Many Palestinians are arrested and held for long periods in Israeli prisons just for expressing their views, especially if those views happen to be opposed to the Israeli occupation and racist regime. Israeli police and Shabak (the secret services) supervise all social media and especially Facebook. One girl from Akka published a status supporting the Intifada at about 2:00 am and had the police knocking at her door before 4:00 am the same night.
No wonder that the detention of Dareen Tatour before dawn on October 11, 2015, didn’t get special attention. But Dareen happened to be a poet. At the center of her indictment stands a poem that she is accused of posting in youtube, titled “resist my people, resist them”. (As a result of Dareen’s trial this poem was later translated to English). A Hebrew translation of the poem, made by a policeman with no qualification for translating or explaining literature, is fully cited in the indictment document itself.
So it was a good opportunity to call for poets and other writers to get involved and expose Israel’s complete disregard to Palestinian human rights and freedom of expression.
Poetry Night in Haifa Al-Ghad
Herak Haifa, a local activist group, is used to organize solidarity with political prisoners. Usually it will call a vigil or a demonstration in the city’s main streets. But this time we thought to emphasize the persecution of Palestinian arts – by calling for an artistic event.
The Haifa Al-Ghad club is located in the middle of Wadi Nisnas, the only Arab neighborhood that mostly survived the 1948 ethnic cleansing and later systematic destruction of the Arab city. It was the Ghetto in which all the remaining Arabs in Haifa were concentrated. Now it is the center of the city for the growing again Arab population. The bare stone walls create arches and form a space well adjusted for an event emphasizing Palestinian identity.
On Thursday night, May 5, 2016, some 40 people gathered in the club, including five young Palestinian poets, Dareen’s father and some relatives and friends, local activists and poetry lovers. Dareen was very happy to hear about the even but she couldn’t attend – she is not allowed to leave the small house in a suburb of Tel Aviv where she is under house detention.
The evening was opened by Muhannad Abu Ghosh, welcoming the guests in the name of the Herak. He spoke about the importance of speaking up and defending the voice of the Palestinian struggle for national and social liberation – against the occupation and against internal pressures within the Palestinian society.
The first speaker was Tawfik Tatour, Dareen’s father. He described the harsh experience of the family from the moment that the police and “border guards” raided their house before dawn. He described the prolonged persecution of Dareen in the courts and different Israeli prisons and the harsh conditions imposed on her today. He praised the solidarity campaign and the encouragement it provides Dareen and her family in their daunting experience.
The magic started when the turn came to the poets. There were 5 of them, each with his special style, reading some known poems and some new ones that were never published before. But they all formed one consistent agenda – combining the national, the social and the personal in one quest for freedom and justice, liberty and love. Some poems related to the experiences of Palestinians in the racist Israeli society, others unreservedly exposed weaknesses of the Palestinian society. They proved that the associative expressive force of poetry may go beyond many political lectures and essays. The audience was electrified.
Hazar Yousef started the poetry reading with her poem called “Gaza – the city of love forbidden from broadcasting”. It relates to the suffering of this city’s people under siege and as victims of constant wars. She continued with a more personal song named “your heart”.
Second was Mahmoud Abu-‘Arisha, reading four shorter texts: “I don’t see your hands”, another poem with a title in Hebrew (but words in Arabic) describing his feelings at Israel’s “Independence day”, “God’s laugh” and “Fluffy Feathers”.
Tarek Khatib was third, but I don’t have a list of his poems. Hopefully I will get them later. ‘Alaa mhana came forth, reading section from a new poetry book that he is expected to publish soon.
Last was Ali Mawasi, who volunteered to do double role. First he read several poems from Dareen Tatour’s book “the last invasion”. Later he read two of his own poems, “Haifa” and “Roles”, which he dedicated to “the stones’ kids”.
A video of the whole event is expected to be published soon.
One of the enthusiastic audience finally commented: “We should really appreciate the bravery of these poets. Judging by the experience of Dareen they might fear to speak up. Reading such poetry may put you in prison for years.”
Sometimes the best defense is to show that nothing will deter you and you will go on speaking your mind.