Dareen Tatour at her sentencing. Photo: Yoav Haifawi, Facebook

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was sentenced to five months in Israeli prison on 31 July 2018, the culmination of a nearly three-year saga of imprisonment and house arrest following the publication of a video featuring her poem, “Resist, my people, resist them,” in October 2015. Tatour, 36, already spent three months in prison before spending the next two and a half years under house arrest. Tatour’s treatment as a Palestinian citizen of Israel has clearly underlined the racist, discriminatory and apartheid conditions for Palestinians in ’48 Palestine as well as exposing the reality behind Israel’s claims to democracy and academic freedom.

Tatour will report to Israeli prison on 8 August, where she will serve two months in prison, the remaining period of her sentence. She was convicted of incitement several months ago in a Nazareth court for her poetry and writing on social media. A number of political leaders of the Palestinian movement in occupied Palestine ’48 attended the hearing, and writers around the world have expressed their support for Tatour. PEN International identified the case as one targeting freedom of expression.

“After reviewing the charge sheet and the evidence against her, PEN has concluded that Dareen Tatour has been targeted for her poetry and activism and is calling for her immediate and unconditional release.” Jennifer Clement, president of PEN International, said that “Dareen Tatour is on trial because she wrote a poem. Dareen Tatour is critical of Israeli policies, but governments that declare themselves as democracies do not curb dissent. Words like those of Dareen Tatour have been used by other revolutionary poets, during the Vietnam war, during other liberation wars, and they can be found in the works of Sufiya Kamal of Bangladesh, of Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua, and so on.” Hundreds of internationally renowned writers and artists, including Edwidge Danticat, Ahdaf Soueif, Alice Walker, Eve Ensler, Ariel Dorfman, Russell Banks and Barbara Hammer, have called for Tatour’s release.

As Yoav Haifawi, one of the organizers of the campaign to free Dareen Tatour wrote in his detailed explanation of the case, “Tatour was mistakenly suspected and the entire investigation into her case began from this mistake. But her conviction is not a mistake. She was clearly identified as a proud Palestinian Arab who resists her oppression and the oppression of her people. For this she was convicted.”

Dareen Tatour is far from the first Palestinian poet – including a number of poets from ’48 Palestine – targeted by the Israeli occupation for arrest and imprisonment. The jailing and trial of Dareen Tatour is an echo of the arrests and imprisonment of Mahmoud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim, Tawfiq Zayyad and many others, not to mention the assassination of Ghassan Kanafani, Wael Zuaiter, Kamal Nasser and other Palestinian poets and writers. Today, there are dozens of Palestinian journalists in prison, including the writer Lama Khater of al-Khalil, just arrested last week and held under interrogation by Israeli occupation forces. Khater’s family said that she was told by Israeli soldiers that if she would stop writing, she would not be arrested.

In a lengthy, moving interview at Mondoweiss, Tatour spoke about her experiences with her fellow women prisoners. “Every prisoner that I met and knew has a story worth telling. Each carries an important human message. There are 45 Palestinian prisoners whom I have personally known and who have left me with unforgettable feelings and memories. I want to help make their voices heard…

After detention, I plan to dedicate myself to the women’s movement. I plan to establish a Palestinian women’s association that can connect with women’s rights groups around the world. In short, these last three years have made me love women more than ever and I hope to change with them.”

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network denounces the sentencing of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, the latest example of the violent, military repression of Palestinian arts, culture and literary expression. Tatour’s case exposes the reality of the Israeli regime for the Palestinian citizens in occupied Palestine ’48 – that is, an attack upon and a denial of their existence, identity and even creativity.

Whether facing the military courts that convict 99.74 percent of the Palestinians that come before them, the administrative detention hearings that send Palestinians to prison without charge or trial or the “civil” courts that criminalize poetry and impose extreme sentences on the children of Jerusalem, the entire Israeli system is based on the dispossession and denial of Palestinians and is fundamentally unjust and racist at its core.

Her case also highlights the role of Palestinian women in leading the liberation movement as well as creating art and culture. Throughout the history of the Palestinian liberation movement and resistance culture, women’s art and organizing has always been central – indeed critical – to the development of the anti-colonial struggle and the creative output that has accompanied it.

Freedom and justice for Dareen Tatour and all imprisoned and persecuted Palestinians!

TAKE ACTION!

1. Several organizers of the campaign to free Dareen Tatour have launched “Poem on Trial,” a campaign to highlight the case and support her ongoing legal challenges. The organizers are calling upon musicians, poets and other artists to create sound works that incorporate Tatour’s criminalized poem. “With your agreement we intend to curate a digital-only album of submissions, to be made available for sale on several platforms.All sale proceeds will be utilised to assist Dareen’s legal challenge to her conviction. Please submit your piece by 28/9/2018 via Wetransfer to:poemontrial@gmail.com” Read more: https://www.poemontrial.org/

2. Escalate the cultural boycott of Israel. Palestinians have long called for the boycott of academic and cultural institutions in the Israeli state and for performers and artists to refrain from performing in Israel so long as it continues to violate Palestinian rights. This includes rejecting the sponsorship of cultural events and film festivals by Israeli embassies around the world. In response to the growing boycott movement, supporters of Israeli apartheid and representatives of the Israeli regime often make claims to “academic freedom” and “cultural exchange.” The imprisonment of poets like Dareen Tatour proves the falsehood of such claims and undermines the importance of cultural boycott. Find out more at https://bdsmovement.net/pacbi and http://usacbi.org.