Dareen Tatour joins eminent Palestinian writers persecuted by Israel

Poet Dareen Tatour in Jaffa on 1 August. A day earlier she was sentenced to five months in prison by an Israeli court for social media posts and a poem.

Heidi Levine SIPA

An Israeli court sentenced Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour to five months in prison on Tuesday over a handful of social media posts and a poem.

Tatour was convicted for “incitement to violence” and “support of terrorist organizations” on 3 May.

“I expected prison, and unfortunately there is prison,” Tatour told Al Jazeera following the sentencing.

“There is nothing surprising. This is an Israeli court and there is no justice in an Israeli court when the accused is Palestinian.”

“My trial was political right from the start,” Tatour added.

Tatour, 36, is from the Arab village of Reineh near Nazareth.

She was first arrested in October 2015 over social media posts and a poem called “Resist, My People, Resist Them.”

“Everything in prison is frightening”

Days before her sentencing, Tatour told the publication Mondoweiss that “Everything in prison is frightening and disturbing. I’m disgusted and don’t want to go back.”

Tatour said her experience has nonetheless strengthened her political commitment to liberation and to working towards “a state that includes everyone, based on the principles of justice and equality, without any concessions of our rights as Palestinian people living in the homeland in which we were born.”

“There is no one and no law that will be able to prevent me from writing about all aspects of humanity,” she added.

During her interview with Mondoweiss, Tatour revealed that she was a victim of sexual violence.

“I was sexually assaulted and raped,” she said. “The perpetrator contributed to my arrest, and the Israeli authorities completed the task, but both failed to silence my poetry.”

“At this point, I do not want to give more details. However, very soon everyone will have the chance to read the full story in my coming novel, entitled My Dangerous Poem.”

“Poetry is not a crime”

PEN International condemned the sentencing.

“The organization considers that Tatour has been targeted for peacefully exercising her right to free expression through poetry and activism,” the literary freedom group stated.

“We stand with Tatour’s own words: poetry is not a crime,” Jennifer Clement, president of PEN International, said.

Tatour already spent three months in prison during her trial and has since been under house arrest and barred from using the internet.

“As Tatour has already served three months in jail, she is reportedly due to serve only the remaining two months,” PEN International added.

Israel has a history of arresting, exiling and killing poets and writers who speak out against its crimes.

Israel assassinated numerous Palestinian writers, including Ghassan Kanafani, Majed Abu Sharar and Kamal Nasser, and exiled others, including Mahmoud Darwish.

More than 50 days of hunger strike

Meanwhile, an Israeli military judge froze the administrative detention of Palestinian prisoner Hassan Shokeh on Tuesday, after Shokeh’s health deteriorated sharply during his hunger strike of more than 50 days.

Shokeh, 30, was detained in September and went on hunger strike for more than 30 days shortly after, suffering signifiant harm to his health.

Shokeh suspended his initial strike when the Israeli military charged him, rather than holding him in administrative detention without charge or trial. His administrative detention had been set to expire on 3 June, but the military then placed him back in administrative detention and he has been refusing food since.

With his health in dire condition, the Israelis transferred Shokeh to the Kaplan Medical Center.

He reportedly suffers pain in his kidneys, eyes and head and vomits constantly. He’s lost a lot of weight, has lost mobility and is using a wheelchair.

Despite his condition, the Israeli jailers shackled Shokeh’s hands and legs to the hospital bed, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs.

Shokeh has spent more than a decade in Israeli prisons. Eight years were spent in administrative detention.

Another hunger striker, Muhammad al-Rimawi, has been refusing food for more than 10 days to protest his extended detention and interrogation at the Ashkelon interrogation center.

Al-Rimawi was arrested on 19 July near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israeli occupation forces detained his father Nimer al-Rimawi, 54, earlier this week to pressure Muhammad to end his strike, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.

Targeting journalists and lawmakers

Israeli occupation forces arrested four journalists on Monday, Ala al-Rimawi, Muhammad Sami Alwan, Qutaiba Hamdan and Husni Anjas.

This is “an attempt by the occupation authorities to suppress journalism and freedom of the media, and to restrict journalists and intimidate them not to deliver the truth,” the Palestinian Authority’s commission for detainees stated.

Another Palestinian journalist, Lama Khater, was arrested from her home in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on 24 July.

She is undergoing harsh interrogations in Israeli custody. Her detention has been extended.

Meanwhile, in July, the Israeli military extended the detention of Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar by another four months.

There are currently 29 Palestinian journalists in Israeli occupation prisons, including seven held under administrative detention – without charge or trial – according to the Palestinian Authority commission.

Including Jarrar, there are six Palestinian lawmakers in Israeli prisons, three of them in administrative detention.

Targeting students

An Israeli military court sentenced Ola Marshoud, 21, to seven months in prison on Monday for her student activism at the An-Najah University.

Marshoud was arrested in March. She is from the Balata refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

Meanwhile, Israeli military forces posted notices in Hebron, near homes of female students.

The notices warn students against participating in campus elections or activism in relation to a bloc aligned with the Hamas party which has repeatedly won closely watched student council elections at universities in the West Bank.

“We alert you that any such involvement may lead to the arrest of your daughter, damaging her academic life and future, wasting your money and causing concern and indignation in the hearts of your family,” one notice reads, according to prisoners solidarity group Samidoun.

Israel regularly harasses and detains Palestinian student activists, while hampering the educational work of their universities.

In March, Israelis disguised as journalists stormed Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank and beat and arrested Omar Kiswani, the head of the student council.

Kiswani is a member of the Islamist bloc.

The university said two students were injured by gunfire during the Israeli attack.

Palestinian students imprisoned by Israel often continue their studies while in jail, despite Israel placing obstacles in the way of their education.

Following her release this week, Palestinian high schooler Ahed Tamimi spoke of her struggle to continue her studies while she spent eight months in an Israeli prison.

Recently, three of Ahed’s fellow female prisoners passed their high school examinations behind bars.

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"What is permitted to Jews in Israel is forbidden to Palestinians; the soundtrack of their lives in Israel is interwoven with calls for their death or expulsion. After all, incitement against Palestinians, including outright permission to spill their blood, is a matter of routine in both the physical and virtual Israeli public sphere. Our ears have become accustomed to it, and nobody is prosecuted."

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.