THE Palestinian teenager who became famous for slapping an IDF soldier left prison on Sunday – and instantly became a sought-after celebrity.
Ahed Tamimi just finished an eight-month sentence for four assaults against soldiers, including the slapping incident which went viral on social media.
And as soon as she stepped out of prison, the cream of Palestinian society was clamouring to honour her.
Israeli politicians mostly kept quiet about the release, as they didn’t want to further increase interest in her case.
But many of them have condemned her conduct, defended the sentence given to her, and pointed out that members of the wider Tamimi family have been involved in several violent incidents, including the attack that killed Australian-Israeli Malki Roth during the Second Intifada.
Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President and leader of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, was among the first to receive 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi.
Abbas “praised Ahed and described her as a model of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, independence and statehood”, according to his official media. He claimed that she “embodies” non-violent resistance.
Her return to the West Bank almost had the pomp of a state visit. She was met by excited crowds, held a press conference, went to the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to lay flowers, visited President Abbas, and found herself inundated by interview requests.
In her various comments her message was the same: anger towards Israel and an insistence that “the resistance continues until the fall of the occupation”.
Her father Bassem said that he stands by his daughter’s actions, and is happy for her to become a Palestinian icon.
It wasn’t just Palestinians who were keen to hail her – world leaders started making contact.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called her and praised her “bravery and determination to fight”, according to a Turkish news agency. Prime Minister Saad Hariri tweeted congratulations.
Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela considers her a “symbol of Palestinian resistance” and plans to give her a bravery award.
Knesset member Yousef Jabareen, who represents the mostly-Arab Joint List, claimed that while prison “was meant to break Ahed Tamimi’s spirit”, she is “even more of a hero following her release”.
Palestinian media reported on her story with drama. She has “finally breathed freedom” after “months of being locked up in the darkness of Israeli prison cells”, announced the official Palestinian Authority news site.
Tamimi’s cell was lit, and she spent only part of the time there, also engaging in a range of activities, including taking Israeli-funded classes to study international and humanitarian law, as she hopes to use her knowledge to fight what she deems the Palestinian cause.
Now, Tamimi is getting used to a life of celebrity, where even a visit to buy a snack gets online attention.
A Palestinian lawyer tweeted a photo of her eating an ice cream, describing her as a “child, forced into heroism”.