Everything about the trial of Dareen Tatour was like fiction. Everything required the willing suspension of disbelief.
From the opening pages, it was impossible to digest the premise that an unknown young poet from a small town in the Galilee would be hauled off by Israeli police and border guards for a smattering of posts on the internet.
By page two, the story became more and more farfetched. What seasoned, judicious reader could buy into the idea that the protagonist would be interrogated, imprisoned, and criminally charged for saying the same things that millions of people around the world say every single day, only with more urgency and flair?
Page three, page four, five…the narrative became so heavy-handed and inept that all but a handful of true believers had to slam the book shut with exasperation. Khalas. Bikaffeh. Enough.
To get the truth, sometimes you have to quit and start from scratch.
Everything about the story of Dareen Tatour is the story of Falasteen.
And it is important to say the Arabic word here because it was in Arabic—not English, not Hebrew—that Dareen penned the words that would be mishandled and mangled in court, just as they have been since the dawn of the Nakba in Falasteen, when, as Darwish wrote, “swords tore through her body and turned her into a table.”
By the power of the gun and by the power of the same racist legal system that convicted Dareen Tatour, the town of Besan was renamed Beit She’an; Saffuriya became Zippori. Qira wa Qamun became Yokne’am; Tantura was replaced by Dor and Nachsholim.
Seventy years later, in the trial of Dareen Tatour, the word Shaheed was twisted to mean suicide bomber. Qawim was misconstrued to mean terrorism; intifada was hammered and tortured until it sounded, to them, like violence.
And Allahu Akbar here does not mean what they think it means either: the feverish cry of some demented fanatic bent on destruction.
Right here, right now, Allahu Akbar expresses shock, disbelief, outrage. Here, it means “Enough already!”
The story of Dareen is the story of the Galilee, al Jalil—its fertile hills, blooming with poppies, olive, and thyme, twinkling at night with the lights of all of the Palestinian towns and villages that weren’t erased and never will be: Mashhad, Shefa-’amr, Tur’an, I’billin, Kufr Manda.
And Reineh, of course, Dareen’s modest hometown tucked in the bend of the road between Nazareth and Kufr Cana where thousands of people live, work, raise children, and drink coffee beneath grape vines.
These survivors of ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide and their descendants hang Brazilian flags during the Mundial, and if Brazil is eliminated, they generally support the underdog—maybe because they too are under constant threat, always one degree of separation from the Nakba of the past, and the Nakba that closes in.
Dareen’s is the story of those extra/ordinary people. She is one of the souls who makes the choice to remember and resist, and who speaks out when others can’t or won’t.
She is not alone. From its most inconspicuous corners, the Galilee gives rise to artists, rebels, and fighters. Naji al-Ali from al-Shajarah. Tawfiq Zayyad from Nazareth. Rim Banna, Allah yerhamha.
And poets too.
Lan amout, wrote Taha Muhammad Ali from the destroyed village of Saffuriya. I will not die.
Ana Loughati, wrote Mahmoud Darwish from the destroyed village of al-Birweh. I am my language.
Qawim, ya sha’abi, qawimhom, wrote Dareen Tatour from al-Reineh, Resist, my people, resist them.
Dareen was taken to prison yesterday. This fact only proves that the Israeli narrative was not impossible after all, but plausible.
But there is a flip side to the equation. When the impossible becomes possible, when the outrageous is set into motion, everything else is possible too, even likely.
Stories like Dareen’s make it more likely that the balance will tip. Any day, any hour, people around the world will come together to insist that occupation is the crime—not existence, not resistance, not words, and certainly not poetry.
In two months’ time, Dareen Tatour will be a free woman, and her journey will have only just begun.