Will the Yaffa theatre be the next martyr on the road to freedom?

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Persecution against Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour is expanding to her defenders

In July 2014, when 16 years old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive, it was a shock for the Arab Palestinian public. People felt that the atrocity was a result of constant anti-Arab incitement by Israel’s top politicians and mainstream media. They also felt that the Israeli police and courts are not very concerned to prevent or punish violence when the perpetrators are Jew and the victims are Arab. Arabs were protesting all over the country. Hundreds of Arab activists shared a profile picture on Facebook, designed like obituary, saying “I’m the next

I am the next martyr

“I am the next martyr” – protesting the killing of the innocents

martyr”. Its meaning was clear for everybody: while children are randomly kidnapped from their streets and murdered, any of us can be the next victim.

More than a year later, in October 2015, this very same profile picture on the Facebook page of poet Dareen Tatour was wrongly interpreted by Israeli stupid “intelligence” as a declaration that she is going to make a suicide attack. Her house was surrounded at a pre-dawn raid by a big force of Israeli police and border guards and she was arrested. In the first interrogation they told her that she wrote that she wants to be a martyr (“Shahida” in Arabic). Soon they understood their mistake, but they wouldn’t apologize and let their victim go free. They started digging deeper in her Facebook page and found a poem and some posts that they also maliciously misinterpreted, this time as “incitement”. So started the saga of “The Jewish State against Poet Dareen Tatour”, which is now a world famous example of Israel’s unjust persecution of Palestinian arts and the freedom of political protest.

From protesters to victims

Just like Dareen Tatour protested the fate of other victims and became a victim herself, now the state of Israel is turning against those people that protest the persecution of the poet.

A group of Jewish and Palestinian artists plan to stage a protest event in solidarity with Tatour in the Yaffa (Jaffa) “Arab-Hebrew Theater” on August 30th, before her trial is going to resume. They prepared a rich artistic program including reading from Tatour’s poetry and original works by other poets, and staged reading from the trial’s minutes. The full text of the invitation with the program is cited below as the last section of this post.

Today, Monday, August 21, Haaretz published (in Hebrew) a long news item titled “The Ministry of Culture requested the treasury to examine whether the Jaffa Theater violated the Nakba Law”. This is the beginning of a process, directly centered against the hosting of the solidarity event on August 30th. It aims to cut the budget of the theater and might even end with the theater having to pay destructive high fine of up to 3 million shekel.

The tail wagging the dog

The whole process shows how extremist elements are now driving “mainstream” Israeli politics and government institutions are mobilized by populist-racist politicians like Miri Regev to serve their anti-democratic agenda.

It all started with one “Shai Glick”, that is sometimes mentioned as CEO of an organization called “Bezalmo – Jewish human rights organization”. This organization calls for a demonstration in front of the Yaffa event, which it describes as “calling for the release of a terrorist” (using the Hebrew degrading word “Mehabelet”). The picture that

Invitation Dareen counter demo image

Bloody Caricature inciting against the Yaffa Theater: “stop financing terror”

was selected for the event page (copied here) is an example of the worst kind of bloody propaganda. Till now the Facebook event of this counter-demonstration has 5 people signed as “attending” (and 15 “interested”), compared to 136 “going” (and 239 “interested”) for the solidarity event.

But Shai Glick is not alone. If he doesn’t have the public, he can mobilize the whole power of the state. On August 7 Israeli “mainstream” site “Maariv” reported (in Hebrew) that as a result of a complaint by Mr. Glick, a little known Knesset member from the governing Likud, Sharren Haskel, sent a concerned letter to Ms. Regev, the Culture minister, reporting the solidarity event, repeating Glick’ accusations and requesting the minister to “handle it”.

Hence comes the current initiative by minister Regev, demanding investigation by the ministry of finance which is responsible for the financing of theaters and has the authority to reduce or abolish funding or imposing fines.

The Nakba law

Everybody is somewhat perplexed by the whole process, as it is a new attempt to use new laws and procedures to squeeze freedom of expression. The common knowledge in Israel is that even as Palestinians are persecuted for anything or nothing, the freedom of expression for the Jewish population was more or less secure. Now the event in Yaffa may become a test case of the new laws and the old assumptions.

Regev and Mandelblit

Regev and Mandelblit, changing the rules of the play to shut up theaters

The Knesset seems to be always busy passing new racist and anti-democratic laws, so much so that people relate to the “status quo” and tend to ignore these new laws, hoping that they will not be implemented. Specifically, the new “Nakba law”, which is the legal base of the investigation against the Yaffa theater, was almost ignored, as it mostly speaks about the denial of government funding. People were wondering are there any government funded institutions that actually commemorate the Palestinian Nakba?

But the so-called “Nakba law” is not only about commemorating the Nakba. It counts many possible offences that deserve denial of funds, including questioning the “Jewish democratic” nature of the state – i.e. opposing Jewish supremacy. And lately, in a new twist to the plot, the government’s attorney general agreed with Ms. Regev to hold theaters responsible not only to their own plays and programs but also to the contents of any event held in their premises.

In a detailed report in Haaretz (August 16, in Hebrew) about the consultations between Regev and Mandelblit, the attorney general, about the strengthening of political supervision of theaters, she is cited as saying: “Hear me well. I’m not ready to be laughed at. I have 20 complaints about the Yaffa Theater. They say that in the Yaffa Theater there are extreme organizations that call for boycott of Israel”. So all that Mr. Glick and his likes should do is write 20 letters, and they become the Ten Commandments for the minister.

“Al-Midan”, the Arabic theater from Haifa, was persecuted for similar reasons over the last two years and as of now is still closed. Now, with the new law, the Yaffa Theater might be the next martyr.

The invitation for the August 30th solidarity event

Here is the full text of the invitation, with the detailed program, taken for the event’s Facebook page:Invitation Yaffa Dareen solidarity

A poetry and theater event for the immediate release of the poet Dareen Tatour
On the stage
Reading from the minutes of Dareen’s trial. Actors: Doron Tavori and Liora Rivlin. Director: Einat Weitzman
Music and Spoken Word: Tamer Nafar
Reading original poetry and translations of Dareen’s poems: Tal Nitzan, Rachel Peretz, Yonit Naaman, Sheikha Hlewe, Mahmoud Abu Arisha, Michal Ben Naftali and Dana Amir
Facilitator: Orly Noy
Selling books >>>> Limited edition of social and political literature:
The Independent Bookshop “Sipur Pashut”. Percentage of sales will be contributed to Dareen’s legal defense.

Administrative Detentions of Arab “Citizens of Israel” Expanding

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Administrative Detentions are a perplexing phenomenon, as they contradict all the basic notions that we have about justice and the rule of law.

Today (Monday, August 7, 2017) we had another exemplary “round” of this strange process in the Haifa district court. The families of the detainees, together with some of the main leaders of the Arab Palestinian population and democratic activists, gathered out of the closed doors of the courtroom of Judge Yizhak Cohen, the court’s vice president, who was “reviewing” the administrative detention of three youth from “the Triangle”.

Arab Leaders

Arab leaders out of the court (from the right): Sheikh Raed Salah, Muhammad Barakeh head of the Follow-Up Committee, Knesset member Jamal Zahalka

When the lawyers emerged from the closed court, everybody flocked around them, but people found it hard to understand the process… Were they sentenced to 6 months? No, they were not sentenced at all. They were arrested on July 23 for a period of 6 months by the order of Israel’s war minister, Avigdor Liberman. The judge only reviewed the administrative orders and confirmed their validity according to Israel’s law that upholds such unlawful detentions.

When I tell friends about this detention they ask me: “What are they accuse of?” Well, sincerely, I don’t know. “Did you see their lawyers? They must know”, people continue to ask nervously… But the lawyers, and even the detainees themselves, who were allowed to be inside the courtroom for parts of the “review”, are also not allowed to know what “threat” they are supposed to constitute against “state security”. All the evidence is “secret” and it is presented by the security services (the “Shabak”) only to the judge.

Today’s 3 detainees

The detainees are three young Palestinians, aged 24-30. One, Mu’atasem Mahamid is from Mu’awiya, near Umm al-Fahm, and the other two, Ahmad Mar’i and Adham D’eif from Ara-Ar’ara, a few kilometers to the south.

Closed door and window

Closed door and taped window – “security” measures

As the hearing started the guards didn’t only block us from entering but also glued papers to seal the glass window in the door, to prevent the families even from waving hello from afar to their loved sons and brothers. As we scorned the justice of this system that hides behind closed doors one of the guards apologized and said he is only a small screw in the machine, it is only his work and he was acting on orders from above.

The first lawyer that came out was ‘Adel Bwerat, a private lawyer that represents Mr. D’eif. He was very proud to say that the judge reduced the period of the detention from 6 to 2 months. At first I thought this decision covered al the 3 detainees. Soon I understood that the “review” process for the other two was just beginning. Some two hours later lawyers Omar Khamaisi and Mustafa Mahamid from Al-Mizan, who represent the other detainees, came out with the bad news that their clients’ detention was approved to the full extent of 6 months.

In a declaration to the (Hebrew) site Local Call lawyer Bwerat said that the judge, after reviewing the secret evidence, was convinced that the danger from his client was low-level. Well, this is the type of things we celebrate today, when for an imaginary low level potential that you might do some harm you get just 2 months of prison without trial.

Some historic perspective

Whenever some Palestinians inside the green line get Administrative Detention many people put the same astonished face: We know this kind of detention is massively used in the occupied West Bank, but are they really used also against citizens of Israel? It is a severe precedent!

Bwerat explains

Lawyer Adel Bwerat explains the situation

It might be helpful to remember that Israel is under “emergency laws” for all and every of the 69 years from its establishment in 1948. Every area of the country has its “military governor” that has absolute authority to detain or restrict the freedom of any citizen. Until 1966 the military government was the main tool of the state to handle the Arab population in the 1948 occupied territories. The first Arab national party to organize after the Nakba, Al-Ard, was successfully oppressed out of existence by such measures.

In the 1980s Arab student leaders (among others) from both the Israeli communist party and the (leftist Palestinian) Abna Al-Balad movement were regularly confined to their villages of origin by military decrees. In 1987 and 1988, after the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifada, about 10 of the leaders of Abna Al-Balad and like-minded movements spent time in Administrative Detention for organizing solidarity action.

In the last 2 decades the usage of administrative detentions against Arab citizens of Israel actually never stopped, but it was becoming rather rare, used on individual basis.

Assessment of the latest development

When Muhammad Ibrahim from Kabul was put under administrative detention last year, probably for his indulgence with the Al-Aqsa mosque, it was a challenge for the Arab population. For the first 6 month nobody said anything. As administrative detention is not limited in time – it can be extended indefinitely – it is a very stressful situation for the detainee, his family and his lawyers. There are always those people that advise you to keep low profile in order not to annoy the security apparatus even more.

Barakeh Interview

Muhammad Barakeh, head of the Follow-Up Committee, interviewed: Even one day of Administrative Detention is injustice!

After 6 month of keeping quiet, Muhammad Ibrahim’s detention was extended for another 6 months for no reason at all. The popular committee in Kabul and “The follow-up Committee” – the united leadership of the ’48 Palestinians – started to organize public protest. Finally the detention was shortened and he was released.

The case of the three youth from the Triangle is different. Muhammad Ibrahim was initially detained and interrogated by the Shabak. Only after they failed to force a “confession” out of him he was transferred to administrative detention. Our new detainees were administrative to start with, not suspected of anything and not interrogated about anything.

Collective administrative detention, not known since the 1980s, is also a sign both of escalating oppression and of the politicization of the process. Over the last month some ministers, including Liberman himself, demanded to issue administrative detention against Sheikh Raed Salah, the legendary leader of the Islamic movement.

While the crisis around Al-Aqsa and the provocative Israeli “security” checks around it was at its height, Israel’s housing minister, General Galant, from the “moderate” Kulanu party, suggested to give up the magnetometers and use mass administrative detentions instead (see an Hebrew news item here). So we see that the issue of administrative detention became both a political game for racist politicians competing for the love of the racist electorate and another indiscriminate way to pursue “collective punishment” in the disguise of “security measures” against the Arab public.

Now we know that at least one more Arab citizen of Israel is under administrative detention but nothing was reported about it. So, if you happen to live in “democratic” Israel and a neighbor suddenly disappears you can still hope that he is alive and well, just spending some time in Magido prison, where the 3 detainees from the Triangle are staying now.

 

Poetry award from a Danish foundation to Dareen Tatour

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By Ditte Scharnberg

‘Chains can imprison a poet physically, restrict his movements and impose house arrest, but they can’t restrict his thoughts, tongue, words and poems’.

Dareen 0

Ditte Scarnberg announcing the Award to Dareen Tatour

Those were the words from Dareen Tatour to the Danish Carl Scharnberg Foundation, when, in June 2017, we awarded her a prize – 2000 euros – to support her fight for poetry, art and justice.

All of us in the foundation feel strongly about encouraging Dareen to keep on fighting. And we are quite sure that had he still been alive, my father Carl Scharnberg (1930-1995) – poet and political activist – surely would have been among her supporters and surely would have printed her poems to be read in Denmark.

(Here is a video from the ceremony.)

Who was the poet Carl Scharnberg?

My father was called the working man’s poet. Not without cause. For a couple of generations he was traveling all over the country, giving talks and reciting from his own literary works at trade union meetings and at the schools of the labour movement. About thirty books were produced on the way: novels, shorts stories, essays and collections of poems.

Actually he performed the unique trick of getting the man on the shop floor to enjoy poetry – Carl’s poetry anyhow – because his poems are down-to-earth and at the same time sensitive, committed and engaging.

UnderwayLike a little red flower

To choose – it’s not to yield and submit

and gently lower one’s voice,

or to give in to pretty words

avoiding a troublesome choice.

To choose is more than taking a risk,

much more than a question af trade.

To choose is in spite of your innermost fear

to do what you want to evade.

(A poem by Carl Scharnberg)

The fight for peace

Influenced by his experience as a child at the Second World War, Carl Scharnberg became a political activist, especially interested in the struggle for world peace. He founded the Danish campaign against nuclear weapons in the 1960’s – which succeeded to keep Denmark free of nuclear weapons on its ground. Through the rest of his life, he always supported the wide range of movements for peace in the world – with his poems and by standing up as a speaker at demonstrations.

“Unofficial points of view”

From 1968 and until his death Carl Scharnberg was supplying a wide circle of trade union periodicals and grass-root publications with a private and independent ‘press service’. In close cooperation with well-known writers, poets and illustrators he spread a monthly issue of articles, mini-posters, etc. all over the country, provided with a general permission to reprint and copy. It was called ‘unofficial points of view’.

A foundation for solidarity, human rights and peace

After my father’s death in 1995, many people in the trade unions, with whom he was working for decades, decided to build a foundation to support artists and activists working in his spirit. Our family, my brother, mother and me, were very moved by the idea, and have supported it ever since.

During more than twenty years the foundation every year awards prizes and grants. The prizes are announced in June, related to the day of Carl’s birth. Till now we recognized and supported this way the contributions of 73 different people, groups and movements working for solidarity, human rights and peace.

The Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour is now among those brave and strong people. All of us must do whatever we can to support her!

Carl Scharnberg’s Poems in English and Danish

Kafr Qasem Martyr Muhammad Taha Fell in the Struggle against Crime

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The same tragic scene that we see over and over again throughout occupied Palestine was repeated in Kafr Qasem on the evening of Monday, June 5, 2017. Angry

Funeral with Palestinian flag

Shahid Muhammad Taha’s Funeral

protesters were surrounding the police station. A guard came toward them and shot Muhammad Taha with live bullets in his face and his chest. Muhammad, newly-wed 27 years old, was taken to the hospital but soon died.

Cold Blood Murder

A local lawyer that was present at the scene of the killing, Adel Bder, testified (here in Arabic) that the policemen at the place were in no danger, and that he was arguing with them and trying to calm them down before the shooting, but they insisted on opening fire on the protesters in cold blood.

Thousands of mourners attended Mr. Taha’s funeral on Tuesday, including

Funeral Entering Martyrs' Cemetery

The funeral entering Martyrs’ Cemetery

delegations and public leaders of the Arab Palestinian population from all over the 48 occupied territories, from the Galilee to the Naqab.  They raised Palestinian flags and chanted “The martyr is loved by god”. The body was laid to rest in “the martyrs’ cemetery”, where the 49 victims of the 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre were buried.

Shooting of Palestinians by racist Israeli army and police, for any reason or no reason, is a daily event in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank. Inside the 1948 occupied territories, where the Palestinians are formally citizens of Israel, there were more than 50 cases of fatal shooting since human rights organizations started to keep records beginning with the October 2000 intifada.

As always, the racist Israeli government, political establishment, media, police and courts all unite to blame the victims and assure the impunity of the murderers.

Struggling against Crime

What is special about the murder of martyr Muhammad Taha is how it raises the question of the struggle of the Arab Palestinian society against criminality.

All the organs of the Israeli state are operating within the concept of building a Jewish state, which means that they serve the interests of the Jewish population while striving to make the lives of the Arab population unbearable. The police, doing its most to carry this mission, is specializing in issuing fines and securing house demolition and land confiscation in Arab towns and villages, but is doing nothing to fight crime as long as the victims are Arab.

Martyr Muhammad Taha - with Arabic writing

Martyr Muhammad Mahmoud Taha

With no effective policing, under-funded education system, few public services and limited access to proper work, there is a wide class of hopeless youth that are easy to mobilize to serve criminal gangs, as the only way out of idleness and misery. Social alienation and the absence of the rule of law also cause many petty disputes to escalate to violence between family members, neighbors or commercial rivals.

The surge in violence within the Arab society, especial the growing number of murders, became a major concern over the last years. Many times there are conflicting positions about the right answer. Should we demand solutions from the racist Israeli police? Should we support more police patrols and the building of police stations inside Arab towns? Will such presence reduce criminality or intensify oppression and harassment of the population at large?

The Self Defense Alternative

Kafr Qasem witnessed the murder of 7 of its people from the beginning of the year before the racist police, which have its station placed in the middle of the town, added Mr. Taha to this long sad list. Reading the papers you just learn about the horror that fell upon the people there, but no details about the background to these murders. The police, of course, didn’t solve any of these murder cases and didn’t

emergency meeting of Arab leadership in Kafr Qasem

Emergency meeting of the Palestinian Arab leadership in 48

detain suspects.

Only after the murder of Mr. Taha caused public uproar we could read in the papers about a very special experience taken by the Kafr Qasem municipality to defend its people. They established a local guard composed of a nucleus of few municipality workers and many volunteers in order to fend off criminals. The last surge in the violence happened as criminal gangs started to kill citizens that opposed their terror and extortion activities.

Locals complain that the police did nothing to stop the murderers or arrest them after the crime, even as they testify that they gave the police names of those behind some of the crimes. In fact the people of Kafr Qasem held a general strike on Sunday,

General strike 7 June 2017

General Strike on June 7

June 4, against the free hand that the police was giving to the criminal gangs to terrorize them. In this strike there was a strong demand that if the police is doing nothing to enforce the law and protect the citizens it should get out of the town. A protest tent was placed in front of the police station.

The response of the police was to attack the defenders of the city and take revenge on the population at large, humiliating people in provocative road-blocks. On Monday the police arrested one of the leaders of the local guards, what caused a new wave of protests and the gathering in which Mr. Taha, who was also active in the guards committees, was killed.

Widening Protest and Solidarity

If the police thought to frighten the people of Kafr Qasem and make them abandon their attempts to defend themselves against the criminals, the killing of Mr. Taha may have the opposite effect. On Monday’s night there was a surge in violent

Burning police vehicle in Kafr Qasem

Burning police vehicle – Monday June 5

protests against the police, stones were thrown at the station building and some police vehicles were burned. On Tuesday the funeral united the whole town in protest at the police murderers but also in support of the brave guards, some of them still under police detention.

The leadership of the Palestinian Arab population in the 48 territories gathered in Kafr Qasem just as the news came in on Monday’s night. In a pre-dawn emergency meeting they condemned the police murderers, blamed the ex-Shabak head of the police Alsheikh and the racist political leadership, and called for several protest actions, including a general strike of all the Arab population on Wednesday, June 7.

The need to resist criminality and violence is a crucial issue all over the local Arab society. The behavior of the police in Kafr Qasem gave a strong argument for all those that oppose the presence of the racist police in Arab towns. Kafr Qasem’s experiment with self defense is an important example how a population that is not receiving basic services from the state, including the maintenance of personal safety, can work to improve the situation by its independent efforts.

Crazy Zionism and Capitalism

Haaretz 7 June 2017

Haaretz, June 7, 2017: “Battle between the Islamic movement and crime families”

In some of the Israeli media, the efforts of the Kafr Qasem municipality and citizens to guard their city against criminals were reported as an organization of “a Muslim Militia”!

Also, notice the following paradox. Some proponent of “the rule of law” tried to defend the actions of the police by claiming that in an orderly state only the police has the permission to use violence to fight crime. On the other side, after the shooting of Mr. Taha the police defended itself saying that the person that shoot him was not a police officer but a private guard that was hired to stand in the entrance of the police station to guard the building. So, the police don’t even protect its own building in Kafr Qasem, but they arrest local people for organizing guards to defend themselves… just as the police were doing!

 

Haifa: A demo supporting Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike closed central streets

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(The following article was published in Hebrew on May 23, 2017, in “Local Call” and Haifa ha-Hofshit)

While Trump‘s visit attempted to revive the illusions of “peace” in the framework of Pax Americana of the region, the ongoing hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners reminds us that the Israeli occupation regime denies the Palestinians even the most basic human rights.

A communiqué issued by “the captive movement” (al-Harakah al-Asira), as the prisoners call their resistance movement inside the occupation prisons, on the 20th day of the strike, called for the unification of the struggle on both sides of the Green Line and in the Palestinian Diaspora by a unified action of all the Palestinian

Nazareth Market street on strike - May 22 2017

Close shops in Nazareth on the day of the strike

patriotic forces, including the follow-up committee that represents Arab citizens of Israel. In a historic precedent, the leaders responded to the prisoners’ initiative, met in Ramallah and declared a general strike by the entire Palestinian people in all areas of the homeland and in exile, set for Monday, May 22, the 36th day of the strike. Indeed, throughout the West Bank, there was great response to the call yesterday, and streets were lined with closed shops and businesses. The strike was also felt, to a lesser extent, in East Jerusalem and Palestinian cities within the Green Line.

The Prisoner’s Square, Haifa

Haifa continues to be a focal point for Palestinian protest activity, in which an expanding stratum of activists emphasizes the unity of the Palestinian struggle beyond the borders dividing the territories occupied since 1967 and those occupied since 1948. However, the struggle also exposes the leadership crisis and the difficulty of giving effective expressing to the frustration, the anger and the desire to struggle. This difficulty is exacerbated because, according to the rules of the game of the “Jewish democracy”, Palestinian public opinion is not a factor to be considered.

Gathering in Prisoners Square

Gathering in prisoner’s square

The first protest vigil in support of the prisoners’ hunger strike took place in Haifa on the second day of the strike, April 18. It took place in the German Colony, the tourist center of the city, in the square named “The Prisoner’s Square” since October 2011, when a group of activist staged a hunger striker there, under the slogan “Hungry to Freedom”, in solidarity with a previous prisoners’ strike.

The vigil was also meant to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, April 17, which was chosen not coincidentally as the appropriate date to launch the strike. It should be noted here that when we speak in Arabic we don’t use the term “sajeen” (prisoner) but “aseer” that means “captive”. It conveys the view of Palestinian prisoners as prisoners of war – those held by the enemy as a result of their struggle for freedom. Compromising the correct translation is another concession that we inadvertently do to Israeli and Western public opinion, which have difficulty digesting the Palestinian narrative.

Marching up the German Colony

Marching up the German Colony

The next two protest vigils were held on April 29 and May 9 at the initiative of Herak Haifa. The site chosen by the Herak was a little up the German Colony, on the corner of Allenby Street and HaCarmel Avenue (Ben Gurion), a smaller space at the intersection where more traffic passes. When, a few months ago, Bassel al-A’araj, activist and theoretician of al-Herak al-Shababi in the West Bank, was assassinated by the occupation forces, Herak Haifa decided to name the junction after him. The holding of protest vigils at the junction is also intended to establish the name in the public consciousness.

On Friday, May 19, the Communist youth held another solidarity activity with the prisoners, slightly higher at the German Colony, in the Bahai Circle. They brought water, salt and glasses and offered passers-by to drink salt water as a symbolic show of solidarity with the strikers. The youth movement’s orchestra created another attraction to draw attention to the event.

Taking to the Streets

In the meantime, young activists began to organize, in the spirit of the movement that had halted the Prawer plan, aiming to initiate more united and militant activity. They called for a demonstration on Monday, May 22, even before the Palestinian leaderships on both sides of the Green Line declared the general strike on this day in support of the prisoners’ struggle.

They published an invitation to a Facebook event entitled “Ash-Shaware’a” (to the streets), hosted by 8 activists from different movements, and many activists worked intensely to invite and prepare. There were 254 “attendees” at the FB event and on Monday, before the scheduled hour, “The Prisoner’s Square” was already filled with young people, as well as many veteran activists, from Haifa and the region.

Entering Wadi Nisnas

Entering Wadi Nisnas

The police also made their preparations, bringing reinforcements, including special anti-riot units, some attack dogs and a special police van to carry potential detainees. In practice, however, the police preferred not to intervene, even when the demonstrators, after about half an hour of shouting slogans in the square, went down to Carmel Avenue, blocked the street and began marching.

Some 200 demonstrators marched on the main street of the German Colony in the direction of Allenby Street, between the crowded cafes and restaurants, providing the iconic images of Haifa with Palestinian flags waving and the Bahai Gardens and the golden Shrine of the Bab in the background. From there the protesters continued on Allenby Street in the direction of Wadi Nisnas, where the police blocked traffic on both sides. The demonstrators marched up al-Jabal Street (“ha-Ziyonut Avenue”), turned to Khuri Street and finally poured into al-Wadi Street, the narrow main street of Wadi Nisnas.

When the demonstrators reached the last intersection inside the Wadi (the valley), they made a small meeting in the middle of the street. The organizers thanked everybody for taking part and asked for their active participation in a pre-determined plan for the continuation of the struggle, including demonstrations, leaflets distribution and a “Day of Rage” on Thursday, June 1.

No More Erdogan

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Why I support the NO vote in the Turkish referendum?

When I was touring Turkey with my family in 1996, I fell in love with the country. I had the feeling that it looks very much like Palestine would have been if it was not torn apart and stepped over by settlers.

Not that everything looked good. There was poverty almost everywhere, and the military presence was thick and frightening. The soldiers would look suspiciously at people in the streets and point their guns as if ready to shoot you. Going to the countryside we noticed that the government seemed absent while people were building mosques everywhere. The country was ripe for the rise of political Islam.

Turkey’s Contradictions

Following Turkish politics over the years was very instructive. Turkey is not just another big country in the Middle East. In the last decades the political developments in the region concentrated around the conflict between the powers of the old order, Imperialism, Zionism and entrenched local elites, and a mass movement mostly under Islamic orientation. In Iran there was a stormy revolution in 1979, followed by war, internal terror and upheavals. In Turkey the Islamists came to power by elections in 2002 as a reformist force. Also, Turkey’s Islam is mostly Sunni and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the main Islamic party in Turkey, is regarded to be close to the Moslem Brotherhood – the biggest political party (even as it is persecuted in many places) in most Arab countries. So the Turkish experience was regarded as probing one alternative for developments in the wider region.

The AKP election victory in 2002 didn’t mean that the party could really lead the country, as Turkey’s democracy was a very limited and ultimate power laid with the army. Even after AKP was already long time in government there were attempts to “outlaw” it, as was done with a previous democratically elected Islamic government in 1997-98. The struggle about who really governs Turkey continued. By gradually neutralizing the grip of the army over the state, the AKP, led by Erdogan, made an essential service to democracy in Turkey. Only after the failed coup in July 2016 did the elected government achieve effective control over the army.

Many critics of Turkey in the Arab world like to speak about the danger of Erdogan’s attempts to revive the Ottoman Empire, much the same as others speak about the Iranian danger. I tend to be more conservative in my analysis and assume that the main hegemon (politically, militarily and economically) continues to be external imperialism. I look at the rise of local powers more as an opportunity. In its 15 years in government AKP changed the political and economic orientation of Turkey to be less dependent on Western powers and more oriented to its regional neighbours and other third world countries. It seemed to have a very positive effect for Turkey’s development.

The Kurdish Litmus

The most pressing internal contradiction in Turkey is its control over northern Kurdistan. The denial of the Kurdish nationality, language and culture kept alive the experiences of ethnic cleansing against minorities that accompanied the establishment of modern Turkey as a nation-state. The continued military effort to suppress the Kurdish aspirations for freedom and equality gave constant legitimacy to internal oppression and fascist nationalism. It is another example of Marx’s saying that people who oppress other people can’t be free. The position toward the Kurdish question is the most important litmus test for the democratic attitude of any party or government in Turkey.

In his first period in power it seemed that Erdogan is moving toward a more compromising position toward the Kurds. He relieved restrictions over the use of the Kurdish language and opened negotiations with the PKK and its jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan. In 2013 they reached an agreement about ceasefire that was supposed to open the way for a peaceful solution.

But recent developments showed that Erdogan is turning Turkey away from the path toward democracy. Naturally it started with changing policy toward Kurdistan. You can set the turning point in the June 7, 2015, general elections. The partial democratization allowed the democratic forces in Turkey, led by Kurdish militants, to create The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and pass the restrictive 10% hurdle for representation in the parliament, gaining 13% of the popular vote. Erdogan’s party used to get much of the Kurdish vote before as the less-anti-Kurdish choice. It lost its majority in parliament and had to choose between forming a coalition government and new elections. It unleashed a wave of oppression in Kurdistan in order to beat its Kurdish opponents on one side and appease Turkish nationalist voters on the other. It won absolute majority in rerun of the elections in November 2015.

After the failed coup, in spite of the wise support of all political parties to the government against the coup plotters, Erdogan used his reasserted legitimacy not only to persecute supporters of the coup but also to raise the general level of political oppression. The main victims were, how not, the Kurds. Many HDP leaders were arrested and any pro-Kurdish political activity can (again) result with charges of terrorism.

On the most important “foreign affairs” front – the civil war in Syria – the choice for Turkey was most blunt. It could give a major boost to democracy in Syria by supporting and helping to unite all democratic forces. Instead the Turkish regimes indulgence with oppressing Kurds in Turkey dictated its enmity to the Kurdish forces and their Arab allies in Rojava, united under the umbrella of The Syrian Democratic Forces. This approach bears much of the responsibility for the resulting disaster in Aleppo and continued weakness of the Syrian opposition.

Western Hypocrisy

One reason why democracy in Turkey is so fragile is the hypocritical preaching by Western imperialists and their Turkish allies. You can start from the latest campaign for the referendum to change Turkey’s constitution, when European “democrats” were hunting Turkish ministers in aeroplanes and trains to prevent them from meeting Turkish voters in their “freedom-of–speech heavens”. I followed the news closely but till now I can’t even imagine on what legal grounds this was done. And you can go back to the root, where the Turkish-NATO army was regularly overthrowing democratically elected governments, razing to the ground hundreds of Kurdish villages and torturing thousands of political prisoners from all backgrounds – supposedly all in the name of freedom and Western values.

In between there is a whole encyclopaedia of double-talk and racist double-standards. Turkey should fight to defend the West against its Middle Eastern brothers but it and its citizens are refused access to the EU because they are too poor, too Islamic and not white enough. Every move by the Turkish regime is met with ridicule and patronizing disdain. Maybe the most hypocritical of all is the way that Humanistic Europe is paying the Turkish government (and Libya and others) to make the crossing of the Mediterranean so deadly for refugees, just because they can’t see the suffering on their own side.

Time to change course

All these contradictions return us to the methodology of political analysis. It is wrong to analyse a party or a regime according to its declared ideology. In every country there are concrete issues and everybody should be judged by their concrete answers and actions.

Some of my most secular friends tell me that they know what is the position of this or that Islamic movement, because they learned Islam and they know what is written in Islam’s holy books on that case. This will never explain why there are so many Islamic currents, with such different positions, some of them even fighting each other.

As much as I can see, the problem with Erdogan his not that Islam is contrary to democracy. The problem with him and his movement is that it started as a popular movement against oppressive regime, but now, after fifteen years in government, it entered a marriage of convenience with Turkish nationalism and the oppressive state apparatus. History can tell about many other movements, from all ideological hues, which went through similar transformations.

Even if Erdogan was a perfect leader, I wouldn’t recommend letting him concentrate more state powers or extend his spell at the head of government. Everybody can learn from this wise old Chinese, Deng Xiao Ping, who showed by personal example that the way to ensure your political agenda even after your death is to relay power in an orderly way to a new generation while you are still at your best.

 

 

 

El juicio surrealista de poetisa Dareen Tatour

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La poesía política como delito

La detención de una persona por publicar un poema político es insólita. Tener que demostrar en el juicio que la policía tradujo mal un poema es poco menos que surrealista.

(Este artículo también está disponible en inglés. Traducido por Rebelión.)

Ha pasado casi un año y medio desde que la poetisa palestina Dareen Tatour fue detenida en su casa por escribir un poema. Pasó tres meses en varias prisiones y medio año bajo arresto domiciliario en la ciudad de Kiryat Ono, cerca de Tel Aviv. A pesar de que pudo volver a su pueblo natal de Reineh, cerca de Nazaret, permanece bajo arresto domiciliario hasta el final del juicio.

Tatour, de 34 años, fue detenida por la policía israelí el 11 de octubre de 2015 a causa de un poema que había publicado en Facebook, junto a una serie de manifestaciones que publicó en el mismo medio, coincidiendo con la reciente ola de violencia de 2015-2016. Fue acusada de incitación a la violencia e identificación con una organización terrorista, todo a causa de su poema.

La cláusula principal de su acusación se basó en un poema que supuestamente había publicado en YouTube bajo el título: Qawem ya Sha’abi, qawemhum (Resiste pueblo mío, resístelos). Otra cláusula principal en la acusación se refiere a un artículo de prensa, citado en la página de Tatour en Facebook, según el cual “El movimiento Yihad Islámica llama a continuar la Intifada en toda la Ribera Occidental…” El mismo artículo llama a una “intifada integral”.

La fiscalía concluyó sus argumentos en septiembre del año pasado, la mayoría de los cuales fueron diseñados para demostrar que la cuenta de Facebook de Tatour le pertenecía realmente y que fue ella la que publicó el poema y las dos opiniones en Facebook.

En noviembre Tatour testificó y admitió que había escrito los artículos. Explicó que estaba protestando por la ocupación, denunciando los crímenes cometidos contra los palestinos por el ejército israelí y los colonos, añadiendo que la traducción de la policía había distorsionado sus textos. Tatour quedó exhausta por los más de tres largos días sometida al interrogatorio por la fiscal Alina Hardak, quien trató de presionarla para que admitiera su “apoyo al terrorismo”. En vano.

¿Hay que detener a los poetas?

El domingo 19 de marzo los abogados de Tatour, Gaby Lasky y Nery Ramati, trajeron dos peritos para que declarasen ante el juez Adi Bambiliya-Einstein en la Corte de Magistrados de Nazaret.

El primer testigo fue el profesor Nissim Calderon, un experto en literatura hebrea. En su dictamen pericial escrito Calderón afirmó que existen normas especiales relativas a la expresión de los poetas, que describen una larga tradición de poetas que utilizan palabras duras para oponerse a la opresión o la injusticia y que, a veces, van tan lejos como para llamar claramente a acciones violentas. Los poetas, dijo Calderón, no fueron procesados ni siquiera por regímenes opresivos como el zar de Rusia o el Mandato británico en Palestina.

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Dareen Tatour y él profesor Calderón (centro) hablan en la Corte de Magistrados de Nazaret, 19 de marzo de 2017

Para probar su argumento Calderón eligió tres de los más destacados poetas hebreos, llevando ejemplos específicos de sus textos subversivos. Citó a Hayim Nachman Bialik, uno de los pioneros de la moderna poesía hebrea que escribió las líneas: “Con crueldad furiosa / Vamos a beber su sangre sin piedad”. Calderón también citó al poeta Shaul Tchernichovsky, que escribió: “Dame mi espada, no volverá a su vaina / ¿qué provoca mis labios? Quiero batallas“. A pesar de estos reclamos claros de violencia de destacados poetas judíos, la antisemita policía secreta del zar se abstuvo de detener los o procesarlos.

El tercer ejemplo que Calderon citó en extenso era del poeta sionista de derecha Uri Tsvi Greenberg, quien incitaba abiertamente a la violencia y fue miembro de Brit HaBirionim (La Alianza de Matones), una organización sionista que resistió violentamente a la ocupación británica. Nunca fue castigado por sus poemas.

Cuando la fiscal argumentó que Greenberg no fue detenido por su poesía porque el Mandato británico no procesó incitadores, Calderón respondió que su tío fue exiliado de Palestina por el apoyo a la inmigración judía ilegal. Cuando la fiscal sugirió que los poetas no necesariamente deben ser inmunes a la acción legal durante los momentos de tensión, Calderón dijo que los británicos no procesaron a Greenberg, incluso cuando llamó a la resistencia a su Gobierno.

¿Qué quiso decir la poetisa?

Tanto el fiscal como el juez entendieron que tienen un problema con la traducción de la policía del poema de Tatour. El oficial que lo tradujo no tenía ninguna experiencia específica en traducciones. Cuando al oficial traductor se le preguntó con anterioridad durante su testimonio por qué fue elegido para traducir el poema respondió que estudió literatura árabe en la escuela secundaria y tiene amor por la lengua.

Durante el testimonio de Tatour la fiscal quiso que ella misma proporcionara su propia traducción al hebreo del poema. Ella se negó, añadiendo que no sabe el suficiente hebreo como para traducir la poesía. La fiscal quiso entonces que se leyera el poema en árabe para que el traductor de la corte lo tradujese y así las palabras le serían atribuidas e incluidas en el protocolo. Ella lo rechazó.

Tal vez la acusación sintió un poco de alivio cuando la defensa trajo su propia traducción del poema al hebreo, realizado por el doctor Yoni Mendel, un traductor literario experimentado y experto en lengua árabe. Su traducción fue significativamente diferente de la que apareció en la acusación. Mendel también proporcionó testimonio experto, afirmando que la traducción de la policía había distorsionado el texto deliberada y sistemáticamente para que pareciera extremista y violento.

La contradicción más flagrante entre las dos traducciones se encontraba en las siguientes líneas: “No temas a las lenguas del tanque Merkava \ La verdad en tu corazón es más fuerte \ Mientras seas rebelde en una tierra \ que ha vivido atravesada de redadas, pero aún no está exhausta”. Los dos últimos versos fueron traducidos por la policía como “mientras que resistes en una tierra \ Viva la Gazawat y no hemos de cansarnos”.

El oficial de policía omitió la palabra “Gazawat”, probablemente porque no podía encontrar la traducción correcta al hebreo. En su testimonio Mendel explicó que la palabra fue utilizada por las tribus árabes en el momento de la Jahiliyya (lo que los musulmanes llaman el período anterior a la fundación del islam) para describir los ataques a las tribus con fines de robo o para esclavizar a las mujeres. El texto de Tatour usa claramente estas líneas para referirse a los ataques a los que los palestinos están sometidos. La traducción de la policía, de alguna manera, había logrado transformar a la víctima en el agresor.

¿Quiénes son los mártires?

En un nivel más profundo, gran parte del énfasis en la traducción, y una gran parte del interrogatorio, se centró en la frase: “Siga la cadena de los mártires”. La palabra árabe para mártires, “shuhadaa,” no fue traducida al hebreo por el traductor de la policía, sino que más bien la ajustó gramaticalmente al hebreo y se convirtió en “shahidim”, una transliteración israelí que para la mayoría de los israelíes evoca la imagen de palestinos asesinados mientras llevan a cabo ataques contra israelíes. Mendel explicó y demostró que cuando se transliteran términos árabes en lugar de traducirse se neutraliza su significado original y la empatía humana básica que subyace en ellos. Divorciadas de su contexto original las palabras árabes como shahid o intifada adquieren un nuevo significado amenazante para el hebreo.

Yoni Mendel

Dr. Yoni Mendel en el juicio de Dareen Tatour

Mendel pasó a explicar que para el público árabe palestino la palabra shuhadaa se refiere a todas las víctimas de la ocupación, la mayoría de las cuales no estaban involucradas activamente en la resistencia. En el contexto específico del poema de Tatour Mendel apoya esta interpretación con el hecho de que el poema de Tatour se refirió a tres mártires específicos: Muhammad Abu Khdeir, de 16 años, que fue secuestrado y quemado vivo por los judíos de Israel; Ali Dawabsheh, un bebé palestino que fue quemado vivo con el resto de su familia en su hogar en Cisjordania y Hadeel Al-Hashlamon, quien fue asesinado a tiros por el ejército en un retén en Hebrón.

El fiscal trató de demostrar que Tartour no se refería a los palestinos asesinados, ya que nadie quiere ser asesinado. Mendel explicó que el llamado a “seguir los mártires” no significa un deseo de morir, sino que se refiere a un concepto más general de adherirse a la herencia palestina. Esto incluye abrazar a las familias de las víctimas, no renunciar nunca a la lucha y negarse a aceptar soluciones que niegan los derechos nacionales y humanos de los palestinos.

Tatour se ha convertido en un símbolo de la persecución de Israel a los palestinos por expresarse políticamente, sobre todo en las redes sociales. Muchos poetas, escritores, intelectuales y activistas, tanto en el país como en el extranjero, han expresado su solidaridad con ella pidiendo su liberación inmediata.

El hecho de que destacados intelectuales como Calderón y Mendel se ofrecieran para dar testimonio durante un interrogatorio agotador (Mendel estuvo en el estrado cinco horas) es un buen ejemplo de lo mucho que este peculiar juicio repercutió en gran parte del público liberal. Incluso los defensores de la libertad de expresión y las artes han comenzado a recoger dinero para ayudar a sufragar los gastos legales de Tatour.

Los últimos testigos en el caso de Tatour serán llamados a declarar el 28 de marzo, que será probablemente la última audiencia antes del veredicto que se dictará en unos meses. Tatour se enfrenta hasta a ocho años de prisión y una apelación de una o ambas partes es probable en este hecho de alto perfil. Mientras tanto Tatour permanece bajo arresto domiciliario y puede permanecer detenida durante un total de dos años hasta que el tribunal llegue a una decisión sobre el significado de su poema.

Free Political Detainees Firas Omary and Suleiman Agbariya!

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When the “Northern” Islamic Movement was outlawed by the Israeli government, in November 2015, it was a relatively low-profile event. It came almost three decades after the Islamic Movement replaced the Israeli Communist Party as the main mass political organization within the 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs that survived the 1948 ethnic cleansing and are formally regarded citizens of the state of Israel. (“Northern” relates to an internal split that took place within the Islamic Movement in the nineties, when the more pragmatic “Southern” wing decided to participate in the Zionist Knesset, while the more popular and militant “Northern” wing concentrated on grass-root organization.)

You Can’t Outlaw Life

The outlawing of the movement was not followed by detentions or physical attacks – instead the oppression apparatus preferred to concentrate on rooting out the many NGOS, educational and welfare institutions that were identified with the movement. Confiscating the funds that were distributed regularly to poor Arab orphans was no doubt a lucrative profitable business for the Israeli Shabak (GSS). But, anyway, outlawing the biggest political movement of a community that struggles daily for its survival and human and social rights within a systematic apartheid system was due to add a new aspect of illegality to any public expression or struggle.

Free Dr Sleiman Agbariya

Dr. Suleiman Agbariya in the protest tent against the outlawing of the Islamic Muvement, Umm Al-Fahm

Back in November 2015, the response of the Palestinian population was also relatively low profile. The united position of all the parties that are active within the Arab public was expressed by the “High Follow Up Committee” denouncing the outlawing of the movement as an anti-democratic and racist step, targeting all the Arab masses as part of a much wider oppressive wave led by the Israeli government. There was one mass demonstration in Umm Al-Fahm, the biggest city in the Arab Triangle and the traditional capital of the Islamic Movement, a big and very lively protest-tent there and some other activities around the country. But basically the Arab Palestinian public opinion is totally disregarded in Israeli politics. People are fully aware that there is now way that the Arabs can “save” or “defend” Israel’s fake democracy when its government is determined to tear it to pieces.

Firas al-Omary - with writing

Human Rights activists – Firas Omary

The outlawing of the Islamic Movement didn’t “solve” any of the issues that motivated its struggle or caused people to support it. Israeli provocations in Al-Aqsa mosque continue as well as constant offences against Palestinian cemeteries, holy sites and the population in general. As the expression of protest “in the name of the movement” was banned, more energy is invested in united action under the name of local committees and national coordination bodies under the umbrella of the Follow-Up Committee. One example of such democratic united struggle was the campaign of demonstrations against administrative detention and in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Hunger strike.

Escalating Political Detentions

It was strange enough that the first time we heard about political detention as result of the outlawing of the Islamic Movement was the case of an old woman from Al-Quds (Jerusalem). Her main activity was to pray regularly in Al-Aqsa mosque. Over the last year many of those caring for Al-Aqsa, praying there or organizing travel to the mosque from around the country were arrested. In this way the Israeli government actually vindicates the claim of the Islamic Movement that changing the status quo in Al-Aqsa is a strategic goal consistently pursued by the state of Israel. The latest case escalating the persecution of Al-Aqsa lovers was the administrative detention of Muhammad Ibrahim from Kabul.

In the meantime Sheikh Raed Salah, the charismatic, soft-spoken and widely popular leader of the movement, Spent 9 months in prison on old “incitement” charges, related to a speech he gave in Al-Quds some ten years ago.

But a new wave of detentions in the last weeks looks like an attempt by the Israeli police and GSS to bend the rules farther against any kind of political activities, going after central political leaders and subjecting them to secret interrogation while denying their basic rights for legal protection.

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Israeli occupation police was here – Firas Omary’s house after his detention

At 1:00 after midnight, on March 22, 2017, Israeli forces surrounded and invaded the house of Firas Omary in Sandala, a village inside the “Green Line” on the road between Afula and Jenin. They awakned the family, terrorizing the small kids, and searched the house in a way that is designed to show force and contempt more than to find anything. They took with them Mr Omary, the leader a prisoners’ rights NGO named “Yusouf Al-Sadiq” and a central activist in “the liberties committee” – an organ of the Follow-Up Committee that specializes in defending political freedoms and caring for the human rights of Palestinian prisoners.

On April 2, another post-midnight police operation targeted in a similar way the house of Suleiman Agbariya, the previous mayor of Umm Al-Fahm. According to Richard Silverstein in Tikun Olam there are now 5 ex-activists of the outlawed Islamic Movement that are now detained in this wave. Even Silverstein that usually knows all the unpublished details about oppression in Israel couldn’t get the names of the other three.

Denial of legal counsel and defence

Closed doors

Behind closed doors – Omary’s remand hearing in Nazareth

When Mr. Omary was brought before the Nazareth court for remand, on March 22, it came out that he is not allowed to meet his (or any other) lawyer. The court extended his detention for six days.

On Tuesday, March 28, I was in the vast waiting halls of the Nazareth court building when Mr. Omary was brought for a second remand. I met there dozens of the central activists of the different Palestinian movements within the green line (those parts of Palestine that are occupied since 1948), in addition to relatives of the detainee. Nobody was allowed in to the hearing, in front of Judge Lily Jung-Goffer, except for the lawyers from Al-Mizan, a Legal Human Rights NGO.

The prevention of contact between the detainee and his lawyers is not only designed to deprive him from legal counsel so that he will not be aware to his rights according to the law. It is also a very important part of the practice of isolating the detainee from the world while he is being subjected to harsh interrogation, aimed to provoke psychological breakdown. For this reason it is not only that the detainee is not allowed to meet his lawyer in private – he is even prevented from seeing him in the court room.

The lawyers out

Mizan lawyers had to leave the courtroom

To achieve this, the detainee was not present at most stages of this own remand hearing. After the legal argument finished, the defense lawyer was instructed to leave the courtroom so that the judge will speak with the detainee without his presence. Only after Mr. Omary was taken away his lawyers were allowed to return to the hall to hear the judge extending the detention for another 6 days.

On Monday, April 3, Omary’s detention was remanded again for another 6 days. He’s expected to appear in the Nazareth court again on Sunday, May 9, the same day that Dr. Agbariya is expected to be brought before the court in Rishon LeZion near Tel Aviv.

(There are some more details about the case of Firas Omary in a previous Hebrew post in Haifa Ha-Hofshit)

 

The Poet’s Trial: How to Prove a Poem?

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Below is a report about the Sunday, March 19th, hearing in the trial of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour. An edited version of this report was published in the +972 site. This article was also translated to Spanish by Rebellion.

Arresting a poet for publishing a poem is extraordinary enough. Putting her on trial while a translation of the poem by a policeman is fully cited at the center of the indictment made thing surreal. Last week the defence case laid the lyric response by bringing a literature expert and a translator to testify in court. Update about the unprecedented trial of Poet Dareen Tatour.

The poet’s ordeal

It is almost a year and a half since Poet Dareen Tatour was arrested from her home in Reineh (near Nazareth) on the 11th of October 2015. She spent 3 months in different prisons and half a year in house detention in exile in Kiryat Ono. Now she is still under strict house detention in her home as the trial against her on charges of incitement is grinding to its end in the Nazareth Magistrate’s court.

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Waiting for the hearing to begin

The prosecution finished to rest its case in September 2016. Most of it was designed to prove that Tatour’s Facebook account belonged to her and that she really published the poem and the two Facebook statuses that are the subject of the indictment.

On November Tatour testified in the court and admitted that she published those publications in their Arabic original. She explained that she expressed a legitimate protest against the occupation denouncing the crimes that are committed against the Palestinians by the army and the settlers. She said that the police translation distorted her texts. Over three long days of counter interrogation, in November and January, she was grilled by prosecution attorney Alina Hardak that tried to make her “confess” her “support of terrorism”, but she solidly defended her principles.

Should poets be arrested?

On Sunday, March 19, defence lawyers Gaby Lasky and Nery Ramati brought two expert witnesses to testify before Judge Adi Bambiliya-Einstein.

The first witness was Prof. Nissim Calderon, an expert on Hebrew literature. In his written expert opinion he stated that there are special rules concerning the free expression of poets. He described a long tradition of poets that used harsh words in response to oppression or injustice, sometimes clearly calling for violent actions. He concluded that such calls in the context of poetry were not legally persecuted even by very oppressive regimes like the Tsarist regime in Russia or the British Mandate in Palestine.

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Dareen Tatour and Prof. Calderon

Prof. Calderon chose three of the most prominent Hebrew poets and brought specific examples of their subversive texts. He cited Bialik writing that “With furious cruelty / We will drink your blood mercilessly”. In other lyrics, also cited, Tchernichovsky says “Give me my sword, I won’t return it to its scabbard / What did my lips elicit? I want battles”. Despite these clear calls for violence by leading Jewish poets, the anti-Semitic Tsar’s secret police didn’t arrest or prosecute them.

The third example cited in length by Prof. Calderon was the case of right-wing Zionist poet Uri-Tsvi Greenberg. He openly incited for violence and was actually a member and ideologue of the explicitly named “Brit Ha-Biryonim” (The Thugs Alliance) that organized violent resistance to the British occupation but was not punished for his poems.

In cross examination the prosecutor tried to imply that Greenberg was not arrested for his poetry because the British Mandate didn’t prosecute inciters. No, said Calderon, my uncle was exiled from Palestine because he supported illegal Jewish immigration. When the prosecutor suggested that the immunity of poetry should be limited at tense times, he mentioned that the British didn’t prosecute Greenberg even as he called for resistance to their rule at the time that they were fighting the Nazis in the Second World War.

What did the poet mean?

Both the prosecutor and the judge already understood that they have a problem with the police translation of Tatour’s poem. The policeman that translated it had no specific expertise in translation. When he testified in court he was asked why he was chosen to translate the poem and answered that he learned literature in high-school and loves the Arabic language.

Yoni Mendel

Dr. Yoni Mendel – opening a window to understand Palestinian way of thinking

When Tatour testified, the prosecutor wanted her to give her own translation to Hebrew, but she refused, saying that she doesn’t know Hebrew well enough to translate poetry. The prosecutor wanted her to read the poem in Arabic so that the court’s translator will translate it and the words will be written in the protocol as her own words. She refused.

Maybe they felt some relief as the defence brought its own translation of the poem, made by Dr. Yoni Mendel, an experienced literary translator and a researcher of the Arabic language in its social context and its role in Arab-Jewish relations in Palestine. His translation was significantly different from the one in the indictment. He testified as an expert that the police’s translation is deliberately and systematically distorting the text to make it appear extremist and violent.

The most blatant contradiction between the two translations was in the following lines: “Do not fear the tongues of the Merkava tank \ The truth in your heart is stronger \ As long as you rebel in a land \ That has lived through raids but wasn’t exhausted.” The last two verses were translated by the policeman to “As long as you resist in a land \ Long live the Gazawat and will not tire”. Typically the policemen left the word “Gazawat” in Arabic, probably because he didn’t find the proper word. In his testimony he explained that the word was used by Arab tribes at the time of the Jaheliya (before Islam) to describe attacks on other tribes for robbery or enslaving women. Where the text clearly speaks about the raids that the Palestinians are subjected to as victims, the police translation transformed the victim into the aggressor.

Who are the martyrs?

On a more profound level, much of the emphasis about the translation, and much of the counter interrogation, surrounded around the sentence “Follow the convoy of martyrs”. The Arabic word for “martyrs”, Shuhadaa, was not translated to Hebrew by the police translator but grammatically adjusted to Hebrew to become “Shahidim”. In his expert opinion and enlightening explanation in the court Dr Mendel showed how basic Arabic terms are kept in Arabic in a way that neutralizes their original meaning and the basic human empathy that this meaning implies. Instead Arabic words like Shahid or Intifada acquire new threatening meanings in Hebrew far from their original context.

Lawyer Gaby Lasky

Lawyer Gaby Lasky – All the objections were refused

He explained that for the Palestinian Arab public the word martyrs refers to all the victims of the occupation, the majority of them didn’t even try to resist. It is an Israeli invention to interpret the word “Shahid” as referring to those Palestinians that died while attacking Israelis. In the specific context of Tatour’s poem, Mendel supported his interpretation by the fact that the poem relates to three specific martyrs: 16-years old Muhammad Abu-Khdeir from Jerusalem who was kidnapped and burned alive, Baby Ali Dawabsheh who was burned with his parents in his home at Duma and Hadeel Al-Hashlamoun who was shot at an army checkpoint in Al-Khalil.

The prosecutor tried to prove that the interpretation of “Shuhadaa” as victims was wrong as, after all, the poet couldn’t advise her readers to be murdered like them. Dr. Mendel explained that the call to follow the martyrs didn’t mean a wish to die but a more general concept of following their heritage: Embrace bereaved families, don’t give up the struggle and refuse to accept solutions that deny Palestinian national and human rights.

Solidarity

The case of poet Dareen Tatour became a symbol for the hundreds of cases where Israel is persecuting Palestinians over political expression, mostly in social media. Many poets, writers, intellectuals and activists, both in the country and abroad, expressed their solidarity with her and called for her immediate release and for the charges against her to be dropped. Pen International and related writers organizations all over the world adopted the case.

The fact that leading intellectuals like Prof. Calderon and Dr. Mendel volunteered to give evidence and endure torturing counter-interrogation (Dr. Mendel was grilled for 5 hours) is the last example how this trial resonated in much of the liberal public opinion. Now defenders of the right of expression and free arts also collect money to help with the legal expenses, which till now fell solely on the poet’s family.

On Tuesday, March 28, the last defence witnesses should give evidence. As the sides will summarize in writing, it will be probably the last hearing before the verdict will be given, maybe two or three months from now. The maximum penalty might be up to 8 years in prison. An appeal from one or both sides is very likely in this high profile case. In the meantime poet Dareen Tatour is under house arrest and might easily stay so for full two years before the judicial decision about the meaning of her poem.

(If you know Hebrew you can read more about this hearing in Haifa HaHofshit, Local Call and HaOketz).

Free Muhammad Ibrahim – Administrative Detainee from Kabul in the Galilee!

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When the news about the administrative detention of Muhammad Ibrahim were first published in December 2016, after he was already more than half a year in prison, it was written in some papers that this is the first case of such detention against Palestinians inside the 1948 occupied territories, who are formally citizens of Israel. But it was less than a year since Asmaa Hamdan, a woman from Nazareth, spent 3 months in administrative detention which started at the turmoil of “the third intifada” of October 2015. At the heights of the first intifada, in 1988, some ten leading members of Abna Al-Balad and related Palestinian movements were held in the same way. Several Palestinian activists inside ’48 spent times in administrative detention before and after these days…muhammad-ibrahim-with-al-aqsa

In the 1967 occupied West Bank (and previously also in Gaza) Israel is using administrative detention en-mass as a tool for political oppression. The use of administrative detention also against Palestinian in ’48 is another proof that it is basically the same occupation and the same oppressive system that is used all over occupied Palestine.

The Administrative Detention of Muhammad Ibrahim

[The following article was published in Hebrew on 23/01/2017 in “Local Call” and Haifa Hahofshit]

They say that if the police would look hard enough at the past of any person they would find a legal reason to arrest and put him or her on trial. It turns out that this rule has exceptions. One of them is the case of Muhammad Ibrahim, a 20-year-old computer technician from the Western Galilee town of Kabul. Not only the police, the Shin Bet (Israel’s notoriously harsh “internal security services”) also made every effort to bring him to trial, but they didn’t find any legal reason for this. So he was subjected to administrative detention, without indictment and without trial.

Muhammad gets into troubles

Muhammad’s troubles probably stems from his love to the Al-Aqsa mosque… He was not a political activist but used to travel frequently to Jerusalem to pray at this mosque. This mosque is the third holiest site for Islam, but some of Israel’s leaders seek to destroy it in order to build “The Third Temple” in its place.

Muhammad’s first encounter with the law was when Israeli police wanted to arrest a woman in the mosque’s yard and he threw himself before her and was arrested instead. He spent the night in custody in the “Moskubiya” (a Russian Church’s compound in the middle of Jerusalem used as a detention center). On the following day he was released by the judge in the absence of any offense.

After the first detention cops already knew Muhammad and when they saw him in the mosque’s yard they used to arrest him. He was arrested five times, and was released five times, without being accused of any offence. Occasionally he was required to sign a pledge to stay away from Jerusalem for a while as a condition for his release.

On May 11, 2016, at 3 o’clock in the morning, a police force from Nazareth, including riot squad, accompanied by a Shin Bet operative, surrounded Muhammad’s house and awakened his family. The Sin Bet agent in charge of the region did not even know the young Muhammad whom he came to arrest. He turned to Muhammad’s father and asked him “who is Muhammad?”… This is just another piece of evidence proving that the reason for the arrest belongs to a different place – to Jerusalem.

Harsh Interrogation

After searching Muhammad’s room and some other rooms in the house, the police took with them Muhammad himself and also all the computers that they found, including computers of customers who brought them for repair.muhammad-ibrahim-sitting

The terrified family spent the next day running around between police stations and detention centers to find their son. Finally, they were informed that he was detained by the Shin Bet in a special interrogation center in Petah Tikva.

During the interrogation Muhammad was not allowed to see a lawyer. He was questioned in difficult conditions and was subjected to the harsh “special interrogation methods” of the Shin Bet, including sleep prevention. Later he told how he was interrogated for 22 hours non-stop while tethered to a chair.

25 days of intensive interrogation did not produce anything; the mountain did not give birth even to a mouse. Finally came the court session in which Muhammad was supposed to be released. But then the Shin Bet people informed the judge that they are going to put Muhammad under administrative detention. The judge delayed his release for a day until the defence minister will sign the decree, which was signed by Avigdor Lieberman on June 5, 2016, for a period of six months.

The other likely reason for issuing the administrative detention order is revenge of the Shin Bet’s failure to extort a confession from Muhammad and prosecute him. It constitutes a threatening message to all detainees: if you do not confess you can be arrested anyway, so you should better confess even if you never violated any law.

Significantly, although the investigation was concluded long time ago, and although no indictment was filed, the confiscated computers, including those of Muhammad’s customers, were not returned until this day.

Administrative Detention as a tool of the Military Regime

“Judicial supervision” on the procedure of administrative detention against Muhammad Ibrahim is being held at the Haifa District Court. At the first hearings in this procedure he was represented by the “Adalah” legal center. In fact this is not a proper judicial proceeding that allows any viable legal defence but a meaningless formal procedure. The contents of the “charges” or “suspicions” were not disclosed to Muhammad until this day, neither to his lawyer. All the Shin Bet’s claims are “secret material” submitted to the judge without the presence of the suspect or his representative. Once, when Aram Mahameed, Adalah’s lawyer, was order to leave the courtroom when confidential materials were submitted, he left behind his briefcase. State officials rushed to distance the briefcase also.

Not only that Muhammad’s lawyers are not present when secret materials are submitted, family members are not allowed at all to be in the courtroom, not even to hear the arguments of the defence. At the same time a blanket GAG order was issued to prevent the press from covering the case. Only on January 2017, following an appeal by journalist Jacky Khoury (from Radio Al-Shams and Haaretz), the military censorship confirmed that there is no reason to prevent reporting. In any case, there is nothing to report except the fact that there is nothing as there was nothing, and that this nothingness is a state secret.

On December 5, Muhammad’s six months detention was due to expire, but then the family was informed that the detention order was renewed for another six months period. This time he was represented by lawyer Omar Khamaisi from “Mizan”. The judge himself found it difficult to understand the justification for the continued detention without indictment and asked the Shin Bet representative whether, in their view, administrative detention is life imprisonment… But eventually the usual ritual was repeated: The detainee and his lawyer were ordered to leave the courtroom and the Shin Bet operatives stayed alone with the judge who finally reaffirmed the detention. The next hearing of this judicial farce, which takes place every three months, of “legally supervising” this unlawful detention, is set for March 15.

I sat with lawyer Khamaisi who explained to me the legal basis for administrative detention. The practice of detention without trial was inherited from the colonialist laws used by the British Mandate (see Wikipedia: Defence Emergency Regulations 1945). When Zionist leaders were subject to these laws they severely criticized them as draconian, but later Israel continued to use the same draconian British laws against its Palestinian Arab citizens.

Now Israel has a wholly “Blue and White” Made in Israel detention without trial, under the “state of emergency laws” from 1979, in full accordance to the Jewish and “democratic” character of the state. (The law is so new, only 38 years, that it still doesn’t have an entry in Wikipedia). The authority to issue administrative detention order is given by the Minister of Defence, stressing the fact that this is basically a military act against the “enemies of the state”. It should remind us that beneath the thin camouflage of democracy we are all subject to a regime of military occupation.

Abusive Conditions at the Families’ Visits

Although not indicted for anything, Muhammad is held in harsh conditions with “security prisoners” in the desert Ketziot prison in Nizzana sands, near the Egyptian border.

Khaled Ibrahim, Muhammad’s father, told me in detail about his harsh experiences while visiting his son in this remote prison.

khaled-ibrahim-abu-muhammad

Khaled Ibrahim, Abu Muhammad

The Israeli prisons’ authority requires that the family will register in advance for visiting, but Ketziot prison guards are not answering the telephone number designed for coordination. He only learns about the dates of the visits from families of prisoners from the West Bank which are coming in pre-arranged transportation.

Travelling from Kabul to Ketziot, almost 300 kilometers, can take three and a half hours in each direction when the road is free, so it is by itself a torture for the body and the soul. When he arrived at Ketziot he was imprisoned with his car in the parking lot of the prison and had to wait about an hour and a half to the arrival of the buses from the West Bank. The guards forbade him to extricate himself by walking in the parking lot and ordered him to stay in the car. When the buses arrived all visitors were guided to an internal courtyard and had to wait there another two hours until visits actually began. At the time of the visit, which lasted three-quarter of an hour, they were separated from their beloved ones by a glass wall and could talk only through a phone.  Later they had to wait closed in the yard until the second round of visits finished and they were allowed to return to the parking lot… Why should the guards make an extra effort and open the door twice?

The three-quarters of an hour visit lasted in total over fourteen and a half hours, from six in the morning until eight thirty at night. This systematic abuse against the families of prisoners and detainees causes many of them to reduce their visits.

Popular Struggle

The family expected that the six-month administrative detention will pass just as the 25 days of the interrogations and that Muhammad will be released… After all, he was not accused of anything. The secrecy of the hearings and prevention of media reports created an atmosphere of fear and they did not know what to do or who to contact. This secrecy has allowed the authorities to keep the entire subject far from the public awareness. The oppressive apparatus like to abuse their victims in the darkness under the cover of media blackout. However, one of the most difficult problems with administrative detention is that it has no time limit.

The extension of Muhammad’s detention for another six months resulted in breaking the isolation and silence. Over the last several years, a “popular committee” was formed and is operating in Kabul, as part of the policy of “the follow-up committee” of the Arab population inside the 48 occupied territories for the construction of the organs of popular struggle in every community. The popular committee undertook to publicize the case of Muhammad’s administrative detention and to coordinate the struggle for his release.

The activists of the “popular committee” organized protest, invited the Follow-Up Committee and Arab Knesset Members from “The Joint List” and turned to the media. They opened a special Facebook page called “Free the administrative detainee Mohammed Ibrahim from Kabul” (in Arabic). At the last hearing in the Haifa District Court there were already about 30 people who were not allowed in… My visit to Muhammad’s family in Kabul and this article are my modest contribution to this campaign.

Now the family’s sole hope is that the public struggle will expose the severe unjustified abuse caused to Muhammad by the administrative detention and will embarrass the authorities and bring about his release. At the end of our conversation the representative of the Popular Committee expressed his hope that until the next hearing, on March 15, the protest will expands, and maybe there will be a demonstration in front of the court. I expressed my wish that, even before, due to the exposure of the case, the public pressure will bring to Muhammad’s release and we’ll come to congratulate him for that. We never lose hope, but in the current public atmosphere to speak of “a danger to democracy” rings like a hollow mockery while we face a regime which prides itself for abusing democratic rights.