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Israel convicts Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour of Facebook 'incitement'

Tatour told MEE she was forbidden from publishing any poetry by the Israeli court and detained for two and half years
Tatour and her lawyer, Gaby Lasky, in court (Reuters)

A Palestinian poet was convicted of "inciting violence" and "supporting a terrorist organisation" by an Israeli court on Thursday for content she posted on social media that prosecutors claimed urged violence against the occupation.

Nazareth magistrates' court found Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, guilty over a poem titled "Resist, My People, Resist Them" posted on Facebook and separate posts dealing with Palestinian resistance. 

"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."

-  Excerpts from Resist, My People, Resist Them by Dareen Tatour

Prosecutors argued that the poem incited violence, while Tatour also commented on a post featuring Islamic Jihad declaring its commitment to a new intifada, or "uprising" - meaning, according to the charges, that she supported "terrorism".

According to the Israeli indictment, Tatour also uploaded a video on her Facebook and YouTube accounts that shows footage of Palestinians throwing stones at the Israeli army troops, with her reading in the background of her "Resist, My People, Resist Them" poem.

The 36-year-old's lawyer Gaby Lasky argued the poem had been misinterpreted by Israeli translators, that the content was "artistic expression" rather than a call to violence, and that the Israeli charges ran counter to the freedom of expression of her client.

"The verdict violates the right of speech and freedom of expression. It is an infringement on cultural rights of the Palestinian minority inside Israel. It would lead to self-censorship and self-criminalisation of poetry."

Lasky said she would appeal against the verdict. A date for sentencing has not been set.

Dareen Tatour in her home outside Nazareth, September 2017 (Reuters)

'The mask of Israeli justice'

Tatour said after the verdict that her trial "ripped off the masks" of Israeli democracy and justice. 

"The whole world will hear my story. The whole world will hear what Israel's democracy is. A democracy for Jews only. Only Arabs go to jail. The court said I am convicted of terrorism. If that's my terrorism, I give the world a terrorism of love."

More than 150 American literary figures have called for Israel to free Tatour, including nine Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker, Claudia Rankine, Naomi Klein and Jacqueline Woodson.

Tatour was arrested on 11 October 2015, about a week after she published her poem.

In an interview before the verdict, Tatour told Middle East Eye she had already spent two and a half years flitting between custody and house arrest.

She said Israeli interrogators initially had little to question her about.

"First, they accused me of incitement based on a poster I posted in 2014, which contained the words "I'm the next martyr". The martyrs are the victims of the Israeli occupation, who are being shot by soldiers," Tatour said.

"The accusation was weak, so they dug into my Facebook and found the poem."

She said the second verse was misinterpreted.

"Here, they interpreted a line in the poem that says 'Resist, my people, resist them, Resist the settler’s robbery, And follow the caravan of martyrs' - as inciting people to be killed and be martyrs."

The poem tells a story of three Palestinians, "victims of the Israeli occupation", according to Tatour: Mohammed Abu Khdier, a teen who was kidnapped and burned to death by three Israeli settlers in Jerusalem in 2014; Hadeel al-Hashlamon, 18, who was shot by Israeli troops in Hebron city; and 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh who was burned alive in the fire with his parents in an arson attack by Israeli settlers in July 2015, in Duma, in the West Bank.

"Those are all martyrs. Although, it feels odd to call them like that in English or Hebrew because they are victims. But in Arabic, there is no separation between the meaning of martyr and victim when he or she is shot by Israeli soldiers," she said.

"Palestinians who were killed in the Israeli war over Gaza are called martyrs."

House arrest

Tatour was arrested for three months and was interrogated five times by Israeli officers. Each interrogation lasted five to six hours, she told the MEE.

In January 2016 Tatour was released, after being fitted with an ankle monitor, to a house arrest for six months at the home of her brother in Kiryat Ono neighbourhood in Tel Aviv.

"They considered me a danger for Israelis, but when they dictated the location of my house arrest, they could not find a place more Israeli than Tel Aviv to do that. I find this ironic," she said.

She added that the house arrest was a harsh experience.

Far from her family in Reineh village, she was not allowed to use a mobile phone or the internet or even to publish texts in the media. After four months of house arrest, she was allowed to leave the house for two hours on weekends, if accompanied by a relative.

"I had two choices, detention or house arrest. I was not allowed to publish any poetry or texts in the media according to the Israeli court," she said.

Tatour considers Fadwa Tuqan, a Palestinian poet, and Nazik al-Malaika, an Iraqi poet, as her role models and intellectual inspiration.

I was not allowed to publish any poetry or texts in the media according to the Israeli court

- Dareen Tatour

She has published one poetry collection in 2010 titled "The Final Invasion". Her second collection, "The Atlantic Canary Tales", was due to be published in December 2015, but her arrest prevented that.

In addition, Tatour has another book written about her detention waiting for publication.

"I wrote a lot while in prison. The Israeli prosecution tried to press that I provoked the publishing ban when my poem A Poet Behind Bars appeared in the International Translation Day in English on Pen International website.

"I wrote this poem before the ban, on 2 of November, the day I was indicted, in Jalameh prison," she said.

Her translated poems appeared recently in A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry, a UK bilingual Arabic and English anthology published in 2017, that presents Palestinian poets. Its editor, sci-fi novelist and poet Naomi Foyle told MEE that "tens of thousands of recorded instances of Zionist hate speech go unnoticed by Israeli courts. In convicting Dareen Tatour of incitement, Israel confirms again its true nature: an apartheid prison state."

The last text Tatour wrote was titled "The Final Chapter", Tatour told MEE.

"It is a poem. I am asking whether I would face freedom or prison after the verdict. In the end, I conclude that whatever the decision will be, I will end up free."

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