Last May Dareen was convicted of ‘incitement’ and supporting
a ‘terrorist organisation’. On 31st July Nazareth Magistrates Court
sentenced her to 5 months in prison, 3 of which she has already served, in
addition to a suspended sentence of 6 months in prison. Her offence? Writing a poem that talked of
‘resistance’. Palestinian Israelis are not supposed to resist their oppressors
and thus resistance is a crime.
This decision has been widely condemned in Israel and world
wide. PEN International stated that ‘Tatour has been targeted for peacefully exercising her right
to free expression through poetry and activism.’ PEN International President Jennifer Clement declared
PEN International stands with Dareen Tatour, as we have for the past torturous
years of jail time, trials and house arrest, and defends freedom of expression
and asks for her freedom. We stand with Tatour’s own words: poetry is not a
Dareen posted the poem ‘Resist, My People, Resist
Them’on Facebook in 2015 (see below). This led straight to gaol and then a severely
restricted house arrest (no Internet) for three years.
Israeli writers and academics have supported Dareen, including A B Yehoshua,
one of Israel’s most famous novelists. However the security state triumphs over
all such as these. As Dareen explained:
“I expected prison, and
unfortunately there is prison, there is
nothing surprising. This is an Israeli court and there is no justice in an
Israeli court when the accused is Palestinian.”
Israel is a democracy, to a limited extent, for Jews but when
it comes to Arabs Israel is a Jewish police state.
Israelis who changed their Facebook profile names to include the words “Death to Arabs.” – none of them have been prosecuted
There is one law for Israeli
Palestinians and another for Israeli Jews.
No amount of incitement by Israelis is punished. People who change their Facebook name to ‘Death to the Arabs’ suffer no penalty
but an Arab who talks of ‘resistance’
is under immediate threat of arrest and imprisonment.
Those liars and hypocrites in Britain who provide cover for Dareen’s
gaolers, like Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry and Margaret Hodge, those who call Israel a ‘democracy’, are worse than the worst Zionist because they provide the legitimacy that Israel’s common and garden
racists cannot muster. They provide the veneer of respectability that the
purveyors of apartheid can never hope to match.
They lend the stamp of approval to those who cry ‘death to the Arabs’ and who proclaim that their morality is one of
racism. It is the Emily Thornberries of
this world who place a seal of approval on Israeli racism. People like
Thornberry, Hodge, Kyle and Ryan are worse than any Israeli racist.
Jon Lansman, the Momentum owner-dictator went to Tel Aviv recently in
order to persuade people that Labour is tackling its non-existent’ ‘anti-Semitism’. It is like a White person going, during the
heyday of Apartheid, to South Africa in order to assure the Afrikaaners that
opponents of Apartheid, who were really anti-White racists were also being disciplined. That is why someone like Jon Lansman is worse than the worst Israeli racist.
When 2 young girls take a selfie telling you that hatred of Arabs is not
racism but morality, then what they are describing is the morality of
Zionism. Lansman tells us that Zionism
is a ‘take your pick’ ideology. It can be anything that the oppressor wants
it to be – it can be socialist to the faux socialists of the Jewish Labour
Movement and it can be the rationale for the proud racists of Habayit HaYehudi/Jewish
Home when they legislate for Jewish only towns.
What Lansman and his fellow racists in the Labour Party forget is that the
decision as to what Zionism represents is not in the gift of the colonialist and his
friends in Britain but the Palestinian who is faced with the reality of
Zionism. When Jewish mobs demonstrate in Afula against the selling of a house
to an Arab in a Jewish city, that is Zionism.
When the World Zionist Organisation funds the expansion of settlements that is
Zionism. When marchers chant ‘death to the Arabs’ that too is Zionism.
The only disagreement I have with Daniella’s article is where she says
that being Jewish is just a religion. In
Israel it is also a nationality or ethnicity albeit a nationalism of the
oppressor, which is why the fate of Israelis is to merge with the Palestinians
and become a Hebrew part thereof.
When I first heard of Dareen Tatour’s story, I had this terrible feeling
deep inside. I am a musician myself, I know what it is like to express oneself
through art. I imagined myself in her place, being arrested and persecuted for
my art. Dareen is a Palestinian poet placed under house arrest since 2015,
indicted for incitement to violence against the Israeli regime through a poem
she posted on Facebook. Then it dawned on me that this could not actually
happen to me, since I am a Jewish citizen of Israel, not a Palestinian. Israel
has this tendency to oppress minority groups, and non-Jews specifically,
through its homicidal apartheid regime. I reached out to Dareen, and we
immediately connected. I met a beautiful young woman, so intelligent, so
loving. We became friends immediately.
This April, after an extended legal saga of over two-and-a-half years, I
joined Dareen at her final court hearing in Nazareth. Driving for hours on my
way there, I had an ominous premonition. Her story is nothing but Kafkaesque,
and her condemnation will most probably give rise to a wave of schadenfreude on
the part of Israelis, quick to rejoice at the misfortune (and injustice) of
weaker populations. When I walked into the courtroom, the judge was whispering
and reciting her verdict very fast: “Dareen
is convicted of incitement and support of terrorism.” She said it in such a
low voice, she was asked to repeat her words louder a couple of times. Her
stance was that after Dareen published her poem, there were many terrorist
attacks against Israeli Jews. Yet, was the judge not deliberately ignoring the
numerous attacks made towards Palestinians at that same time exactly? The
verdict had a strong air of discrimination, it is unjust, and it is down- right
detrimental to the freedom of speech and expression. This verdict not only
silences art, it criminalizes it.
Dareen’s case attests to the blind-eye Israeli society is turning
towards the Palestinian plight. For Israeli society, there is no acceptable
means for Palestinian resistance that can be considered legitimate. Violence is
of course illegal, boycott too is unacceptable as a form of resistance, and
now, as Dareen’s case has shown the world, simple artistic expression such as
writing a poem (which in itself is a non-violent way to resist oppression) can
also be construed as a means of supporting terrorism. By taking away the
freedom of words from Palestinians, and forbidding critical artistic
expression, the Israeli regime has put Palestinians at a “dead end.” What they
absorb from the Israeli belligerent apartheid regime will continue, including
the occupation and daily acts of oppression, without the Palestinians having
any option of uttering a single word or resisting in any way possible, violent
or nonviolent, political or artistic.
Israel’s regime is apartheidistic, separating (by law) two populations
in the same country. Dareen’s case is an excellent example of the
discrimination between Israel’s Jewish population and its non-Jewish Arab
population. Although she holds an Israeli passport, her identity is that of the
indigenous people of the land, the Palestinians. But the Israeli media tags her
as Arab-Israeli, disregarding her personal choice over that of the civil legal
definition. It is crucial to understand that Israel’s belligerent apartheid
regime is not limited to the occupied Palestinian territory. It is thriving
deep within the State of Israel itself, and not only towards Palestinians, but
systematic discrimination is also applied on other ethnic groups outside the
white Jewish elite, such as Ethiopian Jewry, and desperate African asylum
seekers tagged as infiltrators to be expelled under draconian laws. Dareen’s
story cannot be discussed without delving into the very source of the problem,
and that is Zionism.
Zionism originated and is still driven by the ideal of a white Jewish
supremacy, upheld by a very militant, violent, masculine regime that is
foremost colonialist. While it has flexed somewhat to also embrace Arab Jews
(Mizrahi, or descendants of Jews from Arab countries), Zionism remains grounded
on the foundations of a white supremacy (Ashkenazi, or descendants of European
Jewry) who continue to shape mainstream Israeli society and culture. As for the
occupation of Palestine, it began in 1881 with the first Zionist immigration to
Palestine, which was not an immigration of Jews who ran away from massacres,
but an immigration with a clear purpose – to Judaize Palestine, in a settler-
colonialist process that aims to change the indigenous identity, culture, and
population of the land with that of the colonialist’s. Dareen’s story is just
an offshoot of the way Zionism comes about and realizes itself here in Israel.
A quick trip down literary lane will show that canonical Hebrew Israeli poets
have written much worse verses against Arabs.
In my search for an answer to this madness, for an act I could do to
support my friend Dareen and express my profound opposition to what had
transpired, I decided to launch a mini-campaign on Facebook showing how Zionism
works. I want to expose its apartheid nature by sharing with the world the
wretched comments written by Israeli Jews (in Hebrew) against Palestinians.
Through this campaign, I will reveal that, unlike Dareen, Israelis who
explicitly call for the slaughter and murder of Arabs and Palestinians are
never arrested, let alone tried. Who is the real victim here? And was Dareen’s
poem not written by the hand of one that has been victimized?
My campaign shows that Israelis openly call for “Death to Arabs,” even adding this malicious racist phrase to their
Facebook profile name. These Israeli Jews will not be placed under house arrest
for three years, or convicted of incitement.
Or this person, Yossi Hemed, who wrote “A morning with lots of energy to slaughter Arabs!!!!” This Israeli
Jew will not be placed under house arrest for three years, or convicted of
Or this ex-IDF soldier, Eden Levi, who posted the following on Facebook
in 2015, where on her hand and on a note it says: “It is not racism to hate Arabs, it is values!” This Israeli Jew
will not be placed under house arrest for three years, or convicted of
Moreover, if we look closely at how things evolve, and try to validate
the connection between social media and terrorist acts as the Judge in Dareen’s
case had done, we can see that 24 hours before the 2014 murder in Jerusalem of
16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked
posted a very inciting post on her Facebook page, encouraging people to
perpetrate violence and terror against others (as is also apparent by the
comments made by Jewish Israelis to her post).
Ayelet Shaked posts to Facebook 24 hours before the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdier.
Jewish MK Bezalel Smotrich incited against Palestinian teenager Ahed
Tamimi this year. This Israeli Jew will not be placed under house arrest for
three years, or convicted of incitement.
Bezalel Smotrich posts to Facebook.
These Israeli Jews also incited against Palestinians. They will not be placed
under house arrest for three years, or convicted of incitement.
“We need to burn them alive,” posts made by Israelis calling for violence against Palestinians on social media.
Israeli posts violent threats to Facebook. “I am in the extreme right and proud of it !!!!” Nor will these Israeli Jews be placed under house arrest for three years, or convicted of incitement.
Another important thing to note, on which Dareen’s story can also shed
light, is the use of the word Arab in conjunction with the word Jew. This is
both wrong and misleading, as these two words are not similar forms of identity
to be compared. Judaism is a religion, while Arab is an ethnical identity.
There are Arab Jews, as well as Arab Christians. In fact, I am half Arabic
myself. One of my parents is originally from Iraq. Yet, Zionism cynically uses
these two unrelated terms in close connection so often, it has blurred our
common sense while propelling forward a general (however misled) notion of a
legitimate Jewish identity that infringes on that of the Arab’s, just to
justify its imperialistic and supremacist ideology. And the media collaborates,
blurring this distinction in its hidden support of the Zionist ideology, to the
point now that a religious identity seems to be the same as an ethnic one. This
grounds the basic idea that drives Zionism, which calls Jews to create and lead
a state that is both Jewish and democratic at the same time. But Israel cannot
be democratic by definition, not as long as it is Zionist, or Jewish, because no
religious country can be democratic. Israel is not a democratic country and
never has been.
I believe Dareen’s story should be a lesson for us all – Can we imagine
ourselves being jailed for speaking our mind? Can we imagine ourselves being
detained for art? What a dangerous, foul place we live in, if people,
especially marginalized populations, are oppressed for resisting with words.
Dareen described her poetry as being her key to freedom, living under an
apartheid regime that trials two populations differently, with roads meant for
Jews only. Dareen’s story speaks volumes about giving a voice to those who need
it most, and it will be a milestone towards ending apartheid and injustice in
The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court convicted Tatour, 36,
on account of three posts published on social media, including a poem titled, “Resist, my people, resist them.”
According to a translation of the Arabic-language poem that appeared in the
indictment, it included the lines, “I
won’t agree to a peaceful solution / I’ll never lower my flag / until I remove
them from my homeland.”
Tatour, an Israeli Arab who lives in Reineh, near
Nazareth in the country’s north, said after the verdict that she didn’t regret
anything and planned to appeal the ruling.
surprised by the verdict, given everything that’s been happening here,” said Ilana Hammerman, an editor,
translator and writer. “The Israeli
justice system has been taking this attitude for many years already. What’s
more surprising is that there are still people in Israel who expect a fair
trial for Palestinians and opponents of Israeli policy … as if Israel were
still a democracy. Anyone who’s surprised is someone who’s sitting with his
eyes closed. This is the general direction in which Israel is heading.”
“It’s impossible to know whether this
government attributes such importance to poetic imagery that it pounces like
this on a Palestinian poet, or whether its compete lack of understanding of
poetry causes it to treat every word like a drawn knife,” said
Yehoshua, an Israel Prize laureate. “The time has come for judges to read more Hebrew poetry throughout the
generations and see the imagery and language it contains.”
Nissim Calderon, a Hebrew literature professor at
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who served as a witness in the trial, said,
“The verdict is a blow to
one of the deepest traditions of Hebrew poetry – the poet’s freedom from being
put on trial over his words. This was upheld under British rule toward Hebrew
poets who called for the use of violence, and it’s of value to Israelis
themselves even before being an obligation toward the occupied Palestinians.
What begins by undermining the freedom of a Palestinian poet will surely
continue by undermining the freedom of Israeli poets.”
Navit Barel, a poet and editor, said, “This isn’t an issue related to literary
taste or editorial choice. It’s an issue of freedom and justice. This is a sad
and frightening day for Israeli democracy. The court was asked to rule on the
interpretation of a poem in a language the judge doesn’t read, and it decided
this poem was dangerous.”
Barel noted that she has heard demonstrators at a
protest shouting, “Rabin is looking for a
friend” – a reference to assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – at the
army’s chief of staff. “Which of them was
sentenced as an inciter?” she asked, adding, “I’ve heard a Hebrew refrain on the radio in which a singer sang that
leftists are killing their brothers, handing them over to foreigners. The law
clearly laid down rules on the question of what constitutes incitement. Would
an Israeli Jew who said or wrote much worse things than the poem in question be
brought to trial?”
Tatour was arrested in October 2015, when Palestinians
were carrying out stabbing attacks against Jews almost daily. The indictment
accused her of publishing posts on Facebook and YouTube “which contained calls to commit acts of violence or terror and for
praising and identifying with acts of violence or terrorism.”
One video clip she posted showed masked men throwing
stones and firebombs at Israeli security forces with a voiceover of her reading
her poem. By the time the indictment was filed, the prosecution said, the clip
had been watched more than 200 times and received several favorable responses.
content, its exposure and the circumstances of its publication created a real
possibility that acts of violence or terrorism will be committed,” the
Aside from the “Resist” poem, Tatour was charged over
two other posts. In one, she wrote, “Allah
Akbar and praise God, Islamic Jihad has decreed a continuation of the intifada
throughout the West Bank and its expansion to all of Palestine. We must begin
within the Green Line,” meaning inside Israel. That post received 35 likes.
The second post contained a picture of Asra’a Abed, a
Nazareth resident who was shot and wounded after pulling out a knife in Afula’s
central bus station, along with the caption “I’m
the next martyr.”