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Israeli Court Sentences Palestinian Writer for Posting a Poem on Social Media

The poem, titled “Resist, my people, resist them,” landed the poet in trouble with Israeli authorities.

Dareen Tatour with her cats (photo courtesy Yoav Haifawi)

An Israeli Court has sentenced poet Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, to five months in prison for a poem she posted on social media in 2015. She was sentenced today, July 31, on charges that the spoken poem “Resist, my people, resist them,” incites terrorism. In the video posted to YouTube and her personal Facebook, Tatour reads her writing over footage of conflict between Palestinian citizens and Israeli soldiers.

Tatour was initially arrested by Israeli police forces in October 2015. She served three months in prison before she was released under house arrest for the following 16 months. During this time, she was banned from accessing the Internet or publishing her writing. According to Al Jazeera, upon the time of her arrest, the video had less than 300 views.

The writer was convicted by the Nazareth District Court on May 3, 2018 before today’s sentencing. Prosecutors accused the writer of supporting the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine and terrorism. Tatour denies these allegations, saying her words appealed for non-violent resistance. Tatour’s sentence will begin on August 8.

Dareen Tatour under detention at a Nazareth court (image courtesy Yoav Haifawi)

972 Magazine reports her lawyer, Gaby Lasky, told press, “The prosecution asked for a 15–26 month sentence. The court was satisfied with five months including time served, which means she only has two months left in prison. We believe that poetry is not a crime, and thus will appeal the ruling.”

Lasky, an Israeli human rights attorney, also represented Ahed Tamimi, the 17-year-old Palestinian activist who was recently jailed for eight months under equally questionable circumstances. Tamimi’s arrest followed a video, posted by her mother to social media, of the girl slapping an Israeli soldier after discovering her cousin had been shot in the head with a rubber bullet by an IDF soldier.

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, cites a “shrinking space for dissent in today’s Israel.” Shakir told Hyperallergic:

Israeli media reports indicate that hundreds have been detained on the basis of social media posts on accusations of incitements of violence in circumstances that fall far short with the international standard. Dareen Tatour, in this case, not only received a five-month sentence, but it comes after months and months of house arrest and other measures that have been taken against her. It reflects a dynamic where criticism of the government or expression of political sentiments that fall outside of the positions of the Israeli government are no longer welcome, and Dareen Tatour’s case, I think reflects not only the intolerance of criticism and dissent, but the increasing difficulty of Palestinians, whether they be inside Israel or in the occupied Palestinian territory, of expressing or calling for opposing Israeli policies, or calling for any sort of action to be taken with regards to the situation that they face.

Shakir himself was recently targeted by the Israeli government with accusations of hostility toward Israel. On May 7, only days after Tatour’s indictment, Shakir’s work permit was revoked over accusations that he supports boycotts of Israel. Shakir says, “ … in reality, this is part of a months-long effort to silence Human Rights Watch’s criticism of Israel’s rights record — and it’s not an aberration, it comes at a time in which the Israeli government has denied entry to many other international rights activists.”

 

The poet at home during more peaceful times (photo courtesy Yoav Haifawi)

Poem on Trial, an organization that raises awareness about Tatour’s imprisonment and invites supporters to write to her, has posted a call to create art inspired by her poem “to curate a digital-only album of submissions, to be made available for sale on several platforms. All sale proceeds will be utilised to assist Dareen’s legal challenge to her conviction.” Submissions can be sent via Wetransfer to [email protected] before September 28, 2018. The effort is organized by Meira Asher, Dganit Elyakim, Liam Evans, Antye Greie, and Yoav Haifawi.

PEN International, an organization whose focus lies in supporting artists who have been targeted by their governments for political work, provides additional resources for those interested in supporting Tatour’s cause through letter-writing, volunteer translation, and other acts of solidarity.

Read the English translation of “Resist, my people, resist them,” translated by Tariq al Haydar and posted by Poem on Trial, below. The text is also available in Arabic and Hebrew on their website.

Resist, my people, resist them.
In Jerusalem, I dressed my wounds and breathed my sorrows
And carried the soul in my palm
For an Arab Palestine.
I will not succumb to the “peaceful solution,”
Never lower my flags
Until I evict them from my land.
I cast them aside for a coming time.
Resist, my people, resist them.
Resist the settler’s robbery
And follow the caravan of martyrs.
Shred the disgraceful constitution
Which imposed degradation and humiliation
And deterred us from restoring justice.
They burned blameless children;
As for Hadil, they sniped her in public,
Killed her in broad daylight.
Resist, my people, resist them.
Resist the colonialist’s onslaught.
Pay no mind to his agents among us
Who chain us with the peaceful illusion.
Do not fear doubtful tongues;
The truth in your heart is stronger,
As long as you resist in a land
That has lived through raids and victory.
So Ali called from his grave:
Resist, my rebellious people.
Write me as prose on the agarwood;
My remains have you as a response.
Resist, my people, resist them.
Resist, my people, resist them.

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