Israeli Arab Poet Dareen Tatour Gets Five-month Sentence for Incitement on Social Media

Tatour, 36, was convicted of incitement to violence and supporting terrorist organizations in May

Dareen Tatour at the Nazareth Magistrates' Court, July 31, 2018.
Rami Shllush

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was sentenced to five months in prison Tuesday by the Nazareth District court. Tatour, an Israeli citizen, was convicted in May of incitement to violence and supporting terrorist organizations, based on her social media posts.

Following the sentencing, Tatour said she was not surprised. "I expected prison and that's what happened. I didn't expect justice. The prosecution was political to begin with because I'm Palestinian, because it's about free speech and I'm imprisoned because I'm Palestinian."

Tatour, 36, a resident of the Galilee village of Reineh, near Nazareth, was arrested in October 2015 after posting, among others, a poem titled “Resist, my people, resist them."

The indictment included a translation of the poem, with the lines: "I will not succumb to the 'peaceful solution' / Never lower my flags / Until I evict them from my land."

"My trial ripped off the masks," Tatour stated in May. "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."

A video clip that Tatour uploaded

Tatour was arrested at time when lone-wolf stabbing attacks on Israelis were practically a daily event. She is charged with publishing on "various publications that call for violent acts or terrorism" on Facebook and YouTube, and "for praising and identifying with acts of violence or terrorism."

A video clip that Tatour uploaded shows her reading the poem against the backdrop of masked people throwing rocks and firebombs at Israeli security forces. The indictment contains a translation of the poem into Hebrew and says that as of the charges being filed, it had accrued more than 200,000 views and several adulatory comments.

"The content, its exposure and the circumstances of its publication created a real possibility that acts of violence or terrorism will be committed," the indictment claimed.

After the indictment, the video gained even more exposure when Culture Minister Miri Regev posted it herself within an edited clip on her Facebook page. The edited clip was watched more than 70,000 times and received more than a thousand "likes." Beside it, Regev wrote, "Where do you think this video was screened? At a Hamas event in Gaza? ISIS in Syria? Hezbollah in Beirut? Watch and share."

The indictment included two other poems by Tatour.

One said, "Allah Akbar and Baruch Hashem, Islamic Jihad declared intifada throughout the whole West Bank and expansion to all Palestine. We should begin inside the Green Line," a post that got 35 likes. The second showed the wedding of Asra’a Abed, a Nazareth resident who was shot and wounded after drawing a knife at the central bus station of Afula, with the post, "I'm the next martyr."

After three months in detention, Tatour had been released to house arrest, with an electronic cuff. Four months later she was allowed to leave the house for two hours on weekends, if accompanied. She was not allowed to use a mobile phone or internet, restrictions which had no precedent, her lawyer, Gaby Lasky said.

Initially Tatour had denied any connection with the posts. After changing lawyers in November 2016, she admitted to publishing the poem, but claimed it had been mistranslated.

The police officer who translated it knows spoken and literary Arabic, and speaks Arabic as his mother tongue, the state claimed.

The prosecution highlighted her change in story and wrote in its conclusions that a person "confident of the justice of his path and purity of his intentions consistently admits to publishing the things attributed to him, and explains the underlying intentions. This is not how the defendant behaved." Later the prosecution said that once she admitted to the publications, Tatour cast blame on others for not understanding her properly, or causing her to act in a certain way, ostensibly innocuously, which is unacceptable."

At the time, Lasky told Haaretz that it is pathetic to put a poet on trial for a poem she wrote, based on an erroneous literal and cultural translation. "In the unfortunate case of Dareen, her poem speaks among other things about the Dawabshe family and others who were hurt by Jews. The police officer who translated the poem unprofessionally took things out of context."

Defense witnesses included Prof. Nissim Calderon, who wrote an opinion on the special status of poets, noting Hebrew poets in tsarist Russia and during the British Mandate in Palestine, such as Nathan Alterman. The prosecution argued that Calderon hadn't seen the full text, or seen it in the context of pictures of the intifada in the background.

"The trial was designed entirely to intimidate and silence Palestinians in Israel, to make them censor themselves for fear of being put on trial and criminalization of poetry," Lasky said. "When the state tries people for poetry, that derogates from the cultural richness of all society."