Prison was a sacrifice she was willing to make, the teenager tells The National's Ben Lynfield in Nabi Saleh, Occupied West Bank
Ahed Tamimi: I know I am a symbol of Palestinian resistance
Palestinian resistance activist Ahed Tamimi on Tuesday staked out an uncompromising position, two days after her release from prison, saying an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders would not solve the conflict.
Asked during a meeting with journalists outside her home whether she would accept a solution of two states along the 1967 borders, the 17-year-old, who gained freedom to a hero's welcome on Sunday, responded: "Certainly not."
Ms Tamimi served eight months in jail for kicking, punching and slapping an Israeli soldier in front of her house. The action, which was filmed by her mother and went viral, came shortly after her cousin was shot in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet.
"We want all of Palestine," Ms Tamimi said on Tuesday. Referring to cities inside Israel's recognised borders, she said: "All of Palestine — Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth. All these areas. They are our country. The refugees must return to their land."
"Palestine before the occupation had the Islamic, Christian and Jewish religions. The problem is not Jews. Many Jews support the Palestinian issue. The problem is with Zionism, not Jews," the teen resistance figure said.
Later, she said: "Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in peace before the occupation. That's what we want to go back to. What was destroyed was because of the occupation and Zionist ideology."
Ms Tamimi said the model time was before the British took over Palestine in 1917. "The stories of our great-grandparents are full of peace," she said.
She said she has no plans to join any Palestinian faction, but her position is distinctly more hard-line than Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and most of the international community, who envision the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, although talk of a single binational state has never entirely died away.
However, the debate is somewhat academic at this point since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is tightening its hold on the West Bank, including settlements near her hometown of Nabi Saleh.
Ms Tamimi at first looked exhausted from all the attention she was receiving, walking slowly as she came out briefly to shake hands with journalists before going back inside her house. But an hour later she re-emerged, refreshed, determined and ready to wage battle on behalf of Palestine through the media, which her father Bassem describes as "a tool of the struggle".
She said she is well aware her life will never be the same as it was before she was shown on film kicking, punching and pushing a soldier outside her home on December 15 and then arrested a few days later.
"I've lost this period of my life," she said. "Being a teen, being a child has been taken from me. But it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for the larger cause of Palestine because I hope this sacrifice will lead eventually to liberation and be worth it. But I do feel I'll lose this phase of my life."
She said that becoming a symbol places "a great responsibility on my shoulders but I'm also grateful because it gives me the opportunity to tell the story of political prisoners and of my people's suffering".
Her immediate plans are to study international law in university so that she can "protect prisoners and the issue of Palestine".
Ms Tamimi is on parole and can be re-imprisoned if she says something Israeli authorities deem to be incitement. Journalists were asked to take this into consideration when formulating their questions.
She told The National that her stay in jail did not achieve what the Israelis had hoped. "When they put me in prison their goal was to change my thought, to move me against resistance but my opinion didn't change. I believe our people have the right to choose the path of struggle against occupation whether through stones or education. People individually can choose their path."
Asked about Israeli criticisms that her slapping of the soldier would encourage other Palestinians to be violent, Ms Tamimi said: "It is important to tell the Israelis that Palestinian resistance is a reaction to occupation and to the violence of occupation and that Palestinians have a right to resistance.
"What Israel does in Gaza - is that not violence?" she asked. “When soldiers kill children, is that non-violence? When they occupy us, is that not violence? That's the source."
Israeli authorities mistreated her during her interrogation and during her eight-month incarceration, she said. "In interrogation, they didn't treat me as a child or even a normal adult. They treated me as if I was not human. When they put me in jail, they put me around criminals. There was a criminal next to me who cursed me. They didn't allow my family to be with me. During the interrogation they threatened my family, there was harassment, bad language and threats."
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld could not be reached for comment on Ms Tamimi’s accusations.
She said it was a battle for her and other prisoners to pursue their high school studies. "They tried to stop us from studying. They would prevent us from sitting together to study, they would come in the rooms and disrupt. If they saw that we were studying they would cancel our break."
Ms Tamimi's mother, Nariman, who filmed Ahed slapping the soldier and who was also jailed for eight months, was held in the same prison. The two were allowed to see each other twice a day.
"I missed looking at the sky, being with my friends and family, walking on the street without my hands and feet chained and going out with my friends," the 17-year-old said.