More than two-dozen high-profile art and film figures, as well as athletes and academics, from the U.S. have signed a petition calling for the release of Palestinian iconic teen Ahed Tamimi who faces 12 charges and is being tried in an Israeli military court behind closed doors.
Netflix Marvel series star Rosario Dawson, Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams, famed progressive actor Danny Glover, activist and author Angela Davis and philosopher Cornel West were among the 27 figures who signed the petition.
The petition starts by describing the events leading up to the arrest and indictment of Tamimi before comparing the 17-year-old Palestinian girl to Trayvon Martin, the young boy who was shot dead by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012.
“Too many of our children quickly learn that they may be imprisoned or killed simply for who they are,” read the petition that was published and shared with media Monday.
“From Trayvon Martin to Mohammed Abu Khdeir and Khalif Browder to Ahed Tamimi – racism, state violence and mass incarceration have robbed our people of their childhoods and their futures,” read the open letter organized by U.S.-based Dream Defenders group that was formed following Martin’s death to fight for social change.
The prominent United States figures went on to highlight previous revelations on how U.S. police, immigration officers and FBI agents train with Israeli security forces “utilizing similar repressive profiling tactics to target and harass our communities.”
Ahed was arrested and indicted on 12 charges including assaulting an Israeli soldier and throwing stones after a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier in her home’s yard went viral. It was revealed later that the Palestinian girl was upset after soldiers had shot her 14-year-old cousin in the face a day earlier.
“The Tamimi family stands up to Israel’s brutality because they believe Palestinians, like ALL people, should be free. Dream Defenders stands with them and all Palestinians in their righteous struggle,” the petition contiuned adding that a delegation from the group had gone to Palestine late last year and met with different communities including the Tamimi family.
Ahed, who turned 17 behind bars last month, was denied bail by the military court judge and stands little chance of winning her case as such courts have a 99 percent conviction rate. Several human rights organizations have slammed Israeli over her arrest and pre-trial detention including the United Nations.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Israel has ratified, clearly states that children are to be deprived of their liberty only as a last resort, and only for the shortest appropriate period of time,” Michael Lynk, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, said Tuesday after Ahed's first hearing in which the court decided to ban media from the trial.
“None of the facts of this case would appear to justify her ongoing detention prior to her trial, particularly given the concerns expressed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child about the use of pre-trial detention and detention on remand,” Lynk added.
Ahed’s mother Narmin was also arrested in December during the overnight raid on their home in the Nabi Saleh village in the West bank. She is also being tried in a military court and faces charges related to incitement because she recorded a video of her daughter slapping the soldier.
"The military courts themselves are one of the most injurious mechanisms of the occupation and are not designed to seek justice or truth, but to maintain the occupation," Amit Gilutz, spokesperson for Israeli rights group B'Tselem, told Al-Jazeera Tuesday after Ahed’s secret trial.
Over the years Ahed gained international attention for her brave actions against Israeli occupation forces during protests and clashes in and around her village. In 2015 a video of her, along with female members of her family, went viral showing her fighting an Israeli occupation soldier who was pinning down her 12-year old male cousin.
But the Israeli occupation has been actively persecuting the Tamimi family for decades over their weekly protests against the theft of their lands in favor of the illegal Jewish settlement of Halamish near their villages. Several members of the family have been detained and killed over the years.