:29 EST 2017


  Why is the West praising Malala, but ignoring Ahed?

Shenila Khoja-Moolji - December 28, 2017

Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, was recently arrested 
in a night-time raid on her home. The Israeli authorities accuse her of 
"assaulting" an Israeli soldier and an officer. A day earlier she had 
Israeli soldiers who had entered her family's backyard. The incident 
happened shortly after a soldier shot her 14-year-old cousin in the head 
<https://www.facebook.com/Ramallah.Mix1/videos/1893565537343378/> with a 
rubber bullet, and fired tear-gas 
canisters directly at their home, breaking windows.

Her mother and cousin were arrested later as well. All three remain in 

There has been a curious lack of support for Ahed from Western feminist 
groups, human rights advocates and state officials who otherwise present 
themselves as the purveyors of human rights and champions of girls' 

    Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against

Their campaigns on empowering girls in the global South are innumerable: 
Girl Up, Girl Rising, G(irls)20 Summit, Because I am a Girl, Let Girls 
Learn, Girl Declaration.

When 15-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot 
in the head by a member of Tehrik-e-Taliban, the reaction was starkly 
different. Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the United 
Kingdom, issued a petition entitled "I am Malala." The UNESCO launched 
"Stand Up For Malala."

Malala was invited to meet then President Barack Obama, as well as the 
then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and addressed the UN General 
Assembly. She received numerous accolades from being named one of the 
100 Most Influential People by Time magazine and Woman of the Year by 
Glamour magazine to being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, 
and again in 2014 when she won.

State representatives such as Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard as well 
as prominent journalists such as Nicholas Kristof spoke up in support of 
her. There is even a Malala Day!

But we see no #IamAhed or #StandUpForAhed campaigns making headlines. 
None of the usual feminist and rights groups or political figures has 
issued statements supporting her or reprimanding the Israeli state. No 
one has declared an Ahed Day. In fact, the US in the past has even 
denied <http://mondoweiss.net/2016/12/tamimi-denied-speaking/>her a visa 
for a speaking tour.

Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against 
injustices. She has been protesting the theft of land and water by 
Israeli settlers. She has endured personal sacrifice, having lost an 
uncle and a cousin to the occupation. Her parents and brother have been 
arrested time and again. Her mother has been shot in the leg. Two years 
ago, another video 
her went viral - this time she was trying to protect her little brother 
from being taken by a soldier.

Why isn't Ahed a beneficiary of the same international outcry as Malala? 
Why has the reaction to Ahed been so different?

There are multiple reasons for this deafening silence. First among them 
is the widespread acceptance of state-sanctioned violence as legitimate. 
Whereas hostile actions of non-state actors such as the Taliban or Boko 
Haram fighters are viewed as unlawful, similar aggression by the state 
is often deemed appropriate.

This not only includes overt forms of violence such as drone attacks, 
unlawful arrests, and police brutality, but also less obvious assaults 
such as the allocation of resources, including land and water. The state 
justifies these actions by presenting the victims of its injustices as a 
threat to the functioning of the state.

Once declared a threat, the individual is easily reduced to bare life - 
a life without political value. Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has 
described <http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=2003>this as a time/place 
sanctioned by sovereign power where laws can be suspended;this 
individual can therefore now be made a target of sovereign violence. 
Terrorists often fall within this category. Thus, the execution of 
suspected terrorists through drone attacks without due judicial process 
ensues without much public uproar.

The Israeli police have deployed a similar strategy here. They have 
argued for extending 
Ahed's detention because she "poses a danger" to soldiers (state 
representatives) and could obstruct the functioning of the state (the 

Casting unarmed Palestinians like Ahed - who was simply exercising her 
right to protect her family's wellbeing with all the might of her 
16-year-old hand 
- in the same light as a terrorist is unfathomable. Such framings open 
the way for authorising excessive torture - Israel's education minister 
Naftali Bennett, for instance, wants 
and her family to "finish their lives in prison."

Ahed's suffering also exposes the West's selective humanitarianism, 
whereby only particular bodies and causes are deemed worthy of intervention.

Anthropologist Miriam Ticktin argues 
<https://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520269057>that while the 
language of morality to alleviate bodily suffering has become dominant 
in humanitarian agencies today, only particular kinds of suffering 
bodies are read as worthy of this care.This includes the exceptionally 
violated female body and the pathologically diseased body.

Such a notion of suffering normalises labouring and exploited bodies: 
"these are not the exception, but the rule, and hence are disqualified."

Issues of unemployment, hunger, threat of violence, police brutality, 
and denigration of cultures are thus often not considered deserving of 
humanitarian intervention. Such forms of suffering are seen as necessary 
and even inevitable. Ahed, therefore, does not fit the ideal 
victim-subject for transnational advocacy.

Relatedly, girls like Ahed who critique settler colonialism and 
articulate visions of communal care are not the empowered femininity 
that the West wants to valourise. She seeks justice against oppression, 
rather than empowerment that benefits only herself.

Her feminism is political, rather than one centred on commodities and 
sex. Her girl power threatens to reveal the ugly face of 
settler-colonialism, and hence is marked as "dangerous". Her courage and 
fearlessness vividly render all that is wrong with this occupation.

Ahed's plight should prompt us to interrogate our selective 
humanitarianism. Individuals who are victims of state violence, whose 
activism unveils the viciousness of power, or whose rights advocacy 
centres communal care, deserve to be included in our vision of justice.

Even if we don't launch campaigns for Ahed, it is impossible for us to 
escape her call to witness the mass debilitation, displacement and 
dispossession of her people. As Nelson Mandela said, "We know too well 
that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

Shenila Khoja-Moolji  is a scholar of gender, Islam, and youth studies. 

*/The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy./*

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