Israel: Charges Against Poet Dareen Tatour Should be Dropped
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK—PEN America calls on Israeli authorities to drop the charges against the poet Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel whose trial on charges of incitement to violence and support of terrorism continued yesterday, and to release her immediately and unconditionally.
Tatour, one of some 400 Palestinians who have been arrested for posts on social media since October 2015, faced another hearing on September 6 after months of imprisonment, house arrest, and legal battles. Her own testimony has now been postponed until November 9, apparently because the court could not produce a competent Arabic-Hebrew translator.
The weight of Israel’s indictment of Tatour rests on her posting of a video with an accompanying overlaid reading of one of her poems—and the interpretation of the poem in a translation provided by an Israeli police officer. “Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum” is a protest poem, urging resistance to the Israeli occupation. In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Tatour said, “I am against all violence. But it is my right to ask why you [Israel] killed those you killed. There is no law in the world that prohibits me from stating my opinion.” Tatour’s defense claims that the evidence against her centers on a mistranslation of her poem. The prosecution has objected to Tatour bringing an alternative translation before the court, despite the fact that several alternative versions of the poem produced by qualified literary translators exist.
“It is absurd for the Israeli state to treat Tatour’s poem as if it were a piece of evidence to run forensics on,” said Alex Zucker, cochair of PEN America’s Translation Committee. “Translating poetry is an art, not a science. Literary translation is a globally recognized discipline to which scholars and professionals devote their careers. Calling a policeman who studied literature in high school and claims to love the Arabic language as an expert witness is a farce.”
“Arresting and imprisoning a poet for expressing her opinions and disseminating her poems is a violation of free expression rights,” added Karin Karlekar, Director of Free Expression At Risk Programs at PEN America. “This is precisely the type of speech that needs to be protected in a law-abiding democratic state, and we call on authorities to dismiss the charges against Tatour and free her unconditionally.”
On October 3 and 4, 2015, Tatour posted a video to her YouTube and Facebook accounts with audio of her poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them” set to images of Palestinians clashing with Israeli security forces. On October 4, a Facebook status posted on her page noted that the Islamic Jihad movement had called for a “continuation of the intifada” in the West Bank. And on October 9, a photograph of Isra’a Abed, an Arab-Israeli woman who was shot by security officers in the Afula bus station, was posted on her Facebook page; the status appeared next to Tatour’s profile picture, which included the phrase “I will be the next martyr” in reference to a Palestinian youth who had been killed in 2014. Shahid, an Arabic word for martyr, is sometimes translated as those willing to commit acts of terrorism like suicide bombings; many Palestinians use the word to refer to victims of Israeli state violence. On October 11, Tatour was arrested, and on November 2 she was indicted by Israeli prosecutors on two charges: incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization, which could result in an eight-year prison sentence.
PEN America actively supports literary translation, including through the Translation Committee, which represents a community of some 400 translators, and through a series of prestigious annual awards and grants given for translation.