JERUSALEM: The family of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi insists she didn’t write the words for which she now sits in an Israeli jail.
Israeli authorities burst into the Tamimi home in the occupied West Bank on Monday and arrested the 22-year old for “inciting terrorism” on her Instagram account. But her mother says the account was hacked.
Tamimi gained worldwide fame in 2017 after a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier went viral on social media. She later said the soldiers had shot her cousin in the head just before the video was taken. After being released from prison, she wrote a book and crisscrossed Europe and the Middle East, becoming a sort of superstar in the campaign against Israeli occupation.
Tamimi’s recent arrest has prompted criticism of an Israeli crackdown on Palestinian online speech in the wake of the Hamas cross-border attack Oct. 7. Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli authorities, fired by Israeli employers and expelled from Israeli schools for online speech deemed incendiary, rights groups say.
The Israeli military alleges Tamimi posted a statement reading “we are waiting for you in all the West Bank cities from Hebron to Jenin — we will slaughter you and you will say that what Hitler did to you was a joke, we will drink your blood and eat your skulls, come on, we are waiting for you.”
Nariman Tamimi, Ahed’s mother, said the account had been hacked — a common occurrence for the fiery activist.
Nonetheless, she said soldiers stormed the Tamimi house in the flashpoint village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank early Monday morning, screaming that they wanted to arrest Ahed.
“She came to me and hugged me, saying, ‘mama, don’t be afraid and don’t worry. I am strong, and you too, be strong. Nothing can shake us,” Nariman recounted.
Soldiers held Nariman in a separate room while others handcuffed her daughter. Through the walls, Nariman says she heard the soldiers beating Ahed before carting her away. The Israeli military declined to say where Tamimi is being held.
A family representative, who declined to be identified because of the delicate legal situation, said an Israeli military court will deliberate on the length of Tamimi’s detention this coming week. Alternatively, Tamimi could be placed under administrative detention, a status that would allow her to be held indefinitely without charge.
Israel’s far right celebrated her arrest. Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, praised the soldiers who arrested Tamimi.
In a picture he posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, Tamimi sits handcuffed on a bed, the tight grasp of an armed Israeli soldier hidden by her unruly mane.
“Zero tolerance with terrorists and supporters of terrorism!” Ben-Gvir pledged.
Tamimi’s detention comes as Israel doubles down on Palestinian online expression, rights groups say.
In a report published 20 days after the initial Hamas attack, Palestinian rights group Adalah documented 161 criminal legal proceedings initiated against Palestinians for incitement. Meanwhile, dozens of Palestinian students and employees have faced lower-level disciplinary measures for posts deemed incendiary, it says.
“These measures constitute a severe campaign of repression against Palestinian citizens of Israel and constitute a mass political persecution of them,” the report concluded.
PEN America, an advocacy group that promotes the right to free expression, urged Israeli authorities and Instagram to try to clarify the circumstances of Tamimi’s arrest.
“There are very limited circumstances in which the arrest of an author for their words can be justified,” the statement read. “None of those apply when the writings in question are not the writer’s own.”
Israeli authorities have arrested 2,280 Palestinian detainees in nightly Israeli raids into the West Bank since the start of the war, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, an advocacy group.
Israel says the raids root out militancy in the volatile territory. Over 167 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank in the month since the war’s start.