It’s been nine months since Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was finally set free from a five month prison term, three years under house arrest, and an even longer legal battle with Israeli authorities.
But just as she was re-acclimating to a life of freedom, her world was turned upside down again earlier this month, when Israeli prosecutors filed an appeal with the Supreme Court to reopen the case against her.
Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was convicted of three counts of incitement and supporting a terrorist organization in May 2018, over a series of poems she published on social media.
Prior to sentencing, Tatour had already spent nearly three years under house arrest, during which time she was banned from publishing and accessing the internet.
During the trial, prosecutors focused on a video posted to social media of Tatour reciting an original poem titled “Resist, my people resist them,” against backdrop images of violent confrontations between Palestinian and Israeli armed forces.
Tatour and her defense team argued that Israeli authorities grossly and intentionally misinterpreted her poem as a call for violence against the state, something Tatour has vehemently denied.
In May 2019, eight months after she was released from prison, Tatour was partially acquitted when a Nazareth District Court approved an appeal from the poet and overturned her conviction over the “Resist, my people resist them” poem, but let stand her conviction over two other social media posts.
At the time, the court said of the poem:“This doesn’t involve unequivocal remarks that would provide the basis for a direct call to carry out acts,” adding that “freedom of expression is accorded added weight when it also involves freedom of artistic and creative [expression]… and therefore the limits must be stretched to protect the right of creative freedom.”
Less than two weeks later, on July 1st, Tatour received a notice from the Supreme Court that the public prosecutor’s office was appealing the ruling by the Nazareth District Court.
“Once again, the State of Israel intends to undermine my right of artistic expression,” Tatour said in a statement published on the website of US-based civic organization Avaaz.
“The Supreme Court has set July 22nd, 2019 as the date by which my attorney must submit a statement. If we do not convince the Supreme Court that the Attorney’s Office charges must be repudiated and the prosecutor’s claim is accepted, my entire case will be reopened, and I will face charges again,” Tatour wrote.
In three statements published in English, Arabic, and Hebrew, Tatour urged supporters to sign a petition in support of her freedom of expression and “as a sign of popular and societal resistance against oppression and silencing.”
The petition has so far received 490 out of the 500 desired signatures.
While Tatour acknowledged that “even thousands of signatures will neither affect the Israeli judiciary in the Supreme Court nor the policy of silencing and intimidation of the State of Israel against critical voices,” she urged people to sign the petition as a symbol of solidarity.
“This petition embodies a unified voice shouting out loud: We are together. We will not be silenced. We protect art, poetry and freedom of expression,” Tatour wrote.
“I will not give up as I know it is a collective struggle to protect our basic rights,” she continued. “Despite the hardship of facing a new trial, I will continue my struggle for freedom of expression and especially artistic expression. This trial is not my personal trial. It is the trial of every artist, poet, writer and human being.”
Tatour was arrested by Israeli police in October 2015, a time when small-scale attacks, carried out by Palestinians against Israeli armed forces were on the rise in the occupied Palestinian territory. As a result, Israeli authorities embarked on a large scale, highly criticized, arrest campaign of Palestinians for social media posts deemed as “incitement.”
A 2017 Haaretz report found that Israeli forces detained at least 400 Palestinians in less than a year over social media activity.
At the same time, the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement 7amleh reported that slanderous, provocative, and threatening posts made by Israelis against Arabs and Palestinians more than doubled in 2016, reaching 675,000 posts made by 60,000 Hebrew-speaking Facebook users — without a single case being opened against an Israeli.