PEN America released a statement about the case of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour yesterday, condemning the “further evidence of the increasingly aggressive measures undertaken by the [Israeli] government to restrict speech critical of the state”:
Tatour is one of a number of Palestinians who’ve been arrested for online speech critical of Israel. According to Nadim Nashef of Al-Shabaka, “The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a non-governmental organization dealing with prisoners’ rights, estimates that more than 150 arrests took place between October and February 2016 based on Facebook posts expressing opinions on the uprising.”
As the PEN release notes, Tatour was arrested on October 11 of last year, “when police entered her house in a town outside of Nazareth around 4 am without a search or arrest warrant.”
She was indited for incitement, like many of the other cases against online speech, and also under the law that prohibits “”Support for a Terrorist Organization.” She spent three months in Israeli prisons before being placed under house arrest, one of the conditions of which was being prevented from using the internet. According to PEN, “She will remain under house arrest for the duration of her trial, which is scheduled to resume on July 17 and September 6.”
Tatour’s case is unusual amont the other anti-speech arrests in that hers centers largely around her poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” translated for ArabLit by Tariq Haydar. Other anti-poetic evidence included the prosecution citing “Tatour’s participation in a Kafr Qasim massacre memorial event and her poetry reading at a Woman’s Day event in Nazareth.”
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America:
Interpreting an artistic work as a direct call to terrorism dangerously misconstrues an act of free expression by an Arab* citizen of Israel as a serious security threat punishable by preventative detention and prosecution. The connection between Tatour’s activities and the charges of incitement to violence and support for terrorism relies solely on suggestion in the form of a poem and video rather than actual evidence. Her detention, one in a string of recent arrests of writers and journalists, signals a worrying expansion in Israeli law enforcement policy to silence views the government deems unsavory.
PEN America has been criticized by many US writers for partnering with the Israeli government.
Read the full statement from PEN America.
Read Tatour’s poetry: “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” translated by Tariq Haydar; “I Will Not Leave My Country,” translated by Ghada Mourad”; “How Old Am I Now?” translated by Ahmed Zahran.
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