What kind of state gaols its poets? The Israeli state (if they’re not Jewish)
What kind of state gaols its poets? The Israeli state (if they’re not Jewish)
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.’
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.
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.
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.’
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]
of course Israel is not a racist state and Zionism is not a form of
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
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
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
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
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
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, 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.”