Dareen Tatour’s Trial: Step by Step

As I tried to make some order in the new “Free Dareen Tatour” site – I found it might be helpful to have all the hearings of the trial described in chronological order – with links to detailed reports for each hearing. I liked it so much that I re-publish it here. Any comment or proposals for additional links will be most welcomed.

On October 11, 2015, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested by the Israeli police in a pre-dawn raid on her house in Reineh.

The Indictment

On November 2, 2015, she was indicted in the Magistrates’ Court in Nazareth for “incitement to violence” and “support of a terrorist organization”.

The indictment is all based on three publications by Tatour:

1) The poem “Resist My People, Resist Them” – which Tatour published in her Youtube channel and Facebook page. A distorted Hebrew translation of the poem, made by a policeman with no qualification in translation or literature, is fully cited in the indictment document.

2) A Facebook post mentioning that Islamic Jihad called for an intifada in the West Bank and later contains a call for intifada within the green line to support Muslim’s rights to pray in the Al-Aqsa mosque. From this post the indictment infers the accusation of “supporting a terrorist organization”. Clearly the reference to Islamic Jihad is just citing a news item and Tatour explained her call for intifada as a call for legitimate mass struggle.

3) The last publication mentioned in the indictment is composed of two pictures: A picture of Israa Abed (a women from Nazareth that was wrongly suspected as a terrorist attacker) lying on the floor of the Afula central bus station after she was shot by Israeli police and guards – posted as Tatour’s wallpaper on Facebook – and a small black picture with white Arabic writing “I am the next martyr”, that was her profile picture. The prosecution claims that by posting these two pictures together Tatour was inciting for violence. Tatour explained that the profile picture “I’m the next martyr” was first posted by her and by many activists after the burning alive of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu-Khdeir in Jerusalem in June 2014. It was a protest at the killing of innocent Palestinians that was reused after the murder of Kheir Hamdan by Israeli police in Kafr Kana in November 2014. And she published the picture of Israa Abed after watching a video of her shooting and being sure that she was shot even though she didn’t attack anyone – a claim currently accepted by the Israeli authorities.

First hearing, April 13, 2016 – The police translator

In the first hearing of the trial, on April 13, 2016, the prosecutor chose to start presenting her case with the Hebrew translation of the “Resist” poem. For this purpose she brought the police translator, Warrant Officer Nissim Bishara. The veteran policeman testified in court that his qualification for translating the poem was his study of literature in high school and his love for the Arab language.

You can follow the links for a report in English about this hearing, or for a more detailed Hebrew report.

Second hearing, May 5, 2016 – Demonstration and closed doors

Before the second hearing on May 5, 2016, there was a solidarity vigil with Tatour in front of the Nazareth court. As a result there was more media attention and Haaretz wrote about the trial for the first time (in English and Hebrew).

Because of the vigil, many people, including some Arab Knesset members, came to attend the hearing. The judge didn’t like it and held the hearing beyond closed doors.

Another policeman gave evidence about details of Tatour’s interrogation. See a report here (and in Hebrew).

Third hearing, July 17, 2016 – Proving the Facebook

On the 3rd hearing on July 17, 2016, the prosecutor brought as witnesses Tatour’s best friend Samira and her young brother Ahmad to prove that her Facebook page belongs to her – a fact that she herself testified to repeatedly in her interrogations in the police.

The prosecutor also brought as a witness Rami Amer from Kafr Qasim, one of the organizers of the yearly commemoration of the Kafr Qasim massacre. They brought him to witness how and why he invited Tatour to read from her poems in the commemoration ceremony. Initially Tatour was interrogated about her participation in this commemoration as part of the accusations against her. Later the prosecutor tried to use it to prove that she is a famous poet, and for this reason her incitement constitutes severe danger to state security. In the court Amer explained that “the fact that I know her as a poet doesn’t mean that she is a known poet”.

You can see detailed reports about this hearing in Arabic and Hebrew.

Forth hearing, September 6, 2016 – Interrogating the interrogator

For this hearing Tatour’s lawyer Abed Fahoum made the not-so-common effort to go over the video that documented her interrogation by Officer Samer Khalil. He confronted the prosecutor witness with big gaps between what was recorded on the video and what was written in the interrogation’s protocol.

Finally the video proved, and the officer had to admit, that Tatour was forced to sign the protocol (written by Khalil in Hebrew, even though the interrogation was held in Arabic), without being allowed to read it, as she explicitly requested to do.

With this testimony the prosecutor rested her case.

Tatour had to start her testimony on the same day, but the court failed to find a translator.

You can follow the link for a detailed report about this hearing (and in Hebrew).

Fifth to seventh hearings, November 17 & 24, 2016 and January 26, 2017 – Tatour’s testimony

On November 17 the trial resumed and Tatour had new lawyers, Gaby Lasky from Tel Aviv, accompanied by Nery Ramati from her office.

In her testimony Tatour admitted to posting all the publications that were attributed to her in their original Arabic form, but explained that the police translation distorted her words and that the police and prosecution distorted their meaning. She explained how all her publications were legitimate expression of protest against the crimes of the Israeli occupation and the settlers, and that all her calls for struggle are not meant to incite violence.

In three long sessions of counter interrogation the prosecutor Alina Hardak grilled Tatour again and again about many details from her publications, her interrogations in the police, other posts on her Facebook page and even comments by other people on her page. She tried to mislead Tatour, enter words to her mouth and find contradictions in her explanations – but couldn’t divert Tatour from her simple and sincere explanation of her publications.

You can read more about it here in Mondoweiss (and in Hebrew here and here).

Eighth hearing, March 19, 2017 – Experts’ opinion for the defense

On March 19, 2017, the defense presented two expert witnesses, Professor Nissim Calderon and Dr. Yoni Mendel.

Professor Calderon, an expert in Hebrew literature, explained how the most famous Hebrew poets expressed furious protest under Tsarist Russia and the British Mandate in Palestine. They were never prosecuted for their poetry by these undemocratic regimes like Tatour is now targeted by supposedly “democratic” Israel.

Dr. Mendel presented his own translation to Hebrew of the “Resist” poem and explained how the police translation distorted its meaning.

They were both grilled in counter interrogation by the prosecutor, trying to prove that they were not objective, that Tatour was not a poet and that the Palestinians were not living under occupation.

These counter interrogations produced many surrealistic dialogues that were cited in many articles and some of it has even constituted the text of a short play that was shown in the Yaffa Theater in a solidarity event with Tatour on August 30, 2017.

You can read more about it in English (also here and here), in Spanishin Hebrew (also here and here) and in Arabic.

Ninth hearing, March 28, 2017 – The defense claims discrimination in the enforcement of the law

On March 28 the defense brought as a witness a police officer, who presented to the court a statistical report about interrogations and indictments concerning incitement. The defense claimed that these statistics prove that the enforcement of the incitement law is one-sided against Arabs, ignoring severe Anti-Arab incitement by Jewish Israelis.

The defense rested its case, but then the prosecution surprised everybody with a request to present more evidence.

You can read about it here (and in Hebrew).

Tenth hearing, April 27, 2017 – The prosecution tries to use Tatour’s first lawyer against her

The trial of poet Dareen Tatour was resumed in Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, April 27, at 12:00, before Judge Adi Bambiliya.

In this hearing the last prosecution witness testified, after all defense witnesses were heard in March. The witness was a lawyer who advised Tatour on the first day of her detention, in October 2015. As Tatour mentioned his advice in her testimony, the prosecutor took the rare step to force the lawyer to testify for the prosecution in order to disproof Tatour’s words. In the court the lawyer, Hussam Mow’ed, didn’t remember any details from his meeting with Tatour, only how shocked he was at her situation after being dragged from bed to the police station at the middle of the night. Anyway, with this nonsense the prosecutor prolonged the trial and added another full month to Tatour’s house detention. This was the last hearing before the verdict. The judge gave each of the sides 45 days to prepare written summaries. She didn’t set a date for herself for giving the verdict, saying that she will set a date for the verdict only after she will have the summaries, “as they are likely to be delayed anyway”.

Detailed report in Hebrew about this hearing was published in Free Haifa and Local Call.

As of April 27, Dareen Tatour was still under strict house arrest. She is allowed to go out of her house only for 2 hours a day, from 17:00 till 19:00. At any time, at home and while going out, she should be accompanied by one of the “guardians” – her parents, two brothers and a sister in law – who deposited and signed big bail sums and will pay them to the court in case that Tatour will access the internet.

 

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‘A Poet’s Hallucinations,’ by Dareen Tatour

Arabic Literature (in English)

Dareen Tatour’s “A Poet’s Hallucinations,” translated by Jonathan Wright, comes ahead of PEN America’s planned month of solidarity with Tatour, who was first arrested in October 2015, charged with incitement to violence primarily over a poem (translated to English here), and has been in jail and on house arrest since.

The verdict in Tatour’s trial is currently set for October 17 at noon in the Nazareth court. By this time, the poet will be exactly two years and a week in detention.

You can follow the course of her trial at freedareentatour.org/trial.

  1. The Desire Hallucination

Desire builds a nest

Between the branches of my love.

It sings like a bulbul, night and day

And sweeps through me like fire through straw.

It tears my eyes from my face

And disfigures my features.

It steals all the furniture in my soul

So I sit and lament my luck.

  1. The…

View original post 385 more words

A New Translation of Palestinian Poet Dareen Tatour’s ‘I… Who Am I?’

The wonderful people of ArabLit are doing a great job to help the solidarity campaign to release Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour – Thanks you!

Arabic Literature (in English)

On August 30, despite public threats to withdraw funding from Israeli Minister of Culture Miri Regev and Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, poets, writers, and readers gathered in Yaffa to hold a solidarity event with Dareen Tatour, who was first arrested in October 2015, charged with incitement to violence primarily over a poem (translated to English here), and has been in jail and on house arrest since:

From the solidarity event in Yaffa. Photo: Arab48.

The solidarity event, according to a report in Arab48, included both poetry readings and a discussion of Tatour’s legal case by lawyers and activists. Tatour’s father was also there to thank those in attendance. According to multiple reports, both Regev and Kahlon threatened to use their power to defund the theatre in Yaffa that held the event.

Several US literary figures also renewed their calls for Tatour’s freedom.

As to the next step in…

View original post 402 more words

US Literary Figures Renew Call for Freedom for Palestinian Poet Dareen Tatour

Eileen Myles, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ayelet Waldman, Jacqueline Woodson among writers in solidarity with imprisoned poet

August 29, 2017 – Prominent US poets, writers, playwrights and publishers issued statements today in support of imprisoned Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour ahead of her upcoming trial verdict on October 17.  The statements calling for her freedom, and demanding that Israel drop all charges against Dareen, released by Jewish Voice for Peace and Adalah-NY, come just as the Israeli government threatens to cut funding to a Yaffa Theater that agreed to host an artists’ solidarity event for Tatour on August 30th. Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested by Israeli authorities 22 months ago, in October 2015, and charged with incitement to violence primarily over a poem she posted online, “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” as well as two Facebook posts.

Following an initial three months of imprisonment after her arrest, Tatour has been held under house arrest for over a year-and-a-half. At her upcoming October 17 court date she expects to receive a verdict from an Israel court with high rates of conviction for both Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Numerous freedom of expression and literary organizations including PEN InternationalPEN America, and PEN South Africa have called for Tatour’s freedom, as have many Israeli artists and Israeli citizens. The 12 literary figures whose statements are being issued today are among 300 writers, including 11 Pulitzer Prize-winners, who signed a 2016 letter calling for freedom for Tatour after she was first arrested. These statements of solidarity with Dareen Tatour come from: Susan Abulhawa, Ben Ehrenreich, Deborah Eisenberg, Marilyn Hacker, Randa Jarrar, MJ Kaufman, Eileen Myles, Naomi Shihab Nye, John Oakes, Sarah Schulman, Ayelet Waldman and Jacqueline Woodson. Six of the statements follow. All 12 statements are available here.

Ben Ehrenreich, Writer: “When one fights without fear—when one fights with love instead, fighting looks like something else entirely. Like poetry. Dareen Tatour resists without fear, with poetry and with love, and they will not silence her. Stay strong, Dareen—we are with you.”

Randa Jarrar, Writer: “We must call on the international community to place pressure on Israel to release Dareen and other political prisoners whose ‘crimes’ are those of self-expression and resistance. No one should be forbidden from using the internet, publishing their writing, or attending events, whether they be political or not. The fact that writer Dareen Tatour continues to be placed under house arrest and only allowed out with a guardian is misogynist, racist, and unjust.”

Eileen Myles, Poet: Israel’s claim to be a democracy is roundly trounced by this attempt to silence Dareen Tatour. Language lives and dies in poetry and the human cry for freedom breathes in a poets utterance. A poet never stands alone and I’m proud to stand with the people of Palestine and globally who demand that Dareen Tatour’s voice and words are not criminalized, penalized and obstructed. As a human and a citizen of the earth it is her and all of our right to write and be heard.

Naomi Shihab Nye, Poet and Writer: “It’s an absolute outrage that poet Dareen Tatour has been treated this way by so-called democracy Israel for speaking truth and using the word Resist. We all resist. She deserves nothing but freedom and even bigger paper and more pens! We speak up for her in the name of justice and our own tax dollars channeled Israel’s direction for way too many years.”

Ayelet Waldman, Writer: “Two years ago Dareen Tatour was torn from her home in the middle of the night. A poet, incarcerated by Netanyahu’s right wing government for the crime of making her art. This must stop. She must be released.”

Jacqueline Woodson, Poet and Author: “I believe Dareen Tatour should be free to leave her home, to write what she needs to write for her own empowerment, to live her life as poet. Freely.”

Although the conditions of her house arrest were somewhat improved after the public outcry from the literary and international community in 2016, Dareen is still forbidden from using the internet, publishing any of her writings, or participating in any political events.

Dareen Tatour’s case represents just one of countless examples of Israel’s systematic suppression of Palestinian arts, culture and political expression. For example, Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev continues to try to ban public readings of the poetry of the late, renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and to shut down plays about Palestinian prisoners. Just recently, 67-year-old writer Ahmad Qatamesh was released by Israel after three months of imprisonment without charge. Dr. Qatamesh, named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, has been jailed periodically for eight of the last 25 years.

Over 400 Palestinians, in both the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel have been arrested for posts on social media in the last year alone. According to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, Israel currently holds 6,128 Palestinian political prisoners, including 450 Palestinian “administrative detainees” held without charge or trial, 320 child prisoners and 62 Palestinian women. Since 1967 more than 800,000 Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) have been detained under Israeli military orders.

The full list of new statements from literary figures can be viewed here.

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Jewish Voice for Peace is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace  according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for  all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 200,000 online supporters,  over 70 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an  Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S.  intellectuals and artists.

Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel is a local, grassroots, non-hierarchical volunteer-only group of concerned individuals that advocates for justice, equality, and human rights for the Palestinian people. Adalah-NY organizes in support of the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society to maintain non-violent means of protest — including boycotts, divestment, and sanctions — until Israel respects Palestinians’ fundamental rights.

Some breathing space in Dareen Tatour’s house detention

As we went out of the crowded courtroom of judge Margalit in Nazareth, we were all smiles. The tense waiting for the judge’s decision gave way to hugging and bursts of laughter. It is astonishing how happy you can be for such a little victory. After all, Dareen Tatour will soon finish her second year in detention for writing a perfectly legitimate protest poem, and within a few months she is expected to be sentenced and there is a real danger that she will be sent for another period in prison.Dareen celebrating victory 3 supervisors

But this was the time to celebrate a small victory. I couldn’t avoid the comparison with the much larger recent victory of the struggle of the Palestinian people that forced the Israeli occupation to remove the new harassing “security” arrangements from around the Al-Aqsa mosque. Cold headed analysts summed it at “the magnetometers went out, the occupation is here to stay”. But still it was a big victory to popular struggle and it showed that there is some limit to the power of evil. It was rightly celebrated on the street of Jerusalem as an important step on the way to liberty.

Time has many dimensions

Whenever Dareen Tatour requests for relief in the conditions of her detention, the prosecution and judges pretend to know nothing about the constant delays in their courts, and claim that the trial is going to end so soon that any change will be just unnecessary burden on the system. Last time, on May 22, when the judge allowed Dareen to go out of the house between 9am and 7pm, she said she assumes this is the last request for relief. But she limited Dareen by stating that she can’t go out of the house unless accompanied at every moment by one of her 5 certified “supervisors” – her parents, two brothers and a sister in law. The official reasoning was that, as Dareen is prevented from any access to the internet, there should be somebody to watch her at any moment to make sure that she doesn’t touch a smartphone or a computer. At the occasion she also added a new condition that prevents Dareen from attending any political gathering and demanded an upfront payment of another 6,000 shekel on top of all the previous bails. (A detailed report in Hebrew).

Dareen_consulting_Lawyer_Haya

Consulting advocate Haya Abu Warda

But this “solution” created a new problem. Four of the five “supervisors” are working every day, and Dareen’s mother is busy caring for a bunch of her small grandchildren while their parents are at work. So Dareen could hardly enjoy her promised new freedom and is still forced to stay in the house all day long. The real solution was to let Dareen free, at least until the end of the trial, which is the case of many violent criminals in Israeli courts. But, knowing the hard stance of the prosecution in this particular case, three of the women that accompany Dareen in her ordeal volunteered to provide a practical partial solution by asking to be certified as supervisors in order to enable Dareen get out of her house more frequently.

The request to add the three new supervisors was presented by Dareen’s lawyers to the court, which requested them to get the position of the prosecution before setting a hearing. The prosecution first didn’t reply, then said they are ready to allow only two new supervisors, and finally, after dragging the issue for about two months, refused to accept any new supervisors. Finally the court set the date to hear the plea for August 1st, at 9am.

Luck and Reason

On that morning judge Margalit was on rotating duty to hear all the coming detention cases. The courtroom was full, as well as the waiting hall. After he finished sending a poor (blonde Jewish) women for 3 months in jail for “refusing to obey a legal order” and “disrupting a policeman’s work”, he freed himself to serve the many groups of prosecutors, lawyers, detainees and family members that were flocking the room. We readied ourselves for a long wait, but were surprised to hear the name Dareen Tatour coming first – maybe it is our lucky day.

The prosecution was represented by lawyer Ruba Abu Dakka, whom we didn’t see on this case before, probably also in rotating duty while others are on holidays. The judge, who is used to release all types of suspects, including hardened criminals, on a daily basis, and to certify all types of “supervisors”, asked the prosecutor whether there can be an agreement. She said no. So he brought in the proposed supervisors for interrogation, one by one.

Dareen_Haya_Edith_Bilha

Left to right: Edith, Haya, Dareen, Bilha

The first to be interrogated was Ofra Yeshua Lyth from Yaffa (Jaffa). She told the judge that she knows Dareen from the days that she was under house detention in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv, and that she used to drive Dareen to the court hearings. When asked whether she can come from Yaffa to take care of Dareen in faraway Reineh, she explained that last Friday she did just this – but in addition to taking Dareen for a trip she had to take her father with them as a certified guardian, making him miss another work-day. And here she is today in the Nazareth court again at 9am…

In the “counter interrogation” the prosecutor tried to deter her, telling her that the trial may last many more months, and asking whether she will be able to supervise Dareen over all this period… As if she doesn’t understand that adding more supervisors will make the task easier for all and the new supervisor-friends get the “privilege” to be allowed to take Dareen with them out of the house and not an obligation to do it every day.

The judge was curious and asked a special question “in the name of the court”. Are you a member of some association or a political party? Ofra was happy to answer that she is a member of an association called “I’m an Israeli” that tried to convince the Israeli authorities to declare a unified “Israeli nationality” for all the state’s citizens. They even appealed to the Israeli high court, but their appeal was rejected. The judge seemed satisfied to be able to put the whole case in some political category and asked (not to the protocol) whether all the three candidates belong to the same association.

Finally the prosecutor asked Ofra what she will do in case she would have to go to some political gathering… Ofra promised that she will not take Dareen with her.

Anti-Climax

As Ofra was interrogated the other two volunteers, Bilha Golan and Edith Breslauer, had to wait outside, not to be exposed to the secrets of the interrogation unless their replies will lose authenticity. But even the most foolish confrontation make you tired, and each of the next two interrogations became shorter.

They centered on the main technicalities that are always part of the interrogation of bailers… Do you know what Dareen is accused of? Do you know what limitations are imposed on her? What will you do if she will try to look at the internet? Will you not hesitate to call the police? Are you ready to sign a fiscal guarantee?

Answering the question about what Dareen is accused of gave a rare opportunity to get out of the regular script. Edith said she knows that Dareen is on trial because she wrote some post on Facebook that was misinterpreted. She added that she read Dareen’s poem and doesn’t think it justifies her house detention.

After everything went just perfect, the judge asked the prosecutor again whether there can be an agreed decision… She wanted to call her superiors and went out. After some time she came back and told the judge she has no answer yet. This was too much for the judge that thought the answers in his court come from him. So he let the two sides summarize their positions.

Lawyer Abu Dakka tried to justify the prosecution’s refusenik position. As she didn’t find any reason to object to the new supervisors, she made herself as if she is defending the decision of the previous judge on May 22. She said this decision already made the correct balance between the need to safeguard state security against the danger that Dareen Tatour constitutes and Dareen’s right to freedom. She didn’t mention, of course, that on May 22 the prosecution also objected strongly to letting Dareen to get out of her house for more than 2 hours daily, in the name of the same fake danger to the public.

Victory_Dareen_and_Lawyer_Haya

Celebrating victory with lawyer Haya Abu Warda

Advocate Haya Abu Warda reminded the court that with the current supervisors Dareen can’t use even the limited freedom that was promised to her in the previous decision. The judge agreed to add the three new supervisors as requested.

(There is a somewhat different report about the same events in Hebrew in Haifa Ha-Hofshit.)

Updates about the trial

In the meantime, the prosecutor has already presented her written 34 pages summary, which repeats and stresses furiously all the original accusations. She even claims that the big differences between the translation of the poem that was done by an unqualified policeman and the professional translation presented by the defense prove that the defense’s translation is not reliable!

Now advocate Gaby Lasky is working on her summaries to disprove all the prosecution’s lies and distortions… It will not be ready before September and the trial will probably not be finished before Dareen will complete her second year of detention on October 11… (For regular updates about the trial check here.)

Solidarity

Keep the date: On August 30 supporters of Dareen Tatour and Freedom of Expression are planning a special solidarity night in Yaffa with a rich artistic program.

We hope more solidarity work will be organized locally and worldwide as the trial is approaching its critical stage toward the verdict.

In the meantime we set up a small Free Dareen Tatour site with updates about the case, in addition to our Facebook page.

And we are still collecting donations to cover the legal expenses.

 

Detention for a Secret Deleted Publication…

Just another day in the Haifa Apartheid District Court… Today it started with tears of stress and humiliation and finished with the tears of joy and relief.

The victim this time is a woman in her twenties from one of the Arab Palestinian sleeping townships around Haifa. She lives with her family and their home was raided by the police at about 01:00 am in the night between Friday and Saturday, July 22. The reason for this midnight police raid was a status that she is accused of publishing on her Facebook page.

Her detention was remanded in the Haifa court on Saturday night, and remanded again for another three days on Monday in Akka (Acre). Later the Adalah Legal Center decided to take up her defense and appealed against her remand in the Haifa district court. The appeal was heard today by Judge Lifshitz.

Some 10 family members, apparently all working class, mostly women, where waiting to see their loved daughter, sister or cousin, together with a few local activists. Lawyer Fady Khoury and Muna Haddad came from Adalah.

We waited for a long time in the courtroom while the judge was going over the papers. It gave me an opportunity to look at the detainee. Since they built the new court house they equipped it with unseen elevators to bring the detainees from the detention cells in the basement and escort them into the courtroom from a special rear entrance to the isolated deck, so you don’t see them on the way.

She was sitting there between two guards, a man and a woman, from the special “Nakhshon” unit that specializes in escorting and abusing prisoners. Our standard saying when we speak about our political prisoners is “her spirits are high”. Hers weren’t. She was clearly exhausted and distressed. The lawyers that visited her talked about her appalling detention conditions.

When the judge gave the sign to start, lawyer Khoury started to complain that he doesn’t even know what is client is accused of publishing. He said that you can’t detain a person for publishing stuff without telling him what he had supposedly published, like you can’t accuse somebody with stealing stuff without telling him what was stolen.

The police was represented by a uniformed officer, and we noticed the name on his tag was “Shanan”, just like one of the police officers that were killed in occupied Jerusalem on Friday. Probably a relative, was the inevitable thought. He told the lawyer that, at this stage of the investigation, he is not allowed to know anything, until the indictment.

The lawyer continued to complain, but not knowing the essence of the accusation made his work almost impossible. He reminded that the right of free expression is important and shouldn’t be easily trumped on. He specifically mentioned that the judge in Akka, in his decision to remand his client’s detention, used as an argument against her the fact that she is linked to a party that is represented in the Knesset… He also said that, as the police already hold all the evidence, the detainee’s release can’t hinder the investigation.

The Judge stopped the Lawyer abruptly and asked the officer why they should keep hold of the detainee. But I didn’t rest my case yet, protested the lawyer. You will be able to continue your argument later, promised the judge.

The officer admitted that the danger that the detainee would obstruct the investigation was decreasing with the passing time. But, he claimed, the main reason for the remand is the “dangerousness” of the detainee. This term “dangerousness” is a code word in the Israeli courts to justify a completely different system of remand against Arab Palestinians that are accused of opposing the Zionist oppression machine. While the courts tend to hastily release criminals, if you are a patriotic Palestinian you are automatically regarded “dangerous”, with no connection to what you are suspected of, and your detention can be easily remanded.

This time the judge didn’t buy it. He pressed the officer to say what specific reasons require that the detainee will stay in prison. The officer said that it is true that they started with investigating one status, but since then they downloaded a long history of statuses by the suspected, so they have a long investigation to carry out. He added that the investigation will not be confined to the current detainee, but that they also plan to investigate some of the people that “liked” her statuses.

At this stage the judge stopped him and set to write a decision. As he didn’t let lawyer Khoury finish his argument, I was pretty sure that it is a release.

From what the judge said we learned that the accusation is related to a status that was published as a response to the clash in Jerusalem on Friday in which two Israeli police officers and three Palestinian youth were killed. We also learned that, according to the investigation, soon after the status was published the detainee erased it herself, much before her house was raided. The judge said that her publication was very severe, and may be punishable, but there is no reason to keep her under detention at this stage.

Finally he listed all the usual bail conditions: deposition of five thousand shekel in the court prior to release, farther financial guarantees by the detainee and a third person, house arrest for five days and a total ban on any connection to the internet, computers and smartphones until August 1st at 10:00am.Good Soldier Schweik in prison big

It all reminded me about the opening chapter in “The Good Soldier Schweik”, which tells how the great Austro-Hungarian Empire, after the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo, was arresting all sorts of people for the suspicion that they didn’t fully and wholeheartedly shared the agony of their oppressors. The only difference was that, in those primitive days, secret agents had to rotate from pub to pub to make people talk. Now, with modern technology, they just come and arrest you for your Facebook statuses.

A Seedling worth a Dollar

Life can just flow around you in the most natural way, until some casual mistake exposes the underlying rocks under the water…

Everything seemed so nice and easy this Saturday, the first day of Ramadan, with the prisoners’ hunger strike over, that we couldn’t find anything more important to do than to buy some seedlings to plant in the small garden around our house for the summer.

We went to a big nursery out of the town and started looking for our preferred plants. Iris asked one of the shop attendants where we can find seedlings of garden vegetables. He pointed to a big greenhouse where there were tables full of seedlings of flowers, and said that we can find some vegetables under the tables. “Would you come and help us pick some?”  She asked. “No,” was the answer, “just pull them out of their packages.”

We picked some seedlings of green chard and pepper from well packed trays that were apparently flown in from some remote industrial nursery. Looking farther under the tables we found some watermelon and cauliflower seedlings thrown in disorder on a big tray and picked some of them. With our modest bounty we went to the cashier.A seedling worth a dollar

The man there was clearly disturbed by what he has seen. He pointed at one watermelon seedling and told us with admonition: “This seedling is worth a dollar!”

“Ok,” I replied, “we are going to pay for it.”

“No,” he said, “this seedling costs ME a dollar.”

It didn’t impress me as a very shocking price, but I noticed that there was a small plastic tied to the seedling. Then the man went on to explain.

“These watermelon seedlings are not for sale. We brought them as we want to grow watermelons in our field. They are especially grafted. They cost me a dollar each.” He lamented again, not knowing what to do.

We apologized, said that we were sent by the shop attendant to pick our own seedlings from under the tables, and couldn’t know that those are not for sale. The person at the cashier, probably the owner of the nursery, admitted his negligence and continued to explain the severity of the situation.

“You will not find such seedlings for sale in any nursery. If you plant them you could grow really good watermelons. Not like the watermelons that don’t really grow from the seedlings that you can buy in the nurseries. They cost a dollar each.”

Then he asked: “Do you know how to grow watermelons?”

“Well, I was born on a farm.” I told him, reassuring. He was a bit relieved.

In the end we paid for our fifteen or so seedlings, including the three holy watermelon seedlings that cost a dollar each, the sum of 30 shekel, less than 10 dollars.

We planted two of them in our garden and gave one to the neighbour, just because we don’t have space in our small garden for three really good watermelon plants. Would the owner of the nursery known it his shock might have been even deeper.