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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

What kind of state gaols its poets? The Israeli state (if they're not Jewish)


Below is the poem that has cost Dareen Tatour 3 months in prison so far and more than 18 months under house arrest, banned from even accessing the Internet.  Her crime?  Writing a poem of resistance.  ‘Resist the settler’s robbery and follow the caravan of martyrs... Resist my people, resist them.’ 

It speaks volumes about the insecurity of the settler mentality that they seek to gaol someone whose only weapon is the pen and the keyboard.  No matter how powerful the Zionists are they know that their existence as a settler colonial state is illegitimate.  Israel is only in existence as a ‘Jewish’ state because of the expulsion and dispossession of the indigenous population, hence why calls to resistance are considered ‘terrorism’ i.e. a threat to the legitimacy of the state itself.
For all the pretence that Israel is a normal Western state, can anyone imagine anywhere else in Europe, even Poland and Hungary, where a poem calling for resistance can merit arrest and gaol?  Underneath its democratic skin, which these days is almost invisible, Israel is a police state for its Palestinian citizens.
Of course if you are Jewish then no matter of abuse on social media will get you arrested.  Hence no-one got arrested or prosecuted when 16,000 Israelis joined a Facebook page ‘Kill a Palestinian every hour.’

The campaign in support of Dareen is however going from strength to strength as the settler state becomes embarrassed over its violence toward a female Palestinian poet.  Contrast this with the lack of any prosecutions of Lehava, whose founder Benny Gopstein called for the burning down of churches and mosques, or the failure to prosecute Rabbis Shapira and Elitzur over a delightful little book that they wrote called the King’s Torah (Torat HaMelech).  This compendium explained how, under Jewish law, one could legally kill non-Jews.  It was perfectly permissible to kill innocent non-Jews, including children and infants, in a war time situation without any come-back from the good Lord.  Suffice to say Israel’s legal authorities were nonplussed.  [See Jerusalem Post, 28.5.12.] A-G: 'TORAT HAMELECH' AUTHORS WILL NOT BE INDICTED]

But of course Israel is not a racist state and Zionism is not a form of racism. 

Tony Greenstein

Meet the Palestinian Israel put on trial for her poetry

+972 Magazine By Orly Noy
|Published August 28, 2017

Dareen Tatour at the Nazareth Magistrates Court. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Dareen Tatour has spent over a year and a half under house arrest for publishing a poem on her Facebook page. Since then, she has lost the ability to support herself, and cannot leave the house without a ‘chaperone.’ Orly Noy spoke to Tatour about the difficulty of living under constant surveillance, her love for Hebrew and Arabic poetry, and the need for Jews and Arabs to learn each other’s language. 

One day in the future, when they write the book on the belligerence and aggression of the State of Israel toward its Arab citizens, the story of Dareen Tatour — who has been under house arrest for nearly two years, including three months of jail time — will have its own special chapter dedicated to it.

Tatour was arrested in October 2015 for both a poem and Facebook post she published. Since then, the state has been waging a legal battle, which has included bringing in a series of experts on both Arabic and Arabic poetry, in order to dissect the words of a young poet who was nearly anonymous until her arrest. Her trial, and the state’s attempts to turn a poem into an existential threat, has been nothing short of Kafkaesque.

I spoke to Tatour from her home in the village of Reineh, near Nazareth. As part of the conditions of her house arrest, Tatour is not allowed to use the Internet or smart phones. “So I started using dumb phones,” she laughs. Soft spoken, Tatour maintains a reserved matter-of-factness even as she recalls those first knocks on her door and the moment everything changed.

Daren Tatour is seen in her home in the village of Reineh, near Nazareth, August 23, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
It was on October 11, 2015. It was 3:30 a.m. when they suddenly they knocked on the door. I was sleeping, and I heard my mother and father coming to wake me up. There were many police officers, more than 10. They said nothing except that I had to come with them. My mother and father tried to ask what happened, what I did, but the officers only responded with ‘she knows.’ I know I did nothing wrong, so I didn’t understand what was happening. It was very frightening, I thought maybe it was a case of mistaken identity.”

They took me to the police station in Nazareth, where I waited in the yard until 6 a.m. As I waited, every officer who passed by said something hurtful. ‘You look like a terrorist,’ I got a lot of that. That word was repeated often. Afterwards they let me into the building where I was interrogated. I wasn’t shown a thing, I was only told that I was accused of incitement to violence, terrorism, and threatening to kill Jews on Facebook. I remember it was freezing, that I had walked into a morgue. At 9 a.m. I was taken to another interrogation, before I was taken to the court house at around 9 p.m., where they extended my detention.

“Later they asked to extend my detention until the end of the investigation, transferring me to Jalame Prison, and then to Damon Prison. I suffered greatly, since they allowed smoking in the rooms, and the place was not clean. After the third interrogation, when they brought the poem for the first time, it was like watching myself in a movie. I am going to sit in prison because of a poem.”

Since then, Tatour’s poem has kept the Israeli legal system busy. After spending three months in prison and six months in house arrest in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv, she is now under house arrest in her parents’ home in Reineh. After over a year and a half, she was finally allowed to leave the home for a few hours a day, although she must be accompanied by one of eight “chaperones” who were approved by the court. “My eight prison guards,” she says, laughing again.
Dareen Tatour (left) and Professor Calderon (center) speak at the Nazareth Magistrates Court, March 19, 2017. (Yoav Haifawi)
The hardest part is that I can no longer support myself,” she says. Until her arrest, Tatour worked for five years as the manager at a beauty salon in Nazareth in charge of marketing. “I tried to find work from home, but it is very hard because everything is Internet-related. The condition from the beginning was that Internet or smart phones were forbidden anywhere I lived under house arrest.” Tatour’s parents and two brothers also live at home, which means they too cannot use a computer with Internet.

What are you doing at home these days?

Not much. I write and read a lot — poetry, literature, in Arabic and Hebrew. I read Amira Hess’ book of poetry, as well as poems by Alma Katz. In Arabic I love Nazik Al-Malaika, Mahmoud Darwish, Samih Al-Qasim, Khalil Gibran, as well as classic poetry such as Al-Mutanabbi.

At what age did you start writing poetry?

“More or less since I was seven. I remember my first grade teacher asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I responded ‘I want to write.’ I don’t know where I got that answer from, but I do not forget it. My love for writing is not new. After learning the alphabet, I began doodling and writing — I’ve been journaling since I was very small.
Tawfik Tatour, father of Dareen, demonstrates for her release at Jaffa’s Clock Tower Square, June 26, 2016. (photo: Haim Schwarczenberg)
“As a child, words were something that kept me busy. I would drive my teacher crazy because I would ask her for the definition of all kinds of words. She would always tell me to go look it up in the dictionary. So that’s exactly what I did. I read the Arabic dictionary like a novel, from the beginning to the end. Then I did the same with the Hebrew dictionary.

“I always worked alongside Jews. I think it is important that both sides — Arabs and Jews — learn each others’ language.”

Tatour’s first collection of poems, titled The Last Invasion, in 2010. “When I arrested, the second book was almost done — even the cover was ready. I was getting ready to send the book to print. Let’s just say that a few new poems have been added to the book since,” she says.

Aside from issues of national identity, what other topics do you touch on in your poetry?

“I write about the status of women in Arab society. Women are at the center of my poetry — their hardships, the abuse they face. And children war. The weakest, most difficult aspects of life. These are things we cannot ignore. Even if they are difficult issues in Arab society.”

Was it strange sitting in the court room and listening to people interpret your poem?

“Yes, it was difficult to digest. The serious problem was that they mistranslated it. It isn’t even an issue of interpretation — the translation was wrong, and thus the police’s interpretation was completely off.”

What kind of responses have you received?

I have received incredible support from my friends, including from Jewish Israelis — support that has really surprised me. It has given me a lot of strength. They tried to put me in a place I didn’t want to be in; the first time they told me I was a terrorist, I felt a great deal of pain. This is a very harsh word. They tried to stigmatize me, but I am glad to say they were unsuccessful. There are people who know the truth and I am happy that they understand my words correctly. I want to thank all those who have supported me.

Are you optimistic?

She laughs again. “So-so. I am trying to remain optimistic. There is a poem in my book about handcuffs, which terrifyingly enough came true. They say that every poet is a prophet, and I feel that. In this country we cannot be too optimistic, but I am trying my best.”

This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

US literary figures renew call for freedom for Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour


Dareen Tatour at the Nazareth Court House, September 2016. (Photo: Oren Ziv, Activestills)

Prominent U.S. poets, writers, playwrights and publishers issued statements today in support of imprisoned Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour ahead of her upcoming trial verdict on October 17.  The statements calling for her freedom, and demanding that Israel drop all charges against Dareen, released by Jewish Voice for Peace and Adalah-NY, come just as the Israeli government threatens to cut funding to a Yaffa Theater that agreed to host an artists’ solidarity event for Tatour on August 30th. Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested by Israeli authorities 22 months ago, in October 2015, and charged with incitement to violence primarily over a poem she posted online, “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” as well as two Facebook posts.
Following an initial three months of imprisonment after her arrest, Tatour has been held under house arrest for over a year-and-a-half. At her upcoming October 17 court date she expects to receive a verdict from an Israel court with high rates of conviction for both Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Numerous freedom of expression and literary organizations including PEN International, PEN America, and PEN South Africa have called for Tatour’s freedom, as have many Israeli artists and Israeli citizens. The 12 literary figures whose statements are being issued today are among 300 writers, including 11 Pulitzer Prize-winners, who signed a 2016 letter calling for freedom for Tatour after she was first arrested. These statements of solidarity with Dareen Tatour come from: Susan Abulhawa, Ben Ehrenreich, Deborah Eisenberg, Marilyn Hacker, Randa Jarrar, MJ Kaufman, Eileen Myles, Naomi Shihab Nye, John Oakes, Sarah Schulman, Ayelet Waldman and Jacqueline Woodson.
Six of the statements follow. All 12 statements are available below.
Ben Ehrenreich
Ben Ehrenreich, Writer:When one fights without fear—when one fights with love instead, fighting looks like something else entirely. Like poetry. Dareen Tatour resists without fear, with poetry and with love, and they will not silence her. Stay strong, Dareen—we are with you.”

Randa Jarrar, Writer:We must call on the international community to place pressure on Israel to release Dareen and other political prisoners whose ‘crimes’ are those of self-expression and resistance. No one should be forbidden from using the internet, publishing their writing, or attending events, whether they be political or not. The fact that writer Dareen Tatour continues to be placed under house arrest and only allowed out with a guardian is misogynist, racist, and unjust.

Eileen Myles, Poet: “Israel’s claim to be a democracy is roundly trounced by this attempt to silence Dareen Tatour. Language lives and dies in poetry and the human cry for freedom breathes in a poets utterance. A poet never stands alone and I’m proud to stand with the people of Palestine and globally who demand that Dareen Tatour’s voice and words are not criminalized, penalized and obstructed. As a human and a citizen of the earth it is her and all of our right to write and be heard.”
Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye, Poet and Writer:It’s an absolute outrage that poet Dareen Tatour has been treated this way by so-called democracy Israel for speaking truth and using the word Resist. We all resist. She deserves nothing but freedom and even bigger paper and more pens! We speak up for her in the name of justice and our own tax dollars channeled Israel’s direction for way too many years.”
Ayelet Waldman, Writer: “Two years ago Dareen Tatour was torn from her home in the middle of the night. A poet, incarcerated by Netanyahu’s right wing government for the crime of making her art. This must stop. She must be released.”

Jacqueline Woodson, Poet and Author: “I believe Dareen Tatour should be free to leave her home, to write what she needs to write for her own empowerment, to live her life as poet. Freely.”
Although the conditions of her house arrest were somewhat improved after the public outcry from the literary and international community in 2016, Dareen is still forbidden from using the internet, publishing any of her writings, or participating in any political events.

Dareen Tatour’s case represents just one of countless examples of Israel’s systematic suppression of Palestinian arts, culture and political expression. For example, Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev continues to try to ban public readings of the poetry of the late, renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and to shut down plays about Palestinian prisoners. Just recently, 67-year-old writer Ahmad Qatamesh was released by Israel after three months of imprisonment without charge. Dr. Qatamesh, named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, has been jailed periodically for eight of the last 25 years.

Over 400 Palestinians, in both the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel have been arrested for posts on social media in the last year alone. According to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, Israel currently holds 6,128 Palestinian political prisoners, including 450 Palestinian “administrative detainees” held without charge or trial, 320 child prisoners and 62 Palestinian women. Since 1967 more than 800,000 Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) have been detained under Israeli military orders.

More statements of solidarity of leading literary figures:


Susan Abulhawa, Writer
Dareen Tatour is no Arab-Israeli. She was born Palestinian as all her ancestors were. She is a daughter of the land conquered and occupied by zionist foreigners, who thought that renaming the land, uprooting our lives and planting lies in the soil could make them take her place. But a nation built on lies is a lie itself. It has no bearings in truth, and stands on a web of fairy tales that fall apart by the true words of a native woman. That is why Dareen’s voice, her art, her defiance and her dignity are so dangerous. She holds moral and historic title to this place, and it holds title to her. And so, bereft of legitimacy, the lie-nation resorts to brute force, the only power they’ve ever had and ever will, but that, too, will fall apart, because ultimately, guns and oppression are no match for an indigenous song that cries for liberty.”

Deborah Eisenberg, Writer

Should I be elated that the People of the Book – my people – accord full recognition to the power of poetry? Or should I note, with great sorrow, that the state of Israel so fears a response equal in force, cruelty, and violence to the crimes it has committed against the Palestinian people that it is driven to eradicate the voices of resistance, even those of poets?  What do you think?”

Marilyn Hacker, Poet and Translator

Dareen Tatour is a poet, and a witness –that word is “shahid” also, just one long vowel shifted. That she should be tried, confined, attempts made to silence her, and those who support her,  in a country that vaunts its “democracy” is aberrant and grotesque.”
MJ Kaufman
MJ Kaufman, Playwright

“Poetry is not a crime, it is a powerful tool for revealing injustice. Dareen is being punished for writing her truth. As an American Jewish writer I think Dareen’s voice desperately needs to be heard. Efforts to imprison her and silence her writing only further an authoritarian agenda. Dareen and all Palestinians imprisoned for speaking out against the injustices of the Israeli state should be free.”

John Oakes, Publisher

“Dareen Tatour has a moral and legal right to give voice to her thoughts. Artists, poets, all of us must join together, follow her example and resist oppression, however, we can. I admire her courage, and am ashamed of the unique role Americans play in propping up the apartheid Israeli regime, which makes artistic freedom contingent on support for the state.”

Sarah Schulman, Novelist and Playwright


“I stand with people all over the world who are horrified by the ongoing persecution of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour and call for immediate relief and an end to all forms of harassment of Dareen and her supporters. Poets are the voice of the human spirit and give us words for our experiences and feelings that help us imagine and strive for liberation. I send my warmest support to Dareen.

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