Hundreds of Palestinians and Jews came to show support for Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour last week, who has been under house arrest for almost two years for publishing a poem on Facebook.
By Yoav Haifawi
Hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians crowded the hall of Jaffa’s legendary Arab-Hebrew Theater last Wednesday to show their solidarity with Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour. Tatour, who has been under house arrest for nearly two years, was arrested for publishing a poem and two statuses on Facebook.
In the days leading up to the event, there was a mounting pressure to cancel the event by both Israeli leaders and members of the press.
It began with right-wing extremists who called for a counter-demonstration in front of the theater. The demonstration never materialized, but was quickly endorsed by Culture Minister Miri Regev and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, both of whom threatened to withhold funding to the theater. Ironically, the opposition event helped to raise consciousness to Tatour’s case, bringing hundreds of supporters to overcrowd the theater hall.
Exposing the logic of persecution
The event organizers, including poets Tal Nitzan and Alma Katz, writer Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, actress Einat Weizman and producer Khaled Jabarin, succeeded in putting together a program that was short, diversified, informative, and intense. +972 Magazine’s Orly Noy, who hosted the event, opened by describing Tatour’s story since she was arrested on October 2015, after which she spent three months in prison and is still under house arrest. Meanwhile, her trial over a poem and two statuses published on Facebook — which the Israeli authorities deemed forms of “incitement” drags on. Dareen’s father, Tawfiq, thanked everybody for their solidarity and accused Israel’s leaders of incitement against the Arab population, and against anyone who struggles for a world without occupation and racism.
Gaby Lasky, Tatour’s lawyer, spoke about the paradox at the core of the indictment. Following the murder of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir at the hands of three Jewish Israelis in 2014, Tatour published a status in which she wrote “I’m the next martyr.” While her intention was to protest the killing of the innocents and the notion any Arab in this country could be killed for no reason, her prosecutors misinterpreted it as a call to violence.
Anas Abudaabes, a Bedouin journalist from the Negev, told the crowd about how he was arrested in November 2016 for publishing a satirical Facebook post denouncing those who celebrated the wildfires — falsely blamed on Palestinians — that were ravaging the country at the time. His interrogator used Google Translate to counter Abudaabes’ explanation of his post, while three judges consecutively signed his remand.
Breaking the chains of silence
As her trial drags on, the conditions of Tatour’s house arrest have been somewhat relieved. Meanwhile, however, successive court decisions have attempted to continue silencing her — the latest of which stated that she is not allowed to publish anything, directly or through others, and is also prevented from using the Internet, reading the news, or from attending any political gathering.
One way around this is through republishing Tatour’s previous works. Poets Sheikha Hlewe and Rachel Peretz translated some of the poems that were read aloud by Dareen Tatour on International Women’s Day in Nazareth in 2013. On Wednesday night, Hlewe and Peretz read some of these poems — which were recently published in Haaretz — in both Arabic and Hebrew. Speaking mostly about the oppression of women, the poems sound prophetic today, as they speak about the persecution of the innocent and about Tatour “chewing my shackles.”
Fellow poets read various works in solidarity. Tal Nitzan read two poems by Bertolt Brecht. Yasser Abu Arisha read a poem dedicated to the Arab women who are victims of violence and murder and Eitan Kalinsky read a poem describing how the Hebrew language was contaminated and defeated by the occupation. Meanwhile Michal Ben Naftali read thoughtful excerpts about victimization from her book, The Teacher, while Dana Amir read a poem dedicated to Dareen Tatour that she wrote especially for the event.
The highlight of the evening was a short play that was based directly on the protocols of Tatour’s trial. Directed by Einat Weizman, and read aloud by actors Doron Tavori and Liora Rivlin, the play exposed the absurdity of the prosecution’s position, trying to define what a poem is and what the rights of a poet are, specifically during the prosecutor’s cross-examination of Professor Nissim Calderon and Dr. Yoni Mendel, as recently highlighted in an article by Yehuda Shenhav in Haaretz.
The night finished with a performance by Palestinian hip hop artist Tamer Nafar, accompanied by Israeli musician Itamar Ziegler. He performed two of his big hits, “Who’s the Terrorist?”, which could have been written especially for Tatour’s trial, and “If Only”, the theme song from the 2016 film “Junction 48,” in which Nafar stars alongside Samar Qupty.
Despite the grim nature of Tatour’s trial, the event goers were in high spirits. Noy closed out the evening by urging the crowd to continue following the trial and raise their voices against injustice.
Yoav Haifawi is covering Dareen Tatour’s trial in his blog, Free Haifa.