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Palestinian Poet Convicted of Incitement

Demonstrators in 2016 demand the freedom of poet Dareen Tatour and other Palestinians detained by Israel for their social media posts. (Photo by Joe Catron via Flickr)

An Israeli court has convicted poet Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, of incitement and supporting a terrorist organization. The conviction is based on posts by Tatour on social media nearly three years ago, including a video of her reading one of her poems, “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” recited over footage of protesters.

PEN International, a writers association, condemned the verdict.

“Dareen Tatour has been convicted for doing what writers do every day—we use our words to peacefully challenge injustice,” said Jennifer Clement, president of PEN International. “PEN will continue to call for justice in this case.”

Israeli prosecutors say that Tatour’s reading of the poem was a call to violence, but she claims this is a misunderstanding of her work, which includes the lines, “Resist, my people, resist them. / Resist the settler’s robbery / And follow the caravan of martyrs.”

The indictment said the poem’s “content, its exposure and the circumstances of its publication created a real possibility that acts of violence or terrorism will be committed.”

+972 Magazine reports:

Gaby Lasky, Tatour’s lawyer, argued that prosecutors had relied on a police officer’s misleading and inaccurate translation of the Arabic poem.

Literary expert Prof. Nissim Calderon testified on Tatour’s behalf that poets should have a special privilege to speak freely, even when advocating violence, and argued that canonical Israeli Hebrew poets had written much worse verse.

The defense also argued that Israeli [p]olice statistics show that Jewish Israelis who post explicit calls for violence against Arabs and Palestinians on social media—including the phrase “death to Arabs”—are not similarly arrested and tried.

“There is serious discrimination here,” Tatour’s lawyer said. “If she was Jewish, there would be no case. … This decision establishes a clear precedent that criminalizes poetry.”

In 2016, more than 150 writers signed a letter of solidarity on behalf of Tatour, calling her imprisonment “part of a larger pattern of Israeli repression against all Palestinians.” More than 1,000 Israelis signed a petition in 2017 calling for her release.

BBC provides background on Tatour’s case:

Tatour, 36, was arrested in October 2015 and spent several months in prison before being placed under house arrest in January 2016.

She was initially confined to a flat in the city of Tel Aviv and her movements restricted because Israeli authorities deemed her a “threat to public safety”.

She was later permitted to return to her family home in Reineh near Nazareth, but the house arrest continued in various forms until the end of her trial and she was not allowed to use mobile phones or access the internet.

Tatour was charged in connection with three posts that appeared at the start of a wave of deadly stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks on Israelis by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.

The first was a video featuring her reciting a poem and footage appearing to show Palestinian protesters throwing stones at Israeli security forces.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted Tatour as saying, “My trial ripped off the masks. 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.”

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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