Lanyie Rhodes speaks with Janna Jihad in Chicago August 2019. Photo: Keedra Gibba

By Lanyie Rhodes, age 13

Janna Tamimi, also known as Janna Jihad, is a 13-year-old Palestinian girl who is a reporter from the small town of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank. She started reporting as a journalist when she was 7 years old, after her friend and uncle were killed by Israeli soldiers. “Not a lot of journalists are sending our message from Palestine to the world, so I thought, ‘Why not send my message … and show them what is happening in my village?'” Janna told Al Jazeera in 2016.

However, this role comes with many risks. In a recent interview with Democracy Now!, Janna explained that she received many threats and was interrogated after the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs named her “the next threat to the state of Israel” at age 12. This is when she became an accredited journalist in the hope that it would offer her some protection, making her the youngest journalist with these press credentials.

In August of this year, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network hosted Janna at the Grace Episcopal Church in Chicago as part of a speaking tour in the United States.

“My camera is a weapon,” Jihad told the audience. She recounted numerous stories of children under age 12 who were illegally arrested, hospitalized and interrogated by the Israeli military. She told the story of a 5-year-old boy who lost his parents and brother when an Israeli soldier threw a bomb in their house while they were sleeping. She described his artwork where he represented his deceased parents as two suns in the sky.

When a person in the audience asked if the American school she attends in Ramallah gives her false information about the military occupation, she replied, “I don’t think they could even try. Sometimes we have to close the school windows because of tear gas, and other times I am unable to go to school because of the checkpoints. We experience the occupation every day.”

Critics describe her work as “child exploitation, false and one-sided,” which is why Janna chooses to live-stream her videos on Facebook. “No one can say it’s edited or that it’s not happening,” she explained during her talk in Chicago.

Even though her family and so many Palestinians experience violence on a daily basis, she does not wish to respond with violence. She maintains that her camera is the most peaceful weapon.

Janna’s vision for an end to this conflict is a one-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in peace with equal rights.

Her message to young people in Palestine, Israel and around the world is to show leadership in peace.  “Young people are the leaders of today and tomorrow. We all should unite hand in hand to make this a world of peace, love, equality and justice,” Janna told IndyKids.

Glossary 

Interrogated –  ask questions of someone closely, aggressively, or formally.