Israeli court refuses (again) to release poet Dareen Tatour

(The following report was published in +972. It was initially published in Hebrew in “Local Call” and Haifa Ha-Hofshit. All photos courtesy of Oren Ziv of Activestills.org.)

The media calm in recent months could have fooled the casual reader into thinking that the trial of Dareen Tatour for her poetry has already ended. After all, how much can the state abuse the poet for one poem and two statuses on Facebook?

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Dareen Tatour in court, Nov 20, 2017

The silence is misleading. More than two years and two months after her arrest in October 2015, Tatour’s trial drags on languidly in the Nazareth court with no end in sight. On Monday, December 4, the remand judge once again rejected her request to be released from the house arrest imposed on her “until the end of legal proceedings.”

New testimony regarding “The Next Martyr”

Tatour, 35, from Reineh near Nazareth, was arrested by Israeli police on October 11th, 2015, and later indicted of incitement to violence and support of a terrorist organization, all for publishing a poem, “Resist my people, resist them”, and two Facebook statuses. The prosecution claimed that her publications at the beginning of October 2015 should be read in the context of the Palestinian “third intifada”, which

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Dareen Tatour prepared a handmade gift to her lawyers, Gaby Lasky (left) and Haya Abu-Wardeh (right)

was characterized by attacks by unorganized individuals. Tatour replied that in all her publication there is no call for violence, to which she objects, and that they express legitimate protest and call for struggle against Israeli restrictions on the right of Muslims to pray in Al-Aqsa and against the crimes of the occupation and in particular the killing of innocent Palestinians. She also claimed, and brought experts to prove this claim, that the police both mistranslated and misinterpreted her poem.

Following her arrest, Tatour was jailed for three months in three different prisons. She was later released to strict house arrest, forced to wear an ankle monitor. As the authorities demanded that she will be distanced from the Nazareth region, her family had to rent an apartment in Kiryat Ono, just outside Tel Aviv, to hold her there. She was forbidden from using the Internet.

Gradually, through many appeals and legal battles, which met stiff resistance from the prosecution, the conditions of the house arrest were somewhat eased. In July 2016 she was allowed to continue her house arrest at her home, and in November of that year the ankle was removed. Gradually she was allowed to get out of the house for limited hours, but she should be accompanied by custodians at every step.

The last witness in the case was heard on April 27, and the judge gave each of the parties 45 days to submit written summaries. The prosecution requested a postponement and finally submitted its summaries at the end of June.

While working on the defense summaries, the team from Attorney Gabi Lasky’s office came upon an important piece of evidence concerning one of the main points of the indictment, the publication of a profile picture with the text “I’m the next martyr” (the word was written in its masculine form, “shaheed”, in Arabic). In fact, as we learned from the testimonies of the police officers during the trial, the

I am the next martyr

“I’m the next martyr” – the profile picture that started the whole affair. It is designed as an obituary. Facebook shows the publication date – July 2014. The court refused to accept this evidence.

publication of this picture was the immediate trigger for the night raid on the poet’s home and her “military style” detention. Dumb “police intelligence” interpreted this status as a declaration of her intention to carry out an attack. Only after the arrest did officers search through Tatour’s Facebook and found the other publications that are mentioned in the indictment.

Tatour explained during both her police interrogations and testimony in court that she, along with many others, shared this profile picture to protest the killing of innocent Palestinians. It was published, for example, after the burning alive of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem in July 2014, and as a response to the police killing of Kheir Hamdan in Kafr Kana (just near Reineh) in November of that year.

The prosecutor claimed in her summaries that Tatour had lied about the publication date of this picture. As evidence she mentioned that it was found on Tatour’s phone as a file dated just prior to her detention. The police computer expert was asked during cross-examination whether he had checked when Tatour first published the picture. He said he did not know whether there was any way to check it.

The defense found the picture on Tatour’s Facebook page, and Facebook itself clearly shows the date of its first publication in July 2014, as she originally claimed. Moreover, the publication of the picture in the context of protests against Abu Khdeir’s murder also shows the context in which Tatour uses the word shaheed as a “martyr” or “victim” of Israeli violence, rather than as an attacker, a subject that has been at the center of much of the trial.

Evidence of discriminatory enforcement

From the beginning of the trial, the defense argued that Tatour’s arrest and trial constituted discriminatory enforcement, while others who had published far more “offensive” material were neither investigated nor tried. In particular, the defense argued that the attitude of the police and the prosecution is biased against the Arab public. However, the prevailing atmosphere in Israeli courts, which view every Arab protesting against the regime as a security risk, makes this claim difficult to prove. It can always be argued that every publication has special circumstances that are taken into account.

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Tatour and supporters after the court hearing on December 4, 2017

In an unexpected coincidence, the defense found a golden opportunity to strengthen its argument when Israel’s Culture Minister, Miri Regev, published the exact same video on her Facebook page for which Tatour was indicted, in which she reads “Resist My People, Resist Them.” The minister did so in response to the screening of the video as part of reading Tatour’s trial protocols during solidarity event in Jaffa last August. This is no longer a comparison between various publications, since both Regev and Tatour published the very same video. The rough Hebrew translation added by the minister, as well as the new title of the video (“where do you think this video was screened?”) cannot change the “severity” of the publication, had it really been an offense in the first place.

Another important detail is the scope of audience reached by the video. The indictment states that up to a few days after Tatour’s detention, her video was viewed 153 times (according to YouTube’s count, which includes some views by the interrogators themselves). In her summary, the prosecutor speaks of the “enormous potential for exposure” of Tatour publications on the Internet. On the other hand, the same video had tens of thousands of views on Regev’s Facebook page. Surprisingly, the minister was neither arrested nor interrogated, and apparently was not even requested to remove the dangerous video.

Evidence rejected and evidence accepted

Attorney Lasky submitted a request to the court to add the two new pieces of evidence to the case. It should have been a simple technical procedure.

However, in this specific case, the prosecution is conducting a war of attrition on every detail. After lengthy negotiations, an additional hearing of the trial was scheduled for November 15 to discuss the admissibility of the new evidence. In this hearing, the prosecutor demanded that whoever took the screenshot from Tatour’s Facebook page be cross-examined as a condition for its submission. This meant allowing the prosecutor to interrogate either Tatour herself or her attorney, Haya Abu Warda. Finally, the defense team decided not to agree to such an interrogation, which could have opened the door for the prosecutor to raise additional issues, giving up the opportunity to submit the new evidence.

Regarding the video from Regev’s Facebook page, however, the prosecution took a different line. It agreed to submit the video as evidence if the prosecution would also be allowed to submit other videos from Regev’s Facebook page in which she rails against Tatour and those in solidarity with her. For some reason, it was suddenly possible to submit videos from Facebook without the need to interrogate witnesses. Apparently the prosecutor was convinced that Regev’s incitement against Tatour would affect the judge more than the legal argument of discriminatory enforcement.

Oral summaries after written summaries

The prosecutor used the presentation of the additional evidence for yet another procedural victory. When the testimonies stage came to an end, the prosecutor requested to move to oral summaries, while the defense insisted on its right to submit written summaries. When the judge accepted the defense’s request, the prosecutor requested the opportunity to respond to the defense summaries. She explained that during verbal summaries, she could interrupt the defense’s statement, which would not be possible during written summaries. The judge ignored this unusual request.

Now, because of the additional evidence, the judge has scheduled a round of oral summaries to be heard on December 28, after the written summaries are submitted.

Legal struggle over the house arrest

By now it has been over two years and two months since Tatour’s arrest. Even when she is allowed to leave her house during the day, she must be accompanied at all times by a court-authorized custodian. Under such conditions it is clear that she cannot work or live a normal life.

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Full courtroom – November 20, 2017

In most cases, the conditions of detention are relieved with the passage of time with the consent of the prosecution. But in Tatour’s case, the prosecution continues to stress the poet’s supposed dangerousness and opposes any relief. In view of the prolonged trial with no clear end date, Lasky filed an application to cancel Tatour’s house arrest. The request was heard on November 20 before Judge Naaman Idris, the same judge who, two years ago, ordered Tatour’s detention until the end of legal proceedings. The hall was full of friends who came to support the poet, hoping that the show of support would encourage the judge rethink the case. The prosecutor repeated her objection to granting Tatour any relief without even bothering to explain.

The judge delayed his judgment to December 4. When we arrived at the appointed time, about ten friends and family, the judge allowed us “dry” in his room for about an hour and a half while he was handling many other cases. Finally, he was kind enough to make a short statement, which required less than a minute, announcing that he had rejected the request to cancel the detention. The judgment itself was already written before the hearing. In order to show that he does not ignore the lengthening of the detention for such a long period of time, he extended the period during which Tatour is allowed to leave the house, to between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., but  she still must be accompanied by a custodian, which means that the relief is only symbolic.

You may read details about all the hearings in Dareen Tatour’s trial and follow the latest updates in http://FreeDareenTatour.org/trial

 

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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.

 

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).

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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.

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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.

 

The prosecution in the poet’s trial tries to cause the court addiction to snuff films

(This report was initially published in Hebrew)

The court hearing in the case “The State of Israel v. Palestinian Poet Dareen Tatour“, held on Tuesday, March 28, was meant to be short, even boring. Only one defense witness remained and his testimony was intended to be purely technical. Since the parties will submit the summaries in writing, and each side will be given about a month to write them, we expected that, following this hearing, Judge Adi Bambiliya-Einstein will set the next hearing in two and a half or three months time.

Finally, we watched a tense legal drama with original artistic elements.

The claim of discrimination in enforcement

The last witness on behalf of the defense was a policeman – Chief Inspector Yaniv Hami – who is responsible in the Israeli police for answering public requests in the context of freedom of information.

Break in the trial - March 28

Break in the hearing, March 28, 2017

One of the defense arguments in this case is the claim of discrimination in enforcement: while the network is full of severe and violent incitement against the Palestinian Arab residents of Israel, the police and the State Prosecutor’s Office prefer to investigate and prosecute almost only Arabs, even for relatively moderate publications. In the early stages of the trial, the attorney at the time, Abed Fahoum, asked the judge to instruct the police and the state prosecutor to provide him with relevant statistical data so that he could substantiate his claim. The judge refused the request on the grounds that there was not even a shred of evidence of discriminatory enforcement.

The current defense lawyers, Gaby Lasky and Nery Ramati, have found a way around this obstacle. It turned out that in June 2016, the “Negev Coexistence Forum” submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to receive data about investigations, arrests and indictments for offenses involving incitement on social networks. The police’s reply was given to the applicants in August 2016 by Chief Inspector Hami, and he was now summoned to deliver it as a defense document in Tatour’s case.

At the time, John Brown and Noam Rotem covered the police data as received in a long (Hebrew) article in “Local Call” under the headline “Police data: dozens of indictments against Arabs for incitement, zero against Jews.”

Attorney Ramati gave in advance to the prosecution the data that he had received from the coexistence forum, but it turned out that the data brought by Inspector Hami to the court was organized in a different manner. The prosecutor, Alina Hardak, claimed that the defense had misled her and attempted to provide the court with data that is not backed by the testimony of the witness. “No,” explained Ramati. All he asks for is to submit to the court the data that the witness brought as he brought it. The prosecutor had to agree. The data that was actually submitted wasn’t seen by the parties prior to its submission, and they will be able to study the details only after the printed pages will be scanned into the court’s file. The witness also couldn’t answer most questions, since the reports were produced by a statistician on behalf of the police, and he only mediated their transfer to the public.

The prosecution wins another month of detention for the poet

At the end of the Inspector’s testimony, Attorney Ramati said: “These are my witnesses”. With this ended the defense’s case. We expected that the timetable for the summaries and the verdict would be set, but the prosecutor drew a surprise. She asked to summon another witness, attorney Hussam Maw’ed, who advised Tatour in the first days after her arrest.

Waiting for the trial

Waiting for the trial to begin

Here we return to October 11, 2015. At 3:00 before dawn, a special force of the Nazareth police, accompanied by Border Police, surrounded Tatour’s house, woke up her family and took her to detention and interrogation. We learned something about the traumatic experience through the testimony of one of the policemen who interrogated Tatour on the day of her arrest. He asked her whether she was religious. When asked by the defense why he asked this question, he replied that she did not wear a headscarf while in the pictures on her Facebook page her hair was covered. She explained that the policemen who took her did not even let her finish dressing.

She described the sequel in her testimony in court. She was held in a car in the police yard while police officers passing by called her a “terrorist” and cursed her. At 5:40 am she was brought for the first interrogation but refused to answer questions before consulting a lawyer. At 9 am she was brought back for interrogation after consulting attorney Hussam Maw’ed. The investigation was conducted before the police examined the material on the computer and the phone that had been confiscated from Tatour, and the investigator charged her with many offences, most of which do not appear in the indictment that was filed later. Tatour denied all that had been attributed to her. In later interrogations, the interrogators presented Tatour with the materials they found on her computer and phone. She admitted publishing them and explained in detail her intent behind each publication.

When Tatour testified in November 2016, she was asked by the prosecutor why she “lied” during the interrogation on the first day of her arrest. She explained that in her meeting with the lawyer he told her that she was in serious trouble, that she could be sentenced to seven years in prison, and advised her to deny everything. At this stage it was not clear to the police or to Tatour what the charges against her were. It is hard to guess what the lawyer could understand at the time from the frightened and confused detainee, and what he did actually advised her. I would doubt that he would even remember, more than a year and a half later, the details of their conversation.

The prosecutor is now demanding that attorney Maw’ed will be brought as a witness on behalf of the prosecution in order to refute Tatour’s testimony regarding the advice he gave her.

Attorney Ramati was surprised by the unusual step taken by the prosecution to bring a lawyer to testify against his client. He objected sharply to summoning the witness. He requested to submit his objection in writing, even the next day, so that it could be properly explained. But the Judge told him that if he will not explain his objection now, she will oblige him to appear in the courtroom on the next morning. Finally Ramati explained that his objection was not on specific legal claims, but on an ethical basis, as bringing lawyers to testify against their clients constitutes a serious violation of the ability to maintain trust and allow honest consultation. Alternatively, Ramati requested that even if attorney Maw’ed would be brought to testify, it would be limited to what Tatour said in court regarding their consultation.

The judge approved the prosecutor’s request to summon the witness, refused to limit his testimony, and set a special session on April 27 at 12:00. This means that the trial will last for another month, as will the house detention and the denial of Tatour’s freedom.

Telling Films

We had already intended to go home when the prosecutor reminded everybody that she wanted to submit to the court three videos that were shown to the defense witness, Dr. Yoni Mendel, during cross-examination (in the previous court hearing).

What the prosecutor actually brought with her, in order to add to the evidence, was a sheet of paper with links to the YouTube videos and a burned disc with a text file containing links to allow the judge to play the videos.

Attorney Ramati fiercely objected to submitting the links to the videos and claimed that whoever uploaded the films to the site could have also changed their contents since.

Sometimes, when you can’t watch the movie itself, you can at least hear the story. In one famous example, the prisoners in the famous movie “Kiss of the Spider Woman” spent their time telling films.

In the previous trial session, the videos were presented to the witness from a laptop placed at the edge of the judge’s desk while the prosecutor and the defense attorneys were standing next to him. We as a crowd were disregarded and saw nothing. This time, through the argument about the acceptability of the films as evidence, we were rewarded with listening to a summary of the films’ stories not once but in three different versions, from the defense attorney, the prosecutor and the judge.

The version brought by the defense counsel was the most detailed. He recalled that the first two videos were presented to the witness (which was summoned as an expert translator) as a sort of spontaneous examination of his competence. All that was recorded in the protocol were fragments of translated sentences from what was written and said in the videos. Since the judge doesn’t know Arabic, it is clear that watching the videos will not help her formulate a learned opinion about his ability as a translator.

Therefore, the prosecution’s insistence on submitting the videos can only be construed as an attempt to introduce new content that will strengthen the prosecution case and bias the court against the defendant, bypassing all the due procedures for presenting evidence in a criminal trial. The videos were not neutral material for testing translation. In one video, a Palestinian man announced his intention to carry out an attack in Tel Aviv and to be a Shahid. The second video is called “the lovers of the stabbings” and shows the picture of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun, who is mentioned in Tatour’s poet, among the pictures of perpetrators of attacks.

Regarding the third video, a section of it was presented to the witness and he was requested to describe what he saw. He replied that he saw stone throwing and another round of the violence from both sides. Now the defense attorney made it clear to us what the prosecutor was looking for in the video: In one scene a car was seen running over three boys. Attorney Ramati said that the video was known to him as a case in which a settler ran over Palestinian youths, but he quickly explained that his testimony on the matter, as well as the prosecutor’s opinion, can’t be accepted by the court as evidence about the content of the video. The prosecutor wanted to prove that, just as the witness did not express sufficient shock at the Palestinian violence in the video, he also ignored the (non-existent) violence in Tatour’s poetry…

The prosecutor insisted on the importance of the court watching again the videos in order to understand the context of Dr. Mendel’s testimony. She even suggested that the court should watch the films with the defense attorney at this hearing to ensure that nothing has changed since they were presented in court at the previous session. The defense refused.

The most violent version we heard, albeit in an abstract form, was the depictions of the plots that the judge told. Unfortunately, like most of the judge’s remarks, these were not recorded in the minutes. She explained to the defense attorney that if, for example, the film showed how cats’ heads were smashed, but the witness called the film “playing with cats,” this indicates the witness’s approach.

Involving the audience in the plot

In modern plays they sometimes make the audience participate in the play.

During the debate about the ability to change a YouTube video after it was published, the prosecutor claimed to know for sure that a published film can’t be changed without changing its link. The defense attorney explained that he thinks differently, but added that he is not an expert, just as the prosecutor can’t testify as an expert on the subject. I passed him a note saying that I have a YouTube channel and that I usually edit films after they are published. He suggested bringing on the spot a witness with experience in publishing and editing videos on YouTube.

Finally, the judge decided that, since she can’t decide the factual question of whether it is possible to edit videos after they are posted on YouTube, she will not accept the links at this stage. It was the first victory in the Sisyphean struggle of the defense in a trial in which the prosecution had already crossed many red lines and reached delusional realms.

 

The poet’s trial: The battle of the narrative

The following article was published in Hebrew in Siha Mekomit (Local Call) and Haifa Ha-Hofshit.

Translated by Idan Kramarge Bar-Haim

An additional session for hearing the defense’s witnesses was scheduled for Sunday 19.3 at 11:30 am. At the scheduled time we gathered at the 3rd floor of the Nazareth court – Dareen Tatour, her father Tawfiq, the lawyers Gaby Lasky and Nery Ramati and about ten of the poet’s supporters. In the same time, more groups of prosecutors, lawyers and clients whose hearings were scheduled for the morning assembled at judge Adi Bambiliya-Einstein’s door. Since our hearing was expected to be long it was postponed until after all others are finished and only started around 14:30.

Is it acceptable to arrest poets?

The first witness of the defense was Professor Nissim Calderon, an expert on the study of Hebrew poetry. In his statement he gave examples of poems which contain a call for violent resistance against different governments and explained that in all those cases no legal procedure was taken against the poets. He especially mentioned poems published by Bialik and Tchernichovsky in tsarist Russia and Uri Tsvi-Greenberg’s poems written during the British occupation (“mandate”) in Palestine.

Dareen and friends waiting for trial March 19

Waiting three hours for the trial to begin – Nazareth court, March 19

Most of the statement can be summarized by the following quote form it: “The same tradition distinguished well between a poem’s reaction and a common person’s reaction. The extremism, refusal for compromise, and violence were perceived by readers, critics, and also by the government, as immune to legal prosecution. That is because a poet’s extreme writing was seen as his right, and duty, for a very intense and emotional expression, and also answers to the aesthetic requirements of artistic writing. No one has mistaken very erotic love poems for an indecent act of public nudity, and no one has mistaken very extreme revenge poems for an illegal call to actual violence.”

In the counter-interrogation, the prosecutor attempted to attack the statement from every possible direction. Is the privilege of freedom of speech in poetry given to every poet, even a novice? Even for someone who only wrote a single poem? And how does he determine that Tatour is a poet and her writing is a poem? Professor Calderon was not confused and repeatedly clarified his principle position for the wide freedom of speech that should be given to poets. He started reading segments of Tatour’s poem as it appears in the indictment to prove by the rhythm and style that it is indeed a poem, and eventually mentioned that in the indictment itself the accusation is the publication of a poem. In her attempt to dispute Tatour being defined as a poet the prosecutor “forgot” claims she herself has stated in earlier sessions that Tatour is “dangerous” because she is a poet, and as one has influence on the public.

Lawyer Gaby Lasky

Lawyer Gaby Lasky – all the objections were refused

I think the strongest point of Calderon’s position was the comparison to the dark regime of the Tsar in Russia and the British mandate which did not pretend to be democratic regimes. Despite that, those regimes did not see fit to arrest poets who expressed themselves in a more radical way than the expressions in Tatour’s indictment. He also mentioned that Uri Tsvi-Greenberg was not arrested for his poems even when he called for violent resistance to the British mandate while Britain was at war against Nazi Germany.

At the end of the statement, to show that the case is not poems designated only for elitist literary classes, professor Calderon quotes from the poem “Maoz Tsur Yeshuati” the part “when you shall make a massacre / from your barking foe”, and explains: “Every year Jews sing with their children about their enemies, calling them barking dogs, and saying that they should be slaughtered. And it is legitimate that they sing, as they have a dark record with their oppressors, and they know that a poem about a massacre is not a massacre”.

I, as someone who in the past caused chaos in a family Passover gathering because of my objection to the song “Spill your wrath upon the gentiles”, can’t identify with the justification of “Maoz Tsur”. But it is certainly not acceptable to prosecute every person who expresses such a blunt call for violence.

The best of the poem is its lie

Professor Calderon appeared as an expert on Hebrew poetry, but when he was asked about Dareen’s poem he fell in the trap of the most predictable Israeli reaction. He said that the poem calls for violent resistance, relying on the distorted translation in the indictment and the common Israeli prejudice that the term “Shuhadaa” (which in colonialist-speak is distorted to “shahidim”) refers to those who perform acts of terrorism.

He was even asked if the poem could lead to actual violence. The advocates objected: It is the regular practice in Israeli courts that the expertise required to determine the danger of a certain statement and the likelihood that it will lead to violence is reserved to the “professionals” of the GSS. Since the prosecution did not bother bringing an expert witness to verify the danger of the poem, they cannot close that gap with an expert on Hebrew poetry. The judge allowed the question, and professor Calderon said confidently that the poem could lead to violence, but it should not matter to the principle that the poet should not be prosecuted for writing it. Tatour should be treated the same as Bialik, and Israel should not be less democratic than the Russian Tsar.

The second and main witness in the hearing was Dr. Yoni Mendel, a researcher of the Arabic language in its social contexts, who works in translating Arabic literature to Hebrew and is an expert on the role of the Arabic language in the relations between Jews and Arabs in the country. The statement he presented to the court, at the defense’s request, included a translation of the poem that is the subject of the indictment to Hebrew, criticism of the police translation and many comments to explain the world of Palestinian content that stands behind the short lines of the poem.

One significant difference between the police translation and the version Mandel presented was, of course, the line about the shuhadaa: the policeman translated “and you shall follow convoy of shahidim” (just distorting the Arabic word, not translating it to Hebrew) while Mendel wrote “and you shall follow the convoy of martyrs”. In the explanation he refers in details to the Israeli practice of not translating the word “shahid” to the exact term, “martyr” (“Halal” in Hebrew), while creating a deformed term around which were built negative Hebrew contexts which are not the characteristics of the Arabic term. Leaving Arab words in the translation and avoidance of using a fitting Hebrew word also helps to alienate and to prevent the acceptance of the text in its general human context.

Yoni Mendel waiting to testify March 19

Dr. Mendel waiting to give evidence in Nazareth court, March 19, 2017

Another segment, in which the exact translation is actually the opposite of the police translation, is in the lines: “Fear not the tongues of the Merkava tank / for the truth in your heart is stronger / it is strong as long as you rise in the motherland / a motherland that knew attacks but is not exhausted”. In the police translation, instead of the last two lines, appear the lines: “As long as you resist in the motherland / Long live the ghazawat and may they not tire”. The reversal of meaning in this sentence summarizes that which exists in the entire text – while the text is written from the viewpoint of the victim of the attacks, who resists them out of the desire for truth and justice, the distorted police translation attributes to the writer the call “long live the ghazawat”- once again keeping the Arabic word, which the translating policeman explained in his testimony as relating to the invasions of Arab tribes for robbery in the Jahiliyyah days before Islam.

It can be argued whether or not a poem could have an exact translation. I think the strongest argument of the defense in a trial that revolves around a poem is that any translation of a poem, and even reading the poem in the original language, is necessarily a subjective interpretation. It is hard to see how the understanding of a poem could be “beyond all reasonable doubt” as required in criminal law. In any case, Dr. Mendel made an honest attempt to understand the words of the poet, in the context of Palestinian concepts, based on his expertise in the subject matter in the political and social context. That is the opposite of the policeman translator, who not only lacked the skills required for professional translation but also added a deliberate twist to the phrasing in order to achieve his incriminating goal.

A very contrary interrogation

At the beginning of the investigation we enjoyed a comic relief when the prosecutor asked Dr. Mendel, casually: “I suppose you are used to giving professional opinions and that you were paid for this opinion?” to which he answered: “I didn’t get any payment, should I have asked for it?” He made it clear that he does not know the defendant and never met her, and that he agreed to a request to give an objective opinion in court free of charge. That is the first time he appears as an expert witness in court.

The prosecutor understood that Mendel’s testimony was very important in establishing the explanations of the defense for the poem, and did everything to undermine his credibility. She presented opinion articles he wrote in Haaretz newspaper in 2012 with the title “Great experts on Arabs” and in 2014 with the title “Hamas – Is there really no one to talk to?” quoted parts out of context and attacked the political views of the witness. The defense lawyers requested the judge to limit the counter interrogation to questions referring to the subject of the trial and the expertise of the witness as a translator, but the judge rejected all objections on their side and allowed the counter interrogation to go on for almost five hours.

A large part of the counter interrogation revolved around one line of the poem, the one referring to the martyrs, the “shuhadaa” (plural of “shahid”). Mandel explained time and again that the Arabic Palestinian context of the word Shahid is different than the Israeli image created around it. While the Israeli see the Arab first of all as the aggressor who uses out-of-context violence, the Palestinians see themselves as victims of dispossession and occupation, and even if there is popular uprising it is mostly a reaction to the violence of the occupation. If you say the word “Shahid”, an Israeli first thinks of a suicide bomber who explodes on a bus, while a Palestinian first thinks of a woman with cancer who dies because she was not allowed to pass an army checkpoint.

Mendel strengthened his interpretation of the translation of shuhadaa as referring to victims in the full context of the poem, in which all the martyrs mentioned are victims: Muhammad Abu-Khdeir, a child from Jerusalem who was kidnapped and burned alive, Baby Ali Dawabsheh who was burned with his parents in his home in Duma, and Hadeel al-Hashlamoun who was shot at an army checkpoint in Al-Khalil.

The prosecutor tried to prove that those are not the people the poet refers to while saying “follow them” because no one would want to be murdered as they were. Mendel solved the paradox in a reverse way: The call to follow them does not mean wanting to die, but the will to remember and not abandon the victims, embrace the Palestinian bereaved families and object to an agreement which will not include the assurance of the rights of the Palestinians.

Near the end, after hours of exhaustion, the prosecutor presented Dr. Mendel with three videos from YouTube which show violence or calls for violent attacks by Palestinians (we as an audience did not actually see what they contained) and demanded him to translate them to the court. The witness translated parts of the videos while the prosecutor rebukes him: “You say you’re an expert on translation?” Since neither the prosecutor nor the judge could understand the content in Arabic, it is hard to see how such a trial could actually be designed to test the expertise of the witness in translation.

At a certain point, the prosecutor presented the witness a part of a video and requested him to describe what he sees. He wearily answered he saw another scene of the unending violence of both sides. It appeared that as far as the prosecutor was concerned, he failed the test for not rushing to be abhorred by the Palestinian violence.

Eventually, it seemed the actual intention of the videos was revealed: the prosecutor asked to add the videos that were presented to the witness as part of the evidence in the court case. By those videos, the prosecutor tries to set the Israeli narrative, just as the witness explained it, showing the Palestinians as aggressive attackers out of context, and to addict the court to “terrorism snuff”. The advocates objected to adding the videos and argued that the fact the videos were presented to the witness does not make them in any way a part of the evidence. The legal argument turned into a battle of insults and shouts, and eventually the judge announced the discussion of the validity of the videos will take place in the next session.

At 20:15, an exhausting day of waiting and hearings finally came to an end.

Poetry is poetry, and is immune to prosecution

By Ofra Yeshua-Lyth – Originally appeared in HaOketz in Hebrew on March 21, 2017

Translated by Idan Kramarge Bar-Haim

Professor Nissim Calderon testified in the show trial of poet Dareen Tatour: “In the Israeli tradition there is immunity to a poet who calls for illegal violence”; in Hanukkah we sing “As you shall prepare a massacre / of a barking foe”; in both the Tsarist regime and the mandate police poets who called for violence were not prosecuted, and no one prosecuted Ariel Zilber for supporting the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.

Arabic expert Dr. Yoni Mendel: “Tatour’s poem does not call for violence; the police translation is simplistic, not objective, and is meant to prove the poet supports violence”.

On March 19, 2017, the absurd show trial “The state of Israel against poet Dareen Tatour” has reached the defense witnesses stage. Two expert professors made all the way from the center of the country to explain to the prosecutor Alina Hardak and Judge Adi Bambiliya in the Nazareth court why the indictment that took away Tatour’s freedom since October 2015 is essentially baseless.Poetry is not a crime - Dareen Tatour

Literature professor Nissim Calderon wrote in his expert opinion that there is no place to incriminate any poet for a text he or she wrote, even if it was packed with harsh expressions.  Tsarist Russia, as well as the British mandate, and so far even  the state of Israel, left poets alone  also when their poems could be seen as a call or support for violence. Dr. Yonatan Mendel, an expert on the Arabic language with rich experience in translation, who stands at the head of the Van Leer institute for Jewish-Arab relations, determined in the document he presented that the poem an Israeli policeman decided is an “Incitement to violence” is actually an impassioned national poem, by the best tradition of the local language, without any call for taking arms or spilling blood.

The mills of justice grind slowly: The two distinguished academics, together with defense lawyers Gaby Lasky and Nery Ramati, the accused poet, her family and supporters, had to wait three hours in the ornate halls of the enormous courthouse, in a sort of forced hunger strike. The cafeteria had been closed many months ago, and there is not even a water cooler, not to mention a coffee machine – a winning combination of the fails of the Israeli legal system and the disregard for the “periphery”. The session, scheduled for 11:30 in the morning, started at 2:30 in the afternoon, and continued until 20:30 in the evening. The entire meeting was dedicated to the counter-interrogation of the two professionals about the reasoned expert opinions they supplied, each in his field of academic research. The prosecutor spared no efforts in her attempt to denounce their integrity.

“According to you, is every person who wrote a poem or a collection of poems is a poet who has the right to privileges over other people?” she asked professor Calderon. He replied positively and stated that if a text is written as poetry then “It is entitled to all rights we give to poetry in our culture, and the writer’s responsibility towards the poem is a poet’s responsibility”.

Dareen and Propf Calderon (center) & Tawfiq Tatour

Dareen Tatour and Prof Calderon (center) before the hearing

“According to you, calls for violence within a poem also deserve immunity from prosecution?”

“Not according to me, but according my information”, answered Calderon, “As Hayim Nahman Bialik [1873-1934, considered the top national-Zionist poet- O.Y.L] wrote ‘with vicious wrath your blood we shalt drink, we shalt have no mercy, and as all the nation shall arise to vengeance we shall say vengeance’, then the immunity Bialik enjoys includes sayings such as drinking the gentiles’ blood and a call for vengeance upon them. In Israeli tradition there is immunity to a poet who calls for illegal violence. In Hanukkah we sing the hymn ‘Maoz Tsur Yeshuati’- ‘When you shall make a massacre / from your barking foe…’ We call in Hanukkah to massacre our enemies.”

The prosecutor pointed out that Tatour’s poem was read in Facebook over a video as background, but Calderon made clear that this fact is irrelevant: “I come from a literary and lyrical tradition that is well familiar with poems published in a variety of contexts, printed and filmed. Poetry is poetry. The video tradition is relatively new but the tradition of poetry in context has a long history. Would you question a poem by Uri Tsvi Greenberg [1896-1981, highly acclaimed poet and right-wing activist] in which he specifically mentions the words The Thugs Alliance [“Brit Habiryonim”], while he was explicitly a member of the Thugs Alliance organization which called for illegal actions against the British government in the country?” Uri Tsvi Greenberg, the witness mentioned, was never a target of the British mandate police despite his blunt texts which were the inspiration for underground movements that took violent actions against the mandate regime. Just like the Russian Tsar regime which did not see fit to act against Haim Nahman Bialik despite his call for violent revenge.

“You do not presume to present yourself as an objective witness,” the prosecutor snapped at the professor, who was quick to agree: “There is no objective witness in literature, no court for literary works, their meaning and value.” He confirmed that he expressed his opinion about Tatour’s trial in an event called “Poetry in the shadow of terrorism” which was held by the Author’s Association, and that loud arguments rose during this occasion. “Arguments inside the literary community are natural”, he pointed out. Hardak claimed that Calderon relied solely on classics from the distant past and did not bring into his opinion current examples. “If we embrace you position, then where we are today, any person under the disguise of a poet could publish anything he wishes to, even if it would otherwise be a criminal offense!”, scowled the prosecutor.

“Yes,” said the professor calmly, “Ariel Zilber [contemporary popular song writer] published songs which supported the murder of [Israeli PM] Rabin. No one prosecuted him and he should not be prosecuted. His immunity was supported by all the literary community.”

The prosecutor took great efforts to present the second witness, Dr. Mendel, as “not objective” too. She presented as “incriminating” evidence an article he wrote in the past in which he interpreted the Hamas movement as a political organization, not as a terrorist organization. (In the re-interrogation Mendel made clear that this definition comes not from his “feverish mind” but repeated the statements of the American general Collin Powell and the former head of the Mosad, Efraim Halevi). Mendel also confirmed he wrote an article about the completely false interpretation of Israelis to the word “shahid”, which should be translated to “martyr” or “victim”, while Hebrew speakers automatically identify it with terrorism.

The Palestinians, say Mendel, refer to shahids “More as victims and less as aggressors. A shahid is not only someone who performed an act of terrorism but also a person with cancer who dies at an army checkpoint. Most of those who are called shahid are civilians who did not go to offend Israelis. If in “Protective Edge” or “Cast Lead” [Israeli military operations against Gaza] about 2000 people were killed in the Gaza Strip, for the Palestinians they are all shahids, fighters and civilians alike.”

Waiting for trial Dareen and Mendel

Waiting for the hearing – Dr Mendel first from the left

As for the poem Dareen Tatour wrote, the witness made clear, all victims she speaks of in the poem are civilians. “When I look at the names of the victims she refers to in the poem, the child who was burned is probably Muhammad Abu Khdeir; Ali is Ali Dawabsheh; Also Hadeel was a very extreme case, Haaretz newspaper called it an execution” (Hadeel al-Hashlamoun was shot in Hebron by a soldier who suspected – mistakenly according to all testimonies – that she came to perform a terror attack).

At this point the prosecutor took out videos in which suicide bombers were presented as shahids, while trying to convince the witness that Dareen Tatour also meant to glorify suicide bombers when she mentioned shahids. It took three hours of exhaustion at the witness box and with video after video presented to the witness with no change in the testimony and finally the advocate complained that the prosecutor treats Dr. Mendel as an accused. Hardak indeed kept calling Mendel “”not objective” and he kept to his answer that “When you come to talk about the political reality, there is no person without opinions”. He also added that by his own professional analysis a truly not objective action was taken by whoever decided to prosecute Dareen on the basis of a biased, incriminating translation: “My translation is loyal to the truth, objective, connected to the spirit of the original text and was not written with intent to incriminate. To my mind, in every node in which a certain interpretation could be chosen, a decision was taken to translate her meaning as violent, and that is what lacks objectivity”. Later during the questioning Mendel added: “The police translation is very simplistic, inaccurate, and its intent was to prove that the writer supports violent actions”.

The prosecutor still kept on presenting videos. What does he see in the videos? The witness was asked. “In the video I saw the West Bank, territory outside the Green Line, which has not been annexed to Israel and by my understanding it presents soldiers who confront Palestinians”. At another point he mentioned that in the West Bank “There is a very complex situation in which the soldiers are seen as an occupying force and the demolition of a home is conceived by the Palestinians as an act of violence”.

“Stone throwing or Molotov cocktails are terrorism”, claimed the prosecutor. Mendel replied: “The conflict should be solved without violence. I’m against violence. In a situation where one side shoots and the other throw a stone, there are acts of violence on both sides”. He responded with irony to the definition of stone throwing as a disruption of order: “Someone has to ask oneself: if the stone disrupts the order – then what is the order? The perpetuation of the situation is which Israel occupies the West Bank. Stones’ throwing is a reaction to stormy conditions”.

The Judge decreed that the defense will terminate its case in the next session that she set for March 28. Tatour’s lawyers summoned police officer Yaniv Hami and announced that there might be still another witness for the defense. They requested to present the defense summaries in writing.