Israel puts poet under house arrest

Smiling young woman makes victory sign with her hand in front of her face

Dareen Tatour (via Facebook)

Dareen Tatour has long dreamed of seeing her poems translated from Arabic into other languages — so that they reach people across the world.

One of her poems has indeed been translated recently, but not in the way she had hoped.

A Hebrew version of “Resist, my people, resist them” was read aloud by an Israeli police officer at a Nazareth court hearing on 13 April. Tatour has been charged with incitement to violence based on the contents of that poem, the Arabic original of which is available on YouTube.

Although the poem urges resistance to Israel, it does not call for specific acts of violence. Rather, it draws attention to violent attacks on Palestinians by Israelis.

The incidents include the arson attack that killed the 18-month-old baby Ali Dawabsha and his parents in Duma, a village in the occupied West Bank, last year; the killing of 18-year-old Hadil Hashlamoun by Israeli soldiers in Hebron, also last year; and the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khudair in Jerusalem during 2014.

Tatour was arrested in October last. After spending three months in prison, she was placed under house arrest in January. She is confined to an apartment in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

“It is ironic, but not surprising, that I was sent to jail for protesting the killing of my people whereas actual Israeli killers roam free,” Tatour told The Electronic Intifada.

While many Palestinians have been recently charged with incitement to violence because of statements they’ve made on the Internet, particularly on Facebook, Tatour’s case is unusual because she is being prosecuted over a poem.


“My case, and many others, prove yet again that Israel’s democracy is a farce,” she said. “If it is democratic, it’s only democratic towards Jews.”

Tatour has been writing poetry since she was 7. She is also a photographer, and has toured villages in present-day Israel that were depopulated of their original Palestinian inhabitants during the Nakba, the forced displacement of Palestinians by Zionist troops in 1948.

As well as capturing images of these villages, she has set out to tell stories about the people who lived in them.

Tatour’s photographs have been displayed in a number of exhibitions. She also directed a short documentary about the ethnically cleansed village of Damoun.

The Latest Invasion, her first collection of poems, was published in 2010.

Despite being politically active — she’s associated with the Balad party and has attended many demonstrations both as a photographer and a participant — Tatour never imagined she would be dragged into a police car at dawn.

That is what happened on 10 October last year, while she was at home in Reineh, near Nazareth.

“I was asleep,” she said. “Then I suddenly heard my mother shouting, ‘they have come to take you.’”

The arrest took place at the height of an uprising against the Israeli occupation in Jerusalem and other areas of the West Bank. Israel responded with increased repressive measures against Palestinians.

Tactics that Israel usually reserves for Palestinians in the West Bank were deployed against Palestinian citizens of Israel. They included administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial.

In Afula, a city in present-day Israel, police shot a Palestinian woman named Israa Abed less than a week before Tatour’s arrest. Although the Israeli authorities claimed that Abed was trying to stab a bus driver, video proved that she posed no threat when she was hit. Abed was shot repeatedly while she had her hands in the air.

The indictment mentions Tatour’s Facebook post protesting the shooting of Abed.

Double standards

“Arresting her [Tatour] without a warrant contradicts even Israel’s own laws,” said Abed Fahoum, her lawyer. “But it did not end there.”

Police searched her phone and logged into her Facebook account without a search warrant and without telling her that she has the right to object to the searches, the lawyer said.

Fahoum described her case as “a blatant manifestation of the selective justice and the double standards of the Israeli legal system.”

“It is almost exclusively Palestinians who are arrested and prosecuted for Facebook posts and incitement to violence, while Israelis can scream ‘death to the Arabs’ in the heart of Tel Aviv and get away with it,” Fahoum said, referring to the thousands who rallied this week in support of a soldier caught on video executing a wounded Palestinian.

“I’ve never seen the prosecution as obstinate as it has been in Dareen’s case,” Fahoum said. “I believe that they aim to use her to intimidate and silence all Palestinians.”

Tatour was interrogated on five separate occasions within a month. Her three months in jail were stressful. But they were also life-changing.

When she was brought to Hasharon jail, she met many Palestinian political prisoners.

“I have always demanded the freedom of these women and suddenly I found myself living with them, learning from their mental strength and sharing our pain and defiance,” she said.


There are strict conditions attached to Tatour’s house arrest.

She is banned not just from her hometown of Reineh but from the entire northern district of Israel. The apartment in which she has been confined has been rented by her brother and his fiancée in Kiryat Ono, a suburb of Tel Aviv, for her to stay in.

Even visiting the doctor requires a police permit, which can be rejected. This is particularly cruel: Tatour broke her foot while in jail and still needs treatment.

She also must be accompanied by at least one guard at all times. An electronic device has been attached to her ankle so that her movements can be monitored.

“I feel like I’m imprisoning two more people with me, my brother and his fiancée,” Tatour said. “Their lives were also put on hold.”

She is also banned from connecting to the Internet and communicating with certain people.

Tatour regards this house arrest as a form of exile.

“I’ve read of many people who talked about being exiled in their own land but now I can totally identify,” Tatour said. “I’m forced away from my home, from my family, from my friends. I’m even prevented from watching most Arab TV channels. It’s actually both a physical and virtual exile.”

But if Israel has aimed to silence Tatour and make an example out of her, she says that it has made her much stronger. She was deeply worried about the effects her ordeal would have on her parents. But she has taken courage from how they have consistently supported her.

Denied a social life and the intimacy of family and village, Tatour’s commitment to writing has strengthened.

She is about to finish writing a collection of poems that reflect on her experience in jail, about the prisoners she met, her love for Palestine, and her determination to keep using poetry as a form of protest and expression.

“They sent me to jail for writing a poem,” she said. “But poetry has become my key to freedom and I will hang on to that key until the end.”

Budour Youssef Hassan is a Palestinian writer and law graduate based in occupied Jerusalem. Blog: Twitter: @Budour48