Arab poet imprisoned as Israeli authorities continue crackdown

An Arab poet has been jailed for inciting violence and supporting a group banned as a terrorist organisation based on her online posts. Dareen Tatour  (below), was arrested in 2015 in connection with three posts, including video of her reading one of her poems over footage of stone-throwing Palestinian protesters.

She said her poem was misunderstood and that she did not call for violence. Tatour, who was convicted in May this year, was jailed for five months.

The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the poet’s case has become a cause celebre for free speech advocates and has drawn attention to a recent rise in Israeli arrests – of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – accused of incitement or planning attacks online.

Israel has blamed incitement on social media for a wave of stabbings, shooting and car-rammings predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs which have left some 55 Israelis killed since October 2015. Hundreds of assailants have been killed and others arrested carrying out attacks, Israel says.

Following her sentencing, Tatour said that she was not surprised by the verdict. “I expected prison and that’s what happened. I didn’t expect justice. The prosecution was political to begin with because I’m Palestinian, because it’s about free speech and I’m imprisoned because I’m Palestinian”, she told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

Tatour, 36, was arrested in October 2015 and spent several months in prison before being placed under house arrest in January 2016. She was initially confined to a flat in the city of Tel Aviv and her movements restricted because Israeli authorities deemed her a “threat to public safety”.

Tatour was charged in connection with three social media posts that appeared at the start of the wave of mainly “lone-wolf” attacks on Israelis.The first was a video featuring her reciting a poem and footage of Palestinian protesters facing the crushing might of the Israeli army with only stones and sling shots. The poem includes the lines: “Resist, my people, resist them. / Resist the settler’s robbery / And follow the caravan of martyrs.”

The indictment said the poem’s “content, its exposure and the circumstances of its publication created a real possibility that acts of violence or terrorism will be committed”.

But Tatour insisted the poem had been mistranslated and misinterpreted. “There is no call for violence. There is a struggle, they cast it as violent.” Tatour was also convicted over another post that prosecutors said expressed support for the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad – which is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US and UK – and for a new Palestinian “intifada”, or uprising, against the Israeli occupation. The third post was a photo of an Israeli Arab woman who was shot and wounded by Israeli police after she brandished a knife. It was captioned: “I am the next martyr.”

This edited article was first published by the BBC

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