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Dareen Tatour: I was booked to read poems alongside Rasmea Odeh in Berlin, then Israel intervened

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My trip to Germany was not easy.  Last month I was invited to speak at an event,  “Palestinian Women in the Liberation Struggle,” alongside Rasmea Odeh, a 71-year-old Palestinian activist who was stripped of her U.S. citizenship after she was convicted of immigration fraud in 2014 for failing to report a conviction in her naturalization paperwork a decade earlier. The panel was organized to coincide with International Women’s Day by Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and Hirak, a Palestinian youth organization in Germany.

Rasmea spent ten years in prison in Israel. When she was a 21-year-old college student she was arrested on terrorism charges in 1969 in a sweep of more than 500 people, including her two sisters, one of whom is paralyzed, and her father. She confessed but says the confession was made under duress. She alleges she was tortured with electrical shocks, raped and further sexually assaulted during interrogation, which lasted 45 days. Her father recounted one horrific scene in 1979 to the Sunday Times. At one point interrogators brought him into a room with Rasmea, who was handcuffed and naked, and threatened to force him to rape her. When he refused the interrogators sexually assaulted her with a stick in front of him.  

After she confessed she recanted, yet she was convicted in 1970 for planning bombings that killed 2 and injured 9 and for membership in a banned organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or the PFLP. She was given two life sentences in a Israeli military court, a system with a 99.7 percent conviction rate that Human Rights Watch said lacks due process and violates international law. In 1980 after she was released in a prisoner exchange she gave testimony about her alleged torture to the United Nations and Amnesty International.

But I never got to speak with Rasmea at the event, because German police prohibited her from speaking and revoked her visa after complaints from Israeli officials.

Before I got to Berlin, my own difficulties started.

When I arrived at Ben-Gurion airport in Lod to depart for Europe, the first step my of journey began with segregation, racial discrimination and classification. Then an investigation, questions and my own private security monitor who followed me everywhere for everything I did. Even if I went to buy a water bottle, I was followed.

My passage through airport security was long and bitter and the search continued for three and a half hours.

My trip inside of this trip turned out to be something like a police investigation. I felt as though I was back in the interrogation room at jail and not at the airport! The charge against me this time was only that I am a Palestinian passenger at Ben-Gurion airport and was once imprisoned for writing a poem.

I never went through the routine security examination that air travelers go through, because, as I was surprised to learn from an airport security employee, I would have to go with her for a special inspection. After she took my passport and planted a yellow sticker on it, I also had to put yellow stickers on my bags. Then she asked me, “Is there a weapon in your bag?” I replied, “There are only poems and clothes.” After that she took me with her to a semi-enclosed room to begin my journey with questions and answers and with searches of my bag. Then she searched my body and in the end it was a naked search.

After suffering racial and ethnic discrimination alone, without any other passengers nearby, I left the search and investigation area with just eight minutes to get to my plane before it took off. I finally arrived in Berlin.

Meanwhile in Berlin the city’s Senate barred Rasmea’s participation in the event under pressure from the Israeli government, according to Israel’s Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan. Erdan, who has repeatedly attempted to link Palestinian activists engaged in boycotts against Israel with “terrorism,” revealed Israel’s ambassador in Germany was involved in the cancellation along with “a slew of Jewish organizations.” Washington’s ambassador in Germany also spoke out against Rasmea’s scheduled appearance. He told the German outlet Bild, the event gave “a Palestinian terrorist convicted of murder and terrorism … a public platform that legitimizes anti-Semitism at a time when we should be condemning it,” reported Deutsche Welle.

Under German law, criticism of Israel can be considered hate speech after a 2017 law changed the definition of anti-Semitism.

Removing Rasmea from the event seemed like the end of the affair as German police indicated the it could go on without her participation.

Before the event via Facebook I received several letters of incitement against me and my participation. The threats even escalated to threats of death and rape if  I participated in reading a speech. Among these many messages the most severe was, “Your terror will not pass through Germany,” “Terrorist, death is your destiny,” “I would be the happiest person if I could rape you and throw you into the sea to save Israel from your terror,” “Rape is the best response to your terror,” and “One bullet cuts your voice”.

Rasmea Odeh in Berlin. (Photo: Dareen Tatour)

Rasmea Odeh in Berlin. (Photo: Dareen Tatour)

March 15, the day of the event, I was still expecting to participate with Rasmea where each of us would talk about our experiences in prison, the stages of the Palestinian women’s struggle and, and the conditions of Palestinian women prisoners.

I was supposed to talk about police crimes as a Palestinian woman during interrogation in jail, and talk about Israel’s illegal practices against myself and other Palestinian female prisoners. I was also supposed to read some of my poems.

When I arrived at the event hall, I was surprised by something else. The venue was vandalized with graffiti.

Then the German police intervened and canceled the event altogether because it was a danger to public safety, according to their claim, and they took everyone out of the hall immediately. We were made to stand in the street in the cold, and under the rain.

Outside a large crowd had amassed. More than a hundred supported the event, and dozens of pro-Israel protesters congregated, organized by a local right-wing Zionist activist. On the street, without planning and spontaneously, we organized a demonstration against these racist practices and the policy of silencing the mouths of Palestinians in Germany.

Throughout, Rasmea was the one who received the most severe attacks. She was taken to the nearest police station and the police handed her a file containing nearly 50 pages explaining her life and activities full of lies borrowed from the German media, right-wing advocacy groups the and Israeli media. In addition she was handed an order to prevent her participation in any political activity or gathering and any speaking engagement that day. The order also revoked her Schengen zone visa to Europe, taking effect no later than March 22, 2019. Her passport was confiscated and she was told to present herself at a foreign registration office the following week.

It was very unfortunate that the German government dealt with this issue this way because it only listened to one party and we Palestinians did not get an opportunity to explain the reasons for the panel and the purpose of its establishment. And they did not even think about asking us, the participants, about the fact of the harassment we experienced.

It is a painful feeling when a cultural or political event in which I was supposed to have participated in, specifically in Berlin, is cancelled. This is especially so as I have suffered a lot from systematic policies related to the occupation of Palestine and constant pressure from the Israeli Ministry of Culture on cultural institutions. Increasingly in Israel artistic and cultural works are being declared as conduits to terrorism that the state must abolish. I never imagined for a moment that I would relive the feelings of artistic sanction, or any degree of incitement to violence against me, in Europe too. Nor that I would witness a woman having her visa stripped because she was going to talk on a stage about an experience she first told the United Nations about nearly 40 years ago.  

I returned to Palestine because after this spontaneous demonstration I had nothing more to do in Germany. But Rasmea stayed in Germany and decided to fight and appeal the decision to deport her in this seemingly illegal way.

She was subjected to very racist positions as a result of the proliferation of propaganda, including from the Green Party in Germany, a group that supposedly supports freedom, justice, humanity and human rights, except for the Palestinians. An online campaign ran in English and German calling for Berlin to cancel the event, including posts made by an Israeli government-run social media project, 4iL.

With Rasmea’s appeal in the works, a group of solidarity activists with her case decided to give her a chance to speak and defend herself. They held an official event on March 28 in Berlin, The event was supported by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Berlin Muslim Feminists, Bündnis gegen Rassismus, Hirak, The Coalition Berlin, Bloque Latinoamericano Berlin, Brot und Rosen international socialist women’s organization, Revolutionäre Internationalistische Organisation – Klasse Gegen Klasse, Berlin Against Pinkwashing, Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Jewish Voice for a Just Peace), RefrACTa Kollektiv Brasilien-Berlin, BDS Berlin and the Kali feminist collective.

Despite all the restrictions, Rasmea was able to speak and shout out in the presence of dozens of supporters. Using a legal loophole, she did not participate in person but a recording of her was displayed on a screen. The audience heard her voice without the need for her presence and without violating any of the prohibitions imposed by the German authorities. The police arrived on site looking for Rasmea and did not find her. I was very happy when I received this news and Rasmea was able to communicate her voice despite all the pressure. Because her voice is the voice of every Palestinian.

dareen.tatour
About Dareen Tatour

Dareen Tatour is a poet, photographer, social media activist and Palestinian citizen of Israel from Reineh. Dareen spent nearly three years jailed and under house arrest. She was convicted in May 2018 on charges of incitement and support for terror organizations after she published her poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them” on social media.

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15 Responses

  1. Jon66
    Jon66
    April 5, 2019, 10:04 am

    “system with a 99.7 percent conviction rate”
    Canada conviction rate 97%
    Japan 99%
    Russia 99.8%

    • bcg
      bcg
      April 5, 2019, 11:31 am

      @Jon66: It’s not the conviction rate that’s the most important part of the story, it’s the other stuff: “She alleges she was tortured with electrical shocks, raped and further sexually assaulted during interrogation, which lasted 45 days. Her father recounted one horrific scene in 1979 to the Sunday Times. At one point interrogators brought him into a room with Rasmea, who was handcuffed and naked, and threatened to force him to rape her. When he refused the interrogators sexually assaulted her with a stick in front of him. .. She was given two life sentences in a Israeli military court, a system with a 99.7 percent conviction rate that Human Rights Watch said lacks due process and violates international law.”

      Here’s the Human Rights Watch report: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/israel/palestine

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        April 5, 2019, 4:21 pm

        Bcg
        Here’s a quote from an interview in which she admits that she was involved.
        “I returnedto the WestBank in early1969 and was arrestedon February 28 and accused of involvementin the supermarketexplosion in West Jerusalemand anotherin theBritishConsulate.Wehad placeda bombthere to protestBritain’sdecisionto furnisharmsto Israel.Actuallywe placedtwo bombs,thefirstwas foundbeforeit wentoffso we placedanother.The intentionwas not to hurtpeople but to remindthe worldthatPalestinians existed, to reassertourselvesand to show that we couldn’t accept the
        occupationand Westernconnivancein silence.”
        https://www.palestine-studies.org/sites/default/files/uploads/files/Prisoners%20for%20Palestine-%20A%20List%20of%20Women%20Political%20Prisoners.pdf

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 5, 2019, 5:36 pm

        || bcg: @Jon66: It’s not the conviction rate that’s the most important part of the story, it’s the other stuff: “She alleges she was tortured with electrical shocks, raped and further sexually assaulted during interrogation, which lasted 45 days. Her father recounted one horrific scene in 1979 to the Sunday Times. At one point interrogators brought him into a room with Rasmea, who was handcuffed and naked, and threatened to force him to rape her. When he refused the interrogators sexually assaulted her with a stick in front of him. .. She was given two life sentences in a Israeli military court, a system with a 99.7 percent conviction rate that Human Rights Watch said lacks due process and violates international law.” … ||

        || Jon66: Bcg
        Here’s a quote from an interview in which she admits that she was involved. … ||

        Jon66, I’m all for holding EVERY (war) criminal accountable for his/her actions. Arrest, a fair trial and an appropriate sentence.

        But you seem to be saying that you actually are OK with Jewish (war) criminals being tortured and sexually-assaulted.

        I’m beyond baffled by why you Zionists insist on hating Jews so much.

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        April 5, 2019, 9:29 pm

        @jon66

        And that’s the type of racist criminal barbaric savages the world needs to contend with when it comes to zionists.

        Collective punishment, toture, rape, trials which do not meet the definition of due process and, of course, extrajudicial murder.

        If I had to choose between a member of Hamas or a member of Likud as a neighbour for sure there would not be a member of Likud moving in.

        Not saying you support Likud jon. I just wanted to pick the equivalent to Hamas. Really Hamas has a greater degree of morality than most zionists.

        To be fair to Likud there are even worse parties than them. Jewish Home is one.

        It’s ludicrous that our countries continue to have dealings with these vile thugs in their rogue state.

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        April 5, 2019, 11:13 pm

        Eljay,
        Here’s the thing. If she lies about being involved when she feels like it, I don’t see any reason to believe her other claims either.
        She admits that she lied.
        “According to the plea agreement signed by Odeh and accepted by the court, Odeh admitted that in those applications, she lied about her criminal history by falsely denying that she ever had been arrested, charged with a crime, convicted, or imprisoned. In her plea, Odeh also admitted that “At the time she made the false statements, Defendant knew the statements were false, and that she made the false statements intentionally and not as a result of any mistake, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or any other psychological issue or condition, as she had previously claimed in court proceedings, or for any innocent reason. Odeh also admitted that at the time she made the false statements, she knew that it was unlawful for her to provide false information to the United States government in connection with her application for Immigrant Visa and her application for naturalization. Had Odeh revealed the truth about her criminal history, as she was required to by law, she never would have been granted an immigrant visa, admitted to the United States, allowed to live here for the last 22 years, or granted United States Citizenship.”https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/convicted-terrorist-stripped-citizenship-ordered-deported-failing-disclose-ties-deadly

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 6, 2019, 8:44 am

        || Jon66: Eljay,
        Here’s the thing. If she lies about being involved when she feels like it, I don’t see any reason to believe her other claims either. … ||

        Fair enough. Just wanted to be sure that you don’t actually approve of torture or sexual assault.

      • hai_bar
        hai_bar
        April 8, 2019, 3:37 am

        @Jon66 et al:

        and she was involved in a supermarket explosion in OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, so what? War Criminal? Really? Are you conflating European Settlers colonizing, killing, raping..etc with colonized trying to resist the latest European colony-like invention? You know calling a piece of land something else “West Jerusalem”, “Israel”, “Judea” ..etc will not change the fact that it is colonized and thus there’s a NATURAL obligation for the indigenous to resist this occupation. Now dealing with those who resist with this brutality can only reflect the mentality those Zionists inherited when they were still back home in Europe. It is the superior humanity of the white-man, and the not-so-superior humanity of those in Palestine (people elsewhere even got lower scores in the European scale). Raping, torturing, and killing them is a not so criminal, classical white-European Rassenkunde.

        Colonization, ethnic cleansing, and changing the shapes and senses of a place should NEVER be a walk in the park – two University students got killed in West Jerusalem, shame – it would’ve been better if they stayed or decided to go back to Germany, France, Ukraine or wherever they came from. They rest in peace now anyway, done with this charade.

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        April 8, 2019, 10:58 am

        Hai,
        I’m saying that someone who blows up a civilian supermarket filled with unarmed civilians is a terrorist. I don’t think that is even controversial.

  2. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    April 5, 2019, 10:21 am

    Related:

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/zionism-the-nakba-and-feminism_us_58c5c44de4b070e55af9f0b9

    “Zionism, The Nakba And Feminism,” by Donna Nevel, Huffington Post, March 13/19

    “In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, author Emily Shire asked, in relation to the International Women’s Day Strike that included a call for the decolonization of Palestine, if the feminist movement has room for Zionists like herself. She went on to explain: ‘I identify as a Zionist because I support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.’

    “What is Shire actually saying? Some history is required to answer that question. An understanding of Zionism cannot be separated from an understanding of the Nakba (the catastrophe in Arabic), which refers to the expulsion of approximately 750,000 Palestinians from their land and homes during the establishment of Israel in 1948. The history of the Nakba has been thoroughly documented, including by Palestinian, Israeli, and other historians.

    “I know about Zionism from my own relationship with it. I had some serious unlearning to do. When I was younger, I, too, identified as a Zionist (a ‘socialist feminist Zionist’) until I realized that my image of Zionism as the Jewish national liberation movement was seriously misguided. Instead, I learned that what had been done and was still being done to Palestinians in the name of Zionism was theft of land and denial of a people’s right to freedom and national liberation. It was about the privileging of those who were Jewish over Palestinians. This was not just about Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands that began in 1967, but was fundamentally about what happened before and during the creation of the State, and what continues to happen today.

    “In Israel, as well as in the U.S., the Nakba is often disregarded or denied altogether. Instead, the focus is on the creation of Israel as a haven for Jews, completely ignoring the mass dispossession of the Palestinian people.

    “But the Nakba is not only about the past; it is ongoing. Palestinian women, men, and children continue to be pushed off their lands and their homes and denied their basic freedom and rights. Israeli apartheid is woven into the fabric of society, and it is taking brutal forms. Home demolitions, ongoing construction of settlements, land confiscation, arrests, torture of prisoners, and military assaults are just some of what Palestinian families endure on a daily basis, not to mention lack of access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment, and the right to live with dignity.

    “What Shire’s feminism seems to ignore is that Palestinian women are forced to give birth at checkpoints; their homes are bulldozed because permission to build is denied from racist Israeli authorities; Palestinians face systemic discrimination wherever they are living; and mothers and fathers live in fear that Israeli soldiers or settlers will injure, imprison, or kill their children.

    “Zionism and Israel have always afforded preferential treatment to Jewish women—and men—over Palestinian women and men, in all aspects of life. This is the Zionism and the Jewish state Shire says is consistent with her feminism.

    “Instead of asking whether Zionists have a place in the feminist movement, perhaps the question that Shire should be asking is: How can someone who considers herself a supporter of feminism, which is a movement for justice and liberation that challenges patriarchal power and all forms of oppression, also consider herself a supporter of Zionism, a movement that denies the basic values of equality and fairness.

    “The women’s day strike was intentionally and critically rooted in an anti-colonial feminism that is liberatory and multidimensional and that has as its foundation a deep commitment to social transformation and to resisting ‘the decades long economic inequality, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad.’ If Shire has an interest in being part of such an inspiring movement, rather than supporting Zionism, she might want to stand with the Palestinian-led grassroots movement for justice and with the growing number of women around the globe who are committed to equal rights for all peoples living in Palestine and Israel. What could be more feminist than that?”

  3. mondonut
    mondonut
    April 5, 2019, 1:49 pm

    Deported for not disclosing (lying) the purpose of her visit on the visa application. Seems to be a pattern.

    • bcg
      bcg
      April 5, 2019, 4:17 pm

      @Mondonut: Does it strike you that there are more significant aspects of this article than the one you mentioned? It strikes me that there are a lot of issues raised here – have you noticed any?

  4. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    April 6, 2019, 12:27 pm

    Israel has become a liability

    First hasbara died

    Now this

    https://mobile.twitter.com/GOPLeader/status/1113895777909256193

  5. Mayhem
    Mayhem
    April 6, 2019, 7:21 pm

    Australia has blocked a Palestinian activist Remi Kanazi from coming here under the guise of being a poet.

    In a letter to Immigration Minister David Coleman, the Anti-Defamation Commission took particular issue with Mr Kanazi’s overt support of convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh, the mastermind behind a 1969 Jerusalem supermarket bombing that killed two university students and wounded nine others.

    Writing on Twitter, Mr Kanazi said he “proudly posed with” and “deeply” admired Odeh and that she was “tortured, sexually assaulted and forced into confession by Israel”.

    US federal prosecutors have labelled Odeh’s claims of torture and coerced confession as “certainly false”, noting she had given interviews to numerous publications over the years admitting her involvement in the bombing.

    • eljay
      eljay
      April 6, 2019, 8:17 pm

      || Mayhem: Australia has blocked a Palestinian activist Remi Kanazi from coming here under the guise of being a poet. … ||

      I wonder how many Zionists Australia has blocked from going there under the guise of being something other than a Zionist.

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