Prominent U.S. 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 International, PEN 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 below.
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.
More statements of solidarity of leading literary figures:
Susan Abulhawa, Writer
“Dareen Tatour is no Arab-Israeli. She was born Palestinian as all her ancestors were. She is a daughter of the land conquered and occupied by zionist foreigners, who thought that renaming the land, uprooting our lives and planting lies in the soil could make them take her place. But a nation built on lies is a lie itself. It has no bearings in truth, and stands on a web of fairy tales that fall apart by the true words of a native woman. That is why Dareen’s voice, her art, her defiance and her dignity are so dangerous. She holds moral and historic title to this place, and it holds title to her. And so, bereft of legitimacy, the lie-nation resorts to brute force, the only power they’ve ever had and ever will, but that, too, will fall apart, because ultimately, guns and oppression are no match for an indigenous song that cries for liberty.”
Deborah Eisenberg, Writer
“Should I be elated that the People of the Book – my people – accord full recognition to the power of poetry? Or should I note, with great sorrow, that the state of Israel so fears a response equal in force, cruelty, and violence to the crimes it has committed against the Palestinian people that it is driven to eradicate the voices of resistance, even those of poets? What do you think?”
Marilyn Hacker, Poet and Translator
“Dareen Tatour is a poet, and a witness –that word is “shahid” also, just one long vowel shifted. That she should be tried, confined, attempts made to silence her, and those who support her, in a country that vaunts its “democracy” is aberrant and grotesque.”
MJ Kaufman, Playwright
“Poetry is not a crime, it is a powerful tool for revealing injustice. Dareen is being punished for writing her truth. As an American Jewish writer I think Dareen’s voice desperately needs to be heard. Efforts to imprison her and silence her writing only further an authoritarian agenda. Dareen and all Palestinians imprisoned for speaking out against the injustices of the Israeli state should be free.”
John Oakes, Publisher
“Dareen Tatour has a moral and legal right to give voice to her thoughts. Artists, poets, all of us must join together, follow her example and resist oppression, however, we can. I admire her courage, and am ashamed of the unique role Americans play in propping up the apartheid Israeli regime, which makes artistic freedom contingent on support for the state.”
Sarah Schulman, Novelist and Playwright
“I stand with people all over the world who are horrified by the ongoing persecution of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour and call for immediate relief and an end to all forms of harassment of Dareen and her supporters. Poets are the voice of the human spirit and give us words for our experiences and feelings that help us imagine and strive for liberation. I send my warmest support to Dareen.”