As the imprisonment of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour makes clear, in Israel/Palestine, writers do not enjoy the right to freedom of speech, or movement. This repression is one of the reasons Palestinians have called for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel. Israeli repression of Palestinian expressive freedoms is also an important reason that MLA Members for Justice in Palestine advocate for a resolution endorsing the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
In October 2015, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Tatour was arrested from her home near Nazareth and has been under house arrest since January 2016.
She is one of over 150 Palestinians arrested in the last year for their expressions of resistance to the Israeli Occupation over social media. Poetry is not a crime. Unless the poet is a Palestinian. (Unless Palestinian)
The reason for her arrest: a poem she wrote and posted to YouTube. Tatour was charged with inciting violence on the basis of this poem, entitled “Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum” (Resist my people, resist them). These are the opening lines of the poem:
Resist, my people, resist them.
In Jerusalem, I dressed my wounds and breathed my sorrows
And carried the soul in my palm
For an Arab Palestine.
(See English translation of her poem on the Arablit website)
After spending several months in three different jails, and after undergoing five different interrogations, she was placed under house arrest in January. She currently is confined to an apartment in a Tel Aviv suburb. Her brother has been forced to rent this apartment for her, far from her family and home. She is not allowed internet access. An electronic device affixed to her ankle and guards track her every movement. Tatour describes this experience in Mondoweiss.
Her next hearing will take place July 18. As reported in The Electronic Intifada, she faces up to five years in prison.
Over 150 writers have urged her release. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), organizer of the open letter along with Adalah-NY, notes that those who have signed it “include four Pulitzer Prize winners, six recipients of Guggenheim Fellowships, an NAACP Image Award winner, many Lambda Literary Award winners, and scores of recipients of the highest U.S. writing, translation, and arts honors.” Included among them are Russell Banks, Edwidge Danticat, Dave Eggers, Eve Ensler, Fady Joudah, Robin Kelley, Naomi Klein, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Claudia Rankine, and Alice Walker.
As the petition states, the Israeli government’s actions against Tatour “reveal a desire to silence Tatour, part of a larger pattern of Israeli repression against all Palestinians.”
Explaining the significance of the petition, JVP notes, “She is one of over 150 Palestinians arrested in the last year for their expressions of resistance to the Israeli Occupation over social media. Poetry is not a crime. Unless the poet is a Palestinian.” (https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/unless-palestinian/)
You can sign the letter here. You also can join the MLA Members for Justice in Palestine and sign our Open Letter in support of a resolution endorsing the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. Oppose the criminalization of Palestinian poets—and to support the struggle of Palestinians determined to live in freedom.