Editorial

The Terror of Poetry

It's inconceivable for Dareen Tatour's poem's challenge to a policy of oppression and occupation to be considered incitement to terror

Poet Dareen Tatour at the Nazareth Magistrate's Court on May 3, 2018.
Gil Eliahu

“This is a disgrace, not justice.” This was the outcry by the father of the Arab Israeli poet Dareen Tatour after Judge Adi Bambilia-Einstein of the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court convicted his daughter of incitement to violence and supporting a terror group – for publishing a poem and two posts on social media. It should echo through every household in Israel.

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Tatour, 36, was arrested two and a half years ago after publishing a poem entitled “Resist, My People, Resist Them.” According to the indictment, Tatour posted “various publications that contain calls for acts of violence or terror and statements of encouragement, praise and identification with acts of violence or terror.” Among them, the indictment cites a video showing masked men throwing stones at security forces, with a voice-over reading her poem.

In convicting Tatour, the court has lent a hand to silencing and criminalizing poetry. This is a badge of shame for Israeli democracy, whose judges are made to interpret poems.

“My trial ripped off the masks,” said Tatour, who has spent most of the past two and a half years under house arrest and is under severe restrictions, among them a ban on using a cellphone or the internet. Tatour said the trial proved that democracy in Israel was only for Jews.

Her anger is understandable. The Arabs in Israel are used to hearing cries of “death to the Arabs,” and a chance perusal of social media or the Knesset corridors is enough to see and hear the incitement – but no one is taken to court for that.

The atmosphere of incitement against the Arab citizens of Israel is typical of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned last Election Day of Arab citizens going to the polls in droves, taking advantage of terror attacks to call their loyalty to the state into question. And only last week he posted a lie defaming the fans of the team from the Arab town of Sakhnin (and removed it only five days later without apologizing). All this is percolating into the courtroom.

But while the prime minister, whose Facebook page has more than 2 million followers, incites endlessly against an entire group, the establishment stays silent. Tatour – a private citizen who the day she was indicted posted a video that had 200 views – is convicted after a trial lasting two and a half years.

It’s inconceivable for a challenge expressed in a poem, as harsh as it may be, to the policy of oppression and occupation to be considered, in the case of Arab citizens, incitement to terror. Tatour’s attorney Gaby Lasky intends to appeal. The court should reverse this shameful verdict, release Tatour and leave poetry and poets alone.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.