The War on Drugs is the new Spanish Inquisition


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(This article is also available en Español)

In the 15th century the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile were busy establishing their rule over re-united Spain, subordinating and ethnically cleansing Muslims and Jews, and starting an Empire that soon expanded over much of the newly invaded American continents. The establishment of the Empire was first an act of pure robbery. It developed into a system of oppressing and enslaving the native population. In some places it even became an all-out genocide.european-history-spanish-inquisition-250x150

Nobody can build a state, let alone an empire, under the banners of robbery, exploitation and oppression. They needed some slogan that will put them on the moral high ground. The more oppression is required to subdue the unwilling subjects, the more ideological firepower is required to justify this oppression. The Spanish Inquisition, which was supposed to promote and safeguard the Christian faith, in its orthodox Catholic interpretation, gave the required ideological framework for a campaign of terror that was required for the consolidation of the empire.

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In most of the 20th century the main justification for oppression in the Latin American hemisphere was the danger of communism. Under this banner the US encouraged military dictatorships in Brazil, Chile and Argentine, to name just a few examples. The war against the people and the dependency of the local oppressors on US imperialism held back the development of the local economy and ensured the economic subordination of Latin America to the interests of the multinational North American companies.

As communism went out of fashion, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the East European Socialist Block, the justification for violent repression faded and new populist movement started gaining ground.

War on Drugs in the US

The term “war on drugs” stemmed from the declaration of the US president Richard Nixon in June 18, 1971. He then declared drug abuse to be “public enemy number one”.nixon-watergate-testimony

This gradually developed into war against poor people in the Unites States itself, mostly against black people. Since the declaration of the War on Drugs, the number of people incarcerated in the United States, as proportion of the population, increased more than fourfold.

The usage of the War on Drugs as a tool of oppression against the Black population is us_incarceration_rate_timelineapparent in many ways. In 1986 the US congress passed a law that made the penalty for possessing a small amount of “crack”, a drug used mostly by poor blacks, on the same level as the penalty for a 100 times bigger amount of “cocaine”, which is mostly used by the white elite. According to one research, blacks are 13% of drug users, 35% of those arrested for using drugs, 55% of those convicted and 74% of those actually sent to prison for drug usage.

The War on Drugs in Mexico

The War on Drugs in Mexico is just the latest severe example of the international War on Drugs. Actually Mexico became a center of the drug trade only lately, as a result of the partial success in oppressing drugs’ production in Colombia while the lucrative demand from the US continued unabated.bodies-pile-up

Since 2006, under pressure from the US, the Mexican government deployed the army to fight drugs traders. It caused an alarming rise in violence. According to Wikipedia, by 2013 the estimated death toll was above 120,000 killed, in addition to 27,000 missing. The ideological success of the War on Drugs causes the world public opinion to “accept naturally” this death toll, unlike the much lower (but still horrific) death toll of, for example, the terror campaign of the Argentine dictatorship of 1976-1983.

The high death toll has several reasons. First the army is unfit for policing and uses indiscriminate violence with impunity against suspects. Also, if some traders are killed or arrested, while the demand for drugs stays the same, it causes a sharp rise in drug prices and initiates a fierce fight between different traders to fill the gap between supply and demand.

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Also, the violence stemming from the war on drugs is undermining the regular economy, which requires stability. As a result it enhances the lure of drug trafficking as the only way to make a “decent” living for wide strata of society.

Last but not least, in the atmosphere of terror and impunity, the ruling classes have a free hand to terrorize the masses also to serve their economic and political interests.

The mass kidnapping and disappearance of 43 protesting students from a teachers’ college in the city of Iguala in the Mexican state of Guerrero in 2014 is the famous case that threw light to this phenomenon and ignited mass protests against the government’s responsibility.maxico-till-when

The mass killings, disappearances, imprisonment and terror against the masses are not an accidental by-product of a well-wishing policy. They are the necessary measures to maintain the Hegemony of the Empire.

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And, yes, if you think about it, the social criminalization of women’s sexuality and the ensuing terror against women is at the core of the system that allowed oppression of women and the preservation of male privileges for thousands of years.

Sorry America, It is not YOU, it is US (*) …


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Lessons from the USA election campaign

The coming elections in the US supplied an extraordinary drama, watched with both trump-vs-clintonenthusiasm and disdain almost all over the world. If this is the most important democratic election for the most influential leadership position in the world, the scarcity of the debate about the real issues at stake must make people ask substantial questions about democracy. The identity and performance of the candidates, especially Republican Donald Trump, and the fact that an enormous establishment, with millions of people and billions of dollars, couldn’t produce a more respectable candidate, must raise even more substantial soul searching questions about the human nature.

The Big Picture

Lenin once said that, while the yellow press floods us with lies about everything, the good serious capitalist press feeds us with plenty of facts and information in order to hide the big picture. In the rest of this post I will try to relate to some of the big issues that all this election campaign and all the serious fact-finding and analysis around it are either ignoring or trying to hide…

Trump promises to “make America great again”. Clinton is trying to out-perform Trump’s patriotism by claiming that mighty America is as great as ever and couldn’t be diminished. But the whole election campaign is only a small animated illustration to the fact that the USA is not what it used to be.

The people of the US are famous for their ignorance of the world outside their borders. But for the last hundred years the fate and meaning of the USA, call it “greatness” or “the big Satan” or “imperialism” or “leader of the free world”, was not about what happens inside these borders but developed around its role as the strongest and finally the only world superpower.

This time is over. And it is not over because America became any smaller. It is over because we, the rest of the world, succeeded somehow to grow.

China’s rise, USA’s decline

In 2012, in one of the first posts in this blog, I presented an optimistic view on China’s rise. Let me try to sketch here in raw lines an optimistic view about America’s decline, or rather the decline of the North American imperialism.

First ask yourself what is “America”? Talking about the United States as “America” already ignores and marginalizes most of the people living in the American continents from Canada in the north to Chile and Argentine in the south. The population of the US is hardly a third of the almost billion people that live in the Americas. This naming that ignores your neighbors is only a symbol of the disregard toward and tramping over the people of the rest of the world…

Second, how do you define greatness? No doubt, at least when we speak about the most capitalist nation, that the economy is playing a central role in it. What most readers of the mainstream media might have easily missed is the “small” fact that the US is no more the biggest economy in the world. According to “The World Factbook”, a site maintained by the CIA, in 2015 China’s GDP (measured by purchasing power parity) was 19.7 trillion dollar, almost 10% more than the US’s 18 trillion. In fact China has already become the biggest economy in the world in

But this raw measure is far from revealing the whole picture. China’s economy is in a positive momentum, while the US (and the rest of the imperialist powers in Western Europe and Japan) failed to get their economies back on their feet after the 2008 world financial crisis. To hide this we can read every day articles about the “slowdown” in the Chinese economy, which means that it is developing steadily at 6-7% yearly. In China’s planned economy they build modern cities (no shanty towns there) for 300 million people that will move from their villages to the cities over the next 15 years – that alone is like building a brand new USA or Western Europe.

The difference between a rising productive power and a declining parasitic empire is illustrated as we look at the relations of the two economies with the outside world. According to the same source, China’s exports at 2.1 trillion are 40% higher than the US’s 1.5, while its imports at 1.6 are only 70% of the US’s 2.3.

The good jobs that went to China, manufacturing everything from steel to trains to computers and smartphones, are not such good jobs any more. They don’t pay western salaries. It is just that people around the world can now buy all of these things much cheaper. This is another reason why we don’t cry with our USA brothers.

China is a different kind of world power. Its 1.3 billion people made all the way from being one of the poorest people on earth, just fifty years ago, to the top of the world economy by hard work and (relatively) good management. They are the first great world power that didn’t gain its place through occupation and exploitation of other nations. This in itself is a basic fact to think about and a major reason for optimism.

Imperialism is not working any more

The hegemony of the Western powers, and over the second half of the 20th century the hegemony of the USA, enabled them to dictate the world division of labor and the terms of trade to the benefit of the big multinational capitalist companies. This was the source of the “good jobs” that the US and European citizens are now longing for. 80% of humanity was forced to sell its resources for cheap and work for pennies in marginalized agriculture or industry and serve as an open market for the Western developed economies.

After direct colonialism and military occupations were not sustainable any more, neocolonialism and neoliberalism served the same hegemony very well. In the second half of the 20th century, almost any local leader in the 3rd world that tried to do something to develop his country was either deposed or assassinated by agents of the USA. Look for the fate of Patrice Lumumba in Congo, Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran, Sukarno from Indonesia, Salvador Allende of Chile and Omar Torrijos of Panama, to name just a few.patrice-lumumba

Bloody dictatorships, regional wars, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, bombing and occupation – no cruelty was too much to force the subjugation of the third world – the vast majority of humanity – to imperialist rule. In the nineties, after the fall of the Soviet Union, there seemed to be no challenge left to the imperialist rule. By that time most 3rd world countries were under some form of sanctions by the “international community” for this reason or that. Real commodities prices, representing the terms of trade of the 3rd world, reached unprecedented historic lows (see graph taken from a study by David Jacks in NBER). The global gap between the starving majority and the prosperous imperialist center seemed widening forever.real-commodity-prices-historic-low-in-the-nineties

But every party has its hangover. There came the surge of noisy protests at trade conferences and summits of the world imperialist leaders. There were the world social forums, looking for alternatives. When neoliberalism drove Argentine into an economic wall, mass mobilization casted away one government after another and brought to power (in 2003) the leftist Peronists, which refused to pay Argentine’s international debt. When, out of the blue, crazy Arab militants kidnapped airplanes and flew them into the WTC in New York, some people in the USA started to ask “why do they hate us?”

The empire tried to strike back to re-establish its authority, but somehow the world was not responding as expected. In 2002 the army in Venezuela tried to repeat the CIA coup scenario that worked so well in Latin America before, but the masses took to the streets and reinstated Hugo Chavez. When the US army occupied Iraq in 2003, it found that defeating the Iraqi army was the easiest part of it. Popular resistance made the occupation unsustainable and the ensuing US-imposed government in Iraq ended up doing business with China and closer politically to Iran, which is supposed to be the strategic rival of the US in the region. The US ended up burning about one trillion dollar in Iraq for no obvious benefit, (killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and destroying the lives of millions is nothing to count in world politics). It was about the same one trillion that were missing in its coffers when it financial system collapsed in 2008.

From Argentine to Iran, from Cuba to Sudan and Zimbabwe, when the Western powers were trying to force economic blockade of undisciplined third world nations, we’ve seen the new China factor. There is almost nothing you can’t buy in China these days. Over the last fifteen years the gap between the imperialist centers and the 3rd world started to contract. For the first time talking about “developing countries” doesn’t sound so hollow.

Dangerous curves ahead

Being optimist doesn’t mean that you should ignore the dangers ahead. One fact that makes the next period combustive is that while the USA is a declining economic power it still holds the strongest military by far. An irresponsible US president may try to use this power to try to “make America great again”. I do not think that there is a real danger that the USA can make itself the top world power again, but in the process of trying it can easily destroy humanity.the-end-of-the-world

We have seen president Obama declaring his pivot to East Asia, trying to build all kind of military alliances in the region to contain China. We have read the capitalist media writing endlessly with running tears about the danger to World Peace from China building some artificial islands, while they see no danger in the easily preventable death of thousands of refugees in the Mediterranean and have little problem with the continuing killing of hundreds of thousands of Arabs in civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

Some good friends that are fed up by US interventions in our (and other) region(s) are hoping for a Trump victory. They believe it will be such a disgrace that it will accelerate the process of diminishing US influence worldwide. It could happen. You can forgive them if they are ready to sacrifice the US itself for another period of internal racist tension and upheavals. But as I see that the decline of US power is irreversible, and the main danger today is from a desperate attempt to reverse it, I wouldn’t recommend taking the pill that may kill you.

It is us, the people

I would like to finish with one more optimistic note about democracy in the USA and in general. When we speak about democracy we should look for the substance, not any symbolic representation. How much power people really have to control their future?

First start with what comes up in mind in this election, the qualities of the candidates… It is my humble opinion that the candidates in this election are not basically morally different from most candidates over the last decades. I think the main difference is that now we know much more about everything, including about the candidates past, their connections and obligations to the capitalist class, etc. The other factor that comes up in this election is that most people are angrier and less tolerant to the behavior of the candidates – only that they differ about their priority target for anger. So, even as there is no positive alternative in sight, we see that the basic balance of power between the establishment and the people is changing as a result of technological progress, education and the crisis of the system.

Second the content of democracy is not the “consumerist” free choice between Coca Cola and Pepsi, as many US elections used to be. Till now voters in Iran had more diverse options (consider Ahmadinejad vs. Khatami) and more influence about the general direction of the regime than US voters used to have. In this election for the first time a more profound option, the vaguely socialist Bernie Sanders, came anywhere close to be counted.

The US is not ripe for true change, but in this election it already raised the glass ceiling that prevented women from contesting the presidency, and it may have its first Ms President. Not a small change if you remember that women are allowed to vote there only since 1920.

The greatness of US imperialism left its people weak and helpless. It deprived them of free education and health care that are taken for granted in many much poorer countries. It made them work longer hours and be thrown to the dogs if they are not useful to the machine. If they are Native Americans, Black, Muslims or Hispanic they may be terrorized or humiliated. The only statistic in which the US leadership is unchallenged worldwide is the rate of incarceration.

While the US multinationals had the power to rule and rob the world, ordinary people could only run endlessly along the predesigned competition for career and consumerism, with minimal control over their own lives and no say about the future of their country.

Now, as the system is disintegrating, it is the time that the people will take control of their lives. The American people (from Canada to Argentine, NY & Texas included), like all the people of the world, will be the winners from the demise of US imperialism.

(*) Comment about the title

I don’t know whether you share my associations – so I may

It is a common saying in “relations”, when a guy leaves a girl (or vice versa), that he tries to be nice and says: “It is not you, it is me”. Meaning, don’t blame yourself. I’m “not built for a lengthy connection”. It is intended to be polite, but as it became an easy pattern it is thought to be nasty.

I wanted to start with “Dear America” to emphasis the romantic cord – but many of my readers are too angry at “America” and may have no patience with my literature niceties…

But my American readers are really dear to me, and I hope they will find this piece somewhat consoling in these hard days.


Will poet Dareen Tatour be released from house detention?


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Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested in a nightly police raid on her home in Reineh on October 11, 2015. She spent 3 months in different Israeli prisons and the rest of the year in house detention under strict limitations. She is being tried in the Israeli court in Nazareth for “incitement to violence”, based on a poem she published on Youtube and Facebook. Her case provoked wide protest from the literary community, by Palestinians and Israeli writers and even more on the international level. Many famous and prize winning poets, writers and intellectuals, and the international writers’ organization “Pen”, called for her release and for the dropping of charges against her.

Tatour’s lawyer, Abed Fahoum from Nazareth, was lately joined by lawyers Gaby Lasky and Nery Ramati from Tel Aviv. They filed a request to reconsider the decision to hold Tatour under house detention until the end of the trial. The request relies mainly on the long time that already passed and on the expected long time until the trial will finish. It also states that the prosecution, which finished resting its case on September 6, failed to bring substantial evidence.20161031_094606

After some legal struggle just to get the hearing going, it was set for Monday, October 31, 2016. I was reporting from the court on Tweeter (hashtag #DareenTatour) and Facebook (on the “Free Dareen Tatour” page) and here is the full report…

The case was not assigned to any specific judge and as we came in the morning it seems that judges do not want to handle it. The file was passed from one judge to the other like a hot potato.

In the end we started one and a half hour late with Judge Lili Jung-Goffer that only received the file a short time before. She is a senior judge in the magistrate court, and by her age she probably doesn’t wait for promotion, so she can be more independent. But she spent much of her career working for the prosecution in Nazareth and it seems from her behavior that she still feels like doing it – she hardly let lawyer Lasky utter one full sentence throughout the hearing.

As we went in she looked at Tatour and seemed to know her. She asked whether Tatour is this woman from the knifing incident that didn’t materialize… Lasky answered: No, she wrote a poem. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference.20161031_094131

The judge tried hard to press for a compromise that will let Tatour to go out for 2 hours each day – instead of the 3 days a week currently – but still accompanied by a “supervisor”. She even raised the idea that Tatour may get 4 hours for 3 days a week, saying that being closed in the house for such a long period is really suffocating.

Basically Tatour was not interested in such a compromise as she wants to go back to work and study. Besides, there is no much fresh air to take for a 34 years old woman when you must always drag one of your parents or brothers with you for every step you go.

The defense presented some decisions from the military court in Ofer, which decided to release Palestinians detainees while on trial for incitement. On the other hand lawyer Hardak for the prosecution said she have plenty of cases of Palestinians that are held in detention, many of them in prison and not house detention, while on trial for charges similar to Tatour’s.

When Lasky tried to say that the security situation in Israel today is less tense than it was when Tatour was first arrested on October 2015, the judge interrupted her again in the middle of the sentence. When we discussed the trial later some of the people that were present in the court were ready to swear that they heard the lawyer for the prosecution saying that we can gladly say that the security situation is not any better. Checking in the protocol we found that she was cited as saying that we can’t gladly say that the situation improved…

We almost lost any hope before the judge came with the proposal to ask for a new report from a probation officer. She said she knows any decision in this case will be appealed, and the district court will ask for a report anyway, so better to have it now. Lasky agreed. Hardak, in a show of obstinacy that is not usual in the courts but typical to the prosecution’s behavior in this case, objected even to having an expert opinion.20161031_141942_004

The next hearing was set to Monday, November 14, 10 am, on the hope that the report from the probation officer will be ready. It left us some slim hope that Tatour will be freed before the next hearing of the main trial and will be able to wage the struggle to prove her innocence without the constant pressure of a prolonged detention.

Meanwhile we learned that in the next hearing of the main trial, in November 17, the court will hear again the defense request to oblige the prosecution to release information concerning the claim of discriminative enforcement. At this hearing, also, poet Dareen Tatour should stand before the court and testify for the first time, more than 13 months after her detention, to explain that her poem is a legitimate protest against the crimes of the occupation.

Commemorating Kafr Qasim Massacre at its 60th Anniversary


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The 29th of October 1956 started as a quiet day in the village of Kafr Qasim, then under military rule since it was transferred to Israeli occupation by the Jordanian king in 1949. The villagers, hard-working peasants and workers, went out early to work in the fields and in near-by stone quarries. In the afternoon a unit of the Israeli army came in and informed the village head that they are coming to impose a curfew. They told him to warn the villagers not to get out of their homes. “But what about the people that will come from work, I can’t warn them of the curfew?” he asked. “Don’t worry, I will let them in” answered the soldiers.


Panorama: The Massacre

Eventually, as farmers came back from their fields and workers from the workshops, the soldiers gathered them in small groups on the entrance to the village. Then the officer ordered to “mow them down” and they were shot dead, their bodies piled in heaps at the side of the road. 49 people were killed in cold blood without any provocation, for violating a curfew order that they was not aware of. 12 of the martyrs were women and girls, 17 children, the youngest of them only 7 years old.

The massacre of Kafr Qasim was not an isolated incident. It was intentionally planned by elements in the Israeli army command as part of a much bigger plan to complete the ethnic cleansing of 1948. The massacre was carried in the first day of October 1956 Tripartite Aggression of Britain, France and Israel against Egypt. Israel hoped that, under the cover of the fog of war, new massacres will cause the Arab Palestinian population to seek refuge and safety beyond the Jordanian border.

Commemorating the Massacre

The people of Kafr Qasim were not even allowed to bury their dead. The army kidnapped at gun-point some men from the nearby village of Jaljulia and forced them to bury the massacre’s victims in Kafr Qasim’s cemetery, while the curfew over the village was extended to 3 whole days. Israeli military censorship prevented any mention of the crime in the press. It required a prolonged struggle, mostly led by the Communist Party, just to publish the shocking facts about what the army did.


Pictures of the martyrs in Kafr Qasim’s museum

In the coming years the military government continued to terrorize the population and prevent the commemoration of the massacre. As we visited Kafr Qasim today, our hosts told us how the army used to force a siege of the village on the anniversary of the massacre. It was even searching homes and confiscating any piece of black cloth in order to prevent any sign of mourning.

Only in 1966, at the 10th anniversary, as the military rule in the 1948 and 49 occupied territories was abolished, could the people of Kafr Qasim for the first time openly and more or less freely commemorate their martyrs, with solidarity delegations coming from all over the country.

60 Years On

I must confess that this year was the first time that I attended the Kafr Qasim massacre commemoration. The local tradition is to start the commemoration march at 8:30 in the morning, an unconventional timing for a public event and a real challenge if you come from far away. As we entered Kafr Qasim this morning it was suspiciously quiet and we almost thought that the event will not really start so early. But when we approached the designated gathering place at 8:40 thousands of people were already marching and we quickly joined them.Mass meeeting at the location of the massacre.jpg

We marched to the location of the massacre, at what was once the western entrance of the village but is now at the center of what has become a poverty stricken township. There, near the massacres’ memorial, a mass meeting was held. I was mostly impressed at the way that the whole population is now involved with the commemoration. Men and women of all ages attended, most of them wearing special black T-shirts with the symbol of the 60th anniversary.

Another extraordinary feature of the date was the simultaneous translation of the whole event to the signs language for the deaf. Soon we also understood why the march started so early, as the sun climbed up the sky and the heat became hard to bear.

We heard Kafr Qasim’s Mayor Adel Bdeir, the representative of the grandchildren of the victims, an Islamic Sheikh and Muhammad Barake, the head of the “follow up committee” that represents the whole Palestinian Arab population in the 48 territories. At the end a group of children release to the air 49 green and black helium balloons.Museum and Panorama.jpg

Then there was another march, following the last journey of the martyrs, from the location of the massacre to the cemetery in the East of the village, just near where the Jordanian border used to be. When we went back many people were still coming in all along the main street of the town.

The morning events were just one part of the wider 60th anniversary commemoration. Over the last month there were educational programs about the massacre that involved every pupil in Kafr Qasim’s schools. There were more marches before today and another central mass meeting was set for tonight, with more speakers from out of the town. It was said that in the next anniversaries the commemoration should not be restricted to Kafr Qasim itself.

Open Wounds

We met sisters Rim and Roz Amer, friends from the old days in “Ta’ayush” movement and activists in the Kafr Qasim commemoration popular committee. They were collecting evidence from some of the old people that survived the massacre…

They told us about their grandmother, Khamisa Amer, which was with a group of women that went out to pick olives in that fatal day. As they came back in the pickup car the army stopped them. First they took out the three men that were in the car and shoot them. Then they shoot at the group of women inside the car.Martyr Khamisa Amer.jpg

When we met Roz and Rim they were interviewing Hana’a Amer, which was 14 years at the time of the massacre and came to help in the olives harvest under the supervision of their grandmother. Hana’a was shot and wounded in her leg and head, her skull was broken, but she stayed alive lying in the pile of corpses. She didn’t understand what was going on, not grasping that all the other women around her were dead. It was her rare luck that the soldiers didn’t notice that she was not dead like the others.

Much later, when the murderers went and other soldiers came to carry the dead, one soldier tried to carry what he thought was Hana’a’s dead body by dragging her from her hand. She cried with pain and eventually was taken to the hospital. I think it was the first time, only after 60 years, that Rim and Roz heard a first-hand report about the conditions in which their grandmother was martyred.

They told us about another interview with a man that was likewise wounded but survived after staying the night under a pile of corpses. He told of his pain as he heard his neighbors approaching one after the other the army checkpoint and being shot dead, and his great agony at not being able to warn them. He told how the soldiers would shoot at any victim that was still not dead. The officer told them to shoot one bullet at each head, not to waste precious ammunition.

The Massacre is Not Over

We visited the museum for the commemoration of the massacre. For the 60th anniversary, the people of Kafr Qasim opened a stunning new section of the museum called “panorama”, where you go through a dark cave and pass by several scenes that represents the stages of the massacre. You can hear the full story there in Arabic, Hebrew or English. It starts with the quiet village life before the massacre and ends with the government’s attempts to cover for the crime.


Shadmi’s one cent

The people of Kafr Qasim see a special insult in the supposedly “traditional reconciliation treaty” (Sulha in Arabic) that was organized after the massacre. They say it was designed to wash the hands of those responsible to the massacre and forced on the villagers by the coercion of the military government.

Another insult is the trial of the officers and soldiers that initiated and perpetrated the massacre. The highest officer that was sentenced, Colonel Shadmi, was fined a symbolic one cent! Eight lower ranking officers and soldiers were sentenced to prison terms but pardoned after a short period. The responsible officers were all promoted to more important jobs.

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Panorama: The Trial

In today’s commemoration all speakers drew a straight line from the refusal of the Israeli government to take responsibility for the crime to the continued policy of discrimination against the Arab population, including the continuing confiscation of Kafr Qasim’s land, the inability to get building licenses and the systematic house demolition.

But not only discrimination is continuing, the massacre itself is going on with the intentional killing of Arab citizens of Israel taking part in protest actions in Land Day (1976) and October 2000, and the killing with impunity of dozens of others over the years for all or no reason. And, of course, Israel’s continuing massacre of Arab Palestinians continues on a much wider scale in the occupied West Bank and in Gaza under the deadly siege. It is all one and the same struggle for liberty from the same murderous racist regime.

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Free Dareen Tatour! – Hebrew Petition Translated


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Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour has been in Israeli custody for over a year for publishing a poem against the occupation. Many writers, artists and academics are between more than 200 signatories of a Hebrew petition in her defense. +972 translated it to English. Here is the full text followed by the names of the signatories.

A whole year of detention for publishing a poem –

Free poet Dareen Tatour and drop the charges against her!


On October 11, 2015, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested by Israeli police during a night raid on her home in the village Al-Reineh, near Nazareth. On November 2, 2015, an Israeli court indicted her for incitement to violence. At the center of the indictment was a poem Tatour wrote in protest of the killing of Muhammad Abu KhdeirHadeel al-Shalamoun and members of the Dawabshe family in Duma. The indictment cites the full translation of the poem, which was translated by an officer who has no qualifications in translation or poetry. Even according to this translation — which is full of inaccuracies, most of them giving the poem an extremist tone — there is a call to resist the occupation, but there is no incitement to violence.

Dareen spent three months imprisoned in various jails. After that she was transferred to house arrest far from her home, where she was forced to live with an ankle monitor and under severe restrictions. After more than half a year exiled from home, and only after numerous court hearings, was Dareen allowed to continue her house arrest in Al-Reineh (she was forced to continue wearing the ankle monitor and is not allowed to use the internet). She cannot work, and even in the six hours that she is allowed to leave her home, she must be accompanied by “overseers.” This cruelty continues all because she dared to publish a poem.

A situation in which a poet is arrested and put on trial for writing a poem contradicts the very foundations of democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of artistic expression. Over a year has passed since Tatour’s arrest, and over the past few months we have organized two events, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Haifa, in order to protest against the criminal policy taken against an Israeli citizen.

The treatment of Dareen Tatour by the authorities expresses a policy of severe discrimination against Arab Palestinian citizens’ freedom of expression. The attempt to present legitimate political protest as a criminal act prevents the possibility of honest discourse, and is intended to block dialogue between Jews and Arabs.

The protest against Tatour’s persecution has spread throughout the world, turning her from an anonymous poet into a symbol of the state’s cruelty. Jewish Voice for Peace, Pen International (which dedicated its International Translation Day to Tatour), Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker and hundreds of other authors and world-renowned cultural icons have all condemned the actions taken against the poet.

We, poets, authors, academics, and educators, who care for freedom of expression and the ability of Arabs and Jews to understand each other and build a life together with in this country, call on the state to put an end to Dareen Tatour’s persecution, to release her and immediately drop the baseless accusations against her.


David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, Tuvia Ribner, Prof. Avishai Margalit, Prof. Shimon Zandbank, Tsibi Geva, Prof. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Prof. Ariel Hirschfeld, Prof. Moshe Ron, Tal Nitzan, Dr. Ilana Hammerman, Agi Mishol, Ayman Sikseck, Nir Baram, Iris Leal, Esti G., Rela Mazali, Dr. Dana Amir, Oded Peled, Prof. Zohar Eitan, Dr. Dror Burstein, Dr. Michal Ben-Naftali, Liat Kaplan, Rachel Peretz, Assaf Shor, Dr. Yuval Eylon, Sherry Gutman, Dr. Dana Olmert, Meital Nissim, Tahel Frosh, Noam Partom, Dr. Dorit Shiloh, Sigal Ben Yair, Hadas Gilad, Sharon Es, Dr. Amalia Ziv, Dr. Diti Ronen, Eli Hirsch, Leah Pilowski, Riki Cohen, Ila Ben-Lulu, Hila Lahav, Navit Barel, Meital Nadler, Lee Maman, Alma Miryam Katz, Roy Chicky Arad, Daniel Oz, Bat-sheva Dori-Carlier, Hila Aharon Brick, Yonit Naaman, Oren Agmon, Yulie Khromchenco, Inna Ardel, Suzi Reznik, Ofra Shalev, Tali Litovsky, Hamutal Fishman, Sivan Baskin, Ron Dahan, Keren Koch, Amit Mautner, Prof. Ron Barkai, Dr. Ofir Mintz Manor, Yuval Tzoren, Hadas Carmi, Josef Sprinzak, Dr. Diana Dolev, Sharon Dolev, Noga Eitan, Omri Livnat, Ibtisam Mara’ana, Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, Vardit Shalfi, Tsipa Kempinski, Vered Kofitz, Prof. Yaakov Katriel, Dr. Uri Davis, Yosefa Mekaiten, Dr. Hannah Safran, Bilha Golan, Prof. Avner Giladi, Dr. Anat Matar, Dr. Ilan Saban, Dr. Yuval Yanai, Prof. Vered Kraus, Prof. Michah Leshem, Mira Livne, Dr. Avner Cohen, Prof. Tamar Kartiel, Michal Kristal, Dr. Osnat Barthur, Tsili Goldenberg, Moran Ezran, Ofer Neiman, Rivi Diamond, Yael Ben-Zvi, Matan Israeli, Prof. Isaac (Yanni) Nevo, Michal Goldberg, Dr. Irena Botvinick, Prof. David Enoch, Prof. Elizabeth Freund, Prof. Shlomi Segel, Yanay Israeli, Dr. Lin Chalozin-Dovrat, Dr. Zohar Weiman-Kalman, Dr. Yael Shenkar, Prof. Ben-Zion Munitz, Dr. Meir Amor, Alma Itzhaky, Dr. Tamar Razi, Prof. Haim Bereshit, Tamara Rickman, Nitzan Shoshan, Prof. Ruth Weintraub, Prof. Oded Goldreich, Dr. Amos Goldberg, Dr. Dalia Zakash, Prof. Yigal Bronner, Dr. Snait Gissis, Dr. Tamar Hagar, Avital Barak, Prof. Tal Siloni, Dr. Chaim Deuelle Luski, Dr. Nihaya Daoud, Adam Maor, Dr. Arnon Levy, Dr. Eyal Shimoni, Dr. Tamar Berger, Prof. Rachel Giora, Dr. Anat Barkai, Atty. Yifat Solel, Dr. Dafna Hirsch, Dr. Smadar Sharon, Prof. Shlomo Moran, Prof. Yossi Dahan, Prof. Yehuda Shenhav, Dr. Almog Behar, Dr. Itay Snir, Anat Asher, Prof. Alon Harel, Dr. Michal Arbel, Anat Even, Yaen Maayan, Dr. Yael Berda, Prof. Aner Perminger, Tammy Riklis, Dr. Tali Bitan, Na’aman Hirschfeld, Dr. Hagit Benbaji, Prof. Yosef Neuman, Dr. Roi Wagner, Dr. Julia Resnik, Prof. Naomi Shir, Dr. Anat Rimor Or, Prof. Orna Sasson-Levy, Gideon Spiro, Yosef Grinfeld, Tammy Barkai, Tamara Santos Traubman, Irit Sela, Ron Maklef, Ofer Shor, Dr. Ayelet Ben Yishai, Prof. Kobi Peter (Peterzil), Prof. Jérôme Bourdon, Dr. Elisheva Sadan, Prof. Amir Shpilka, Prof. Hagai Ginzburg, Dr. Yoav Kani, Dr. Shaul Seter, Yaron Cohen, Prof. Dana Ron, Pioter Shmugliakov, Leah Eini, Einat Weitzman, Itay Tiran, Prof. Natalie Rothman, Dr. Ofer Cassif, Prof. Avner Ben-Amos, Dr. Naomi Zusman, Dr. Catherine Rottenberg, Prof. Neve Gordon, Dr. Yonit Efron, Yuval Gluska, Dr. Aronon Keren, Yifat Mohar, Liat Segal, Iris Bar, Yoav Haifawi, Dr. Yosi Amitai, Eilat Hen, Rotem Reptor, Rina Shomron, Itay Tiran, Einat Weitzman, Doron Tavori.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets. Read it here.

How Dareen Tatour was forced to sign a “confession” she was not allowed to read!


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Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour is in detention for over a year now, while her trial for “incitement” is being held in the Israeli court in Nazareth. You can find here a detailed report from her trial’s hearing on September 6, 2016. It was initially published in Hebrew in “Haifa Ha-Hofshit”. It was later used by writer Kim Jensen for an article in Mondoweiss on the occasion of one year of Tatour’s detention. Here an English translation is published in full detail (and my broken English) for the first time.

Poet Dareen Tatour’s trial: the truth behind the interrogations’ protocols exposed

After almost a year in detention, poet Dareen Tatour was supposed to take the stand for the first time and give her version of the events that led to her arrest. However, her testimony was postponed after the court failed to find an adequate translator.

On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, after five months of hearings, the prosecution finished resting its case with the testimony of another policeman. The cross-examination revealed that the relationship between the protocols that were submitted to the court, which are supposed to document the police interrogations of Tatour, and the reality as seen in the video documentation, is partial and tendentious at best.

Tatour arrived in the Nazareth Magistrates’ Court ready to testify. It is hard to describe the tension ahead of this testimony, which may be the highest point in the trial. A small group of activists, including three Knesset members from “The Joint List”, Ayman Odeh, Dr. Basel Ghattas and Hanin Zo’abi, came to support her.

Dareen Tatour, 34, a Palestinian poet from Reineh near Nazareth, was arrested in a pre-dawn police raid on her home on October 11, 2015. On November 2, 2015, the prosecution filed an indictment against her on charges of incitement to violence and supporting a terrorist organization. The charges are based on the poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them” and two Facebook statuses.

After spending three months in various prisons (Jalameh, Ha-Sharon and Damoun) Tatour was transferred to house arrest away from her home in Reineh. In late July, following a long legal and public struggle, the court allowed her to continue her house arrest in her home, but she is still subject to very restrictive conditions.

Lost in Translation

Even before the prosecution finished resting its case, Judge Adi Bambiliya announced that Tatour will testify on September 6 and that after it the parties should summaries. As mentioned above, the testimony that was supposed to be the center of the hearing yesterday, didn’t take place. Tatour announced that she prefers to testify in her own language, Arabic, to be able to express her position in the clearest and most accurate way. The court summoned a translator. Translation between Arabic and Hebrew is a routine part of the court’s procedures in Nazareth. But when the translator arrived he said that due to his personal connections with the Tatour family he disqualify himself from translating in this trial. The judge looked for another translator, but to no avail.


Dareen with supporters before the beginning of the hearing, including Knesset members Zoabi and Ghattas

The prosecutor objected and said that Tatour has no problem to speak Hebrew. She pointed to the fact that the protocols of Dareen’s interrogations in the police were all written in Hebrew. She tried to move the judge to compel the poet to testify – but this time her plea was rejected. The prosecutor, who never misses an opportunity to embitter the life of Tatour, noted and emphasized that the delay is “the fault of the defense” and therefore there should not be any relief in Dareen’s detention over the next months. Currently, if the state succeeds to find an appropriate translator, Tatour will take the stand on November 17. An additional hearing was set to November 24, for the testimony of defense witnesses.

At the center of the indictment stands, as mentioned, the poem “Resist”. A Hebrew version of the poem, as translated by a policeman, Warrant Officer Nissim Bishara, is listed in the indictment. Bishara, a policeman with 30 years’ experience at Nazareth police station, testified in April that his qualifications for translating the poem stem from his studies of literature in high school and his love of the Arabic language. Anyway – he is not a translator.

But will Dareen Tatour have the opportunity to challenge the police’s translation and present an alternative, perhaps more faithful to the original? A few days ago the prosecutor on behalf of the State Attorney, Attorney Alina Hardak, sent a letter to the defense lawyer Abed Fahoum, where she informs him that because he had not yet submitted an alternative translation of the poem he will not be able to do it anymore. Imagine the reaction of surprise and wrath from the prosecutor during the hearing when Fahoum announced that he intends to bring an expert translator and other expert witnesses to testify for the defense.

Finally, the prosecutor announced that she demands that the next hearing will be captured on video so that the prosecution will be able to check later the testimony of Dareen in Arabic beyond the translation and beyond what will be written in the protocol. This is just another step further in the unprecedented escalation taken by the prosecution to incriminate the poet at all costs.


Photo by Oren Ziv, Activestills

A Police Film or a Western?

Do you know the story about the mice that ate a tape with a movie? Later, when asked if they liked the movie, they replied that “the book was better”… This is also the opinion of many of my friends who are used to watch films and read books. But it seems that as far as police interrogations are concerned, the contrary is correct.

At the beginning of the hearing, before Dareen was called to testify, we heard policeman Samer Khalil, the last of the prosecution’s witnesses. Khalil interrogated Tatour, her fourth interrogation out of five. His testimony was required in order to submit the interrogation’s protocol to the judge.

In cross-examination the defense attorney presented a videotape of the interrogation, known as “Inbal” in police jargon, and confronted it with the virtual reality as described in the protocol.

Although the protocol mentioned only one interrogator, the same Samer Khalil, he admitted in his testimony that there were other people in the room, but he didn’t remember who they were. Looking at the video he identified them as police officers, named Haim Sivoni and Ezri Zelinger, who were responsible for the case. True, he admitted, it is common practice to write down which police officers are present in the interrogation. Why he didn’t do it this time he doesn’t know.

Beyond the practice of omitting facts from the protocol, which was proven later as consistent pattern, omitting any mention of Sivoni and Zelinger is part of the picture that was revealed throughout the trial about the luxurious life offered to  Jewish officers in the apartheid system as practiced in the Nazareth police. All the police witnesses were Arab: they sign the arrest reports, ask questions, translate, write the protocols and testify in court. Jewish officers just tell them what to do, who should they detain, what to ask and what to write. They don’t sign anything, don’t do paperwork and nobody asks them anything, nor their obedient subordinates, neither bothersome attorneys in court.

Three fat cats

The cross-examination was composed mainly of segment from the video that the defense lawyer requested the policeman to watch. After watching each segment he was requested to translate what he heard and point out to the court where it appears in the protocol.

There were sections that the officer refused to translate claiming that “there is no direct translation for it from Arabic to Hebrew” – this after he, of course, translated the whole interrogation protocol. This time the translation work was divided between the evasive cop and the defense attorney who volunteered to help him when he was struggling. And what about the connection between the video and the protocol? It turned out that all the segments which we watched didn’t appear in the protocol of the interrogation that was submitted to the court!

In most of the viewed scenes the policemen were talking with Tatour, shouting at her and trying to convince her that she was “in trouble” and she had to “confess”. The reasons given for not writing it down in the protocol were many and varied… Starting with “You can write it all” through “She did not understand the question so I explained it to her one more time” (how polite of him) to “All is in video anyway. They had to transcribe the video. I don’t know why it was not done”.

When Dareen replied with an answer that the policeman didn’t like, her reply also was not written. He explained that “she didn’t answer my question, so I didn’t write it”.

Anyone who reads the protocols submitted to the court can have the impression that questions were asked and Tatour replied whatever she wanted to reply. The general impression from what we saw in the video was more reminiscent of three fat cats abusing a bird they hunted. They are shouting at her, trying to force her to say things contrary to her will and put words in her mouth. Her faint voice sounded like an occasional squeak between their shouts.

What is written in the protocol?

If you received the impression that I was slandering the interrogators in order to undermine the credibility of the protocols because Tatour confessed during her interrogation of serious crimes – Well the opposite is true. During the five interrogations Dareen “confessed” of owning her Facebook pages and explained that the materials published there are a legitimate protest against the crimes of the occupation and settlers’ terrorism against the Palestinian population.

This is also the message she intended to convey in her delayed testimony.

The sayings attributed to Tatour in the interrogation’s protocols are full of jumbled phrases like “I wrote that it is our rights as a people to prevent us from visiting the holy places this is my intention from the publication, and it is true that I published what you suspect me of, but I had no intention to violence only to ask his right in the shape peace and we are in a democratic state and if I knew that the words that I wrote is considered as incitement I would not write…” (The Hebrew original is full of printing, grammar and syntax errors).


“Q: You are suspected of participating in conferences. Who invited you?

“A: Only twice and no more. Once in Kafr Qasim in memory of Magzara 58, and the second time in Nazareth in 2013, International Women’s Day… and there was a conference for gifted children and I read poetry”. (Majzarah – in Arabic massacre. Somehow the policemen failed or didn’t want to translate it.)

Perhaps the most “criminalizing” phrase in the interrogation is the following:

“Q: Of all your publication we see that you did and called upon people to stand up against the state of Israel and its citizens and you showed things about it?

“A: I refuse to answer this question, and according to the Israeli interrogator it is true that I published things against the State of Israel.”

But immediately below:

“Q: According to what law are you going?

“A: Sure according to the Israeli interrogator.

“Q: Do you feel you’ve violated the Israeli law and he incited people to violence against the state and the citizens?

“A: no.”

First some linguistic hints to the maze. In Hebrew “law” is spelled “hok” and interrogator is spelled “hoker”, and the difference is just one letter. Apparently the “hoker” wanted to write “hok” but spelled it wrongly twice.

Well, if so far the typing mistakes and jumbled phrases were mostly a comic relief, here what appears to be printing errors summaries the whole interrogation: Tatour is not a criminal under the law but according to the “Israeli interrogator “.


Dareen and court room 27, where all this incredible show takes place

Dead End

At the end of the interrogation the protocol reads: “This announcement was read to me and approved with my signature”. Indeed, Dareen’s signature appears at the bottom of the interrogation protocol that was submitted to the court.

When asked whether Dareen read the protocol before she signed it the policeman said that no, there was no need for it. Did she request to read it? The witness did not remember. So he was allowed to watch the “signing ceremony” in the video.

He explained that Tatour really requested to read the protocol before signing it. But he told her that there is no need for her to read it because everything is recorded on video and she will be able to complain later if something is not accurate.

He also said that he allowed Tatour to read the protocol after signing it. To the question “how?” he explained that he gave a copy of the signed protocol to the policeman that took Dareen to the court. Did the escort officer indeed give Dareen the protocol? He doesn’t know…

Meanwhile poet Dareen Tatour is detained for nearly a year on the basis of cooked protocols and distorted translations. Indeed, she would be able to complain about that later!


Why were they arrested? For being Arab…


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Over the last couple of weeks, three dozen leaders and activists of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA, AKA Tajamu or Balad) were arrested by the Israeli racist police. Below is a post that I published in Hebrew in “Haifa Ha-Hofshit” on September 24, at the height of the persecutions campaign. Yesterday, Sunday, October 2, the last of the detainees, local council member Murad Hadad from Shefa’amer, was transferred to house detention.imprisoned-behind-bars

Cause and effect

John and Jack made the same traffic violation. Rich John was treated gently by the police and the court, had a good lawyer and finally got off with paying a fine. Unfortunately Jack is poor, he couldn’t afford proper legal defense and the police and courts treated him with impatience and suspicion. Finally, he finds himself in jail. It would be wrong to say that he is in jail because of a traffic violation. Jack is in prison because he is poor.

Why NDA members were arrested?

On Sunday, September 18, 2016, in a pre-dawn semi-military operation, police raided the homes of 23 members of “Al-Tagamu Al-Watani Al-Dimokrati” (NDA) in Arab towns and villages from the Naqab desert in the south through the Triangle and up to the Galilee in the north. They arrested “suspects” and confiscated equipment. The detainees included national leaders, key activists and a number of lawyers and accountants that handle the affairs of the party. On Wednesday another 13 key activist were arrested in similar pre-dawn raids.


Waiting for the remand hearing – Haifa court, Sunday, September 18, 2016

On Sunday afternoon the first 23 detainees were brought for a remand hearing, some of them in Haifa and the rest in Rishon Le-Zion, the seat of “investigating unit”, Lahav 433. After waiting for hours in the corridors of the Haifa court I succeeded to attend the remand hearings of my friend Awad Abed Al-Fattah, The NDA’s Chairman, and several other detainees. It turned out that the accusations are about donations allegedly brought from abroad to finance the party’s activities. The prosecution claimed that the donations were not registered properly, in violation of regulations concerning party financing. There were no claims of corruption or personal gains.

Whoever follows Israeli news knows that all parties in Israel regularly face similar charges, and other much more serious concerning blatant corruption, on much larger scale. Particularly there are charges of corruption, accepting multi-million dollars in unreported transfers from foreign tycoons, against the main Zionist parties, Likud and “The Zionist Camp”. We never heard about nightly raids and mass arrests against leaders and members of these parties.


Nazareth united Demo supporting NDA detainees, Tuesday, September 20

The only reasonable explanation for the detention of the Tajamu members is that they were arrested because they are Arabs. If you want to be more precise you can add that they were arrested because they are Palestinian Arabs who dare to criticize the racist policies of the Israeli government and demand democracy and equal rights for their people.

A Severe Accusation

In the 80s I studied at the Technion in Haifa. It happened that, by that period, a young woman from Haifa, a soldier in the Israeli army, disappeared. Some piece of cloth that might have belonged to her was found near the Technion. The “investigating team” in the racist Haifa police decided to interrogate all the Arab students at the Technion…

Invitations were sent to hundreds of Arab students to appear for questioning. Anyone who didn’t receive the invitation, or failed to appear on time for any other reason, was hunted by the police from the lectures’ halls and taken to the police headquarters in Haifa’s downtown.

Friends that were detained in this campaign told me about the following incident:

While sitting in the corridors of the Haifa police, waiting to go in for questioning, they were approached by an old Arab man, who greeted them and asked:

  • And you guys, what are you detained for?
  • We? Just because we are Arabs…

The old man looked at them worried and said:

  • You are in trouble guys… this is a severe accusation!

One can also die from it

The Israeli government prevents the building of a hospital in Sakhnin, the main urban center in the middle of the Galilee, which is more than half an hour’s drive from the nearest hospital. As a result, if anyone in this region is wounded in a car accident, or goes through a heart attack or a stroke, his chances of staying alive decline significantly.

Whoever died due to failure to receive timely medical treatment didn’t die of a heart attack or a stroke. He died, in accordance with the political decision of the government of Israel, because he is an Arab.


Poetry is simply Dareen, and Dareen is Poetry


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Interview by Jessica Rohan

The following interview with poet Dareen Tatour was Published in WARSCAPES in September 9, 2016. You can read the original interview in Arabic in Haifa Al-Hurah.

Editor’s note: Dareen Tatour’s trial scheduled for September 6th could not proceed due to the lack of an Arabic translator for Dareen’s testimony. Her trial resumes in November.

Jessica Rohan: Others accused in minor incidents of incitement via Facebook were allowed to remain under house arrest during trial, yet you were jailed for three months while the prosecution appeared to be appealing for a harsher ruling from the District Court. Why do you think your case was handled in this exceptional manner? Why do you think you were forced to serve your house arrest in another location?dareen-tatour-profile-digital-800px-wide

Dareen Tatour: I’m still trying to understand why they’re acting so aggressively in my case, unlike others facing charges similar to mine. The public prosecutor claims that I pose a danger and that having me under house arrest is dangerous. But what is this danger and against whom? I still don’t know until today and after all this time. They have detained me for three months and refused to let me go home to my family. They detained me away from my hometown and my environment. I still have no answer to your question, because their behavior is illogical. In fact, it’s self-contradictory. For one thing, they claim that I pose a danger to jews but then they sent me to a Jewish area. Then, they claimed that I pose a danger to my own family and community. How is it that I’m charged with inciting against the state and at the same time pose a threat to my own people? I ask these questions and can’t find any answers

JR: Your charges did not include a violent crime, yet you were arrested in a police raid on your home at 3am. Why do you think that law enforcement chose to arrest you in that manner?

DT: I don’t know what caused them to raid my house so violently. It surprised me when i was detained. They didn’t even have an arrest warrant. I think what happened is part of a systematic policy against Palestinians in general and against the Arab minority in Israel in particular. What happened with me is part of the occupation under which we Palestinians live, and part of the discrimination we face from all parties and political institutions of the state.

JR: You’ve stated that you feel unfairly targeted as a poet. Why do you think the Israeli state chose to act in the manner that they did?

DT: The fact that the poem was listed in the charge against me explains the crisis that Israel’s democracy is going through. The reality I’ve lived confirms that. In my opinion, the only explanation for detaining me as a poet is that democracy in this state applies only for a specific group, and is not a democracy for all. This is part of the discrimination against Arabs I spoke of earlier.

JR: Who were the volunteer guards who monitored you in Tel Aviv? How were they chosen?

DT: It is very saddening that my brother and his fiancé became my guards while I was under house arrest in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv, away from home. The conditions were so harsh and restrictive that they were virtually detained with me.

JR: +972 reported that you requested to be returned to jail rather than remain in Kiryat Ono to await approval to continue house arrest in your family home. Why is that?

DT: I suffered greatly being under house arrest away from home. That’s what made me decide to go back to prison instead of going back to house arrest in Kiryat Ono even for one day. Under house arrest away from home, I was in solitary confinement for six months, which was beyond human tolerance. I had no way to get out of that but to go back to prison.

JR: The stated qualifications of the policeman who translated your poem into Hebrew was his study of literature in high school and a love for the Arabic language. He testified at the trial, where the prosecution and the judge essentially analyzed your poem to determine whether it constituted incitement. Why do you think that a more qualified translator was not used in court?

DT: Because this police officer serves and supports the position of the prosecutor’s office. To bring a real translator means proving my innocence of the charge of incitement in the poem.  Of course this is not what the prosecutor wants.

JR: The solidarity campaign on your behalf included a letter signed by hundreds of fellow writers and artists. Do you think that your status as a poet helped to generate the international backlash against the Israeli government in your case

DT: Of course. Being a poet helped publicize my case internationally and led to expressions of solidarity by hundreds of poets and writers. There are more than 400 Palestinian detainees held for charges related to freedom of expression. They have not found anyone to speak for them. I wish that each Palestinian detainee facing such charges would become an international cause. This is a humanitarian cause before it is a personal one for a poet like me.

JR: Do you think that the solidarity campaign could continue to influence the outcome of your case when the trial resumes on September 6th?

DT: Since my case has become internationally known and a case of public opinion on the freedom of expression, I learned from my lawyer that the prosecutor became very concerned about the wide-spread attention. I can say, and even confirm, that the solidarity campaign could affect the course of the upcoming trial, just like it did in the decision to place me under house arrest in my house in Reineh.

I could also say that my cause has become the cause of every Palestinian, which is protecting rights or an attempt to restore the rights of Palestinians violated by Israel, first of which is freedom of expression.

JR: Do you have a particular vision about what you hope to write or achieve as a poet in the future?

DT: The definite answer for me is that I will continue my work as an artist, writing poetry and doing photography, just as I did before detention. And I will never give up. Poetry is my whole life. Poetry is simply Dareen, and Dareen is poetry.

This translation of this interview from Arabic to English was facilitated by Lubna Hammad of Adalah-NY and Yoav Haifawi.

Dareen Tatour, imprisoned Palestinian poet, shares her story


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Exclusive interview with Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour from her home, where she remains under house arrest


(This interview was published in on August 10, 2016)

Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested because of her posts on social media.

In October, police raided her home in the middle of the night. They handcuffed Tatour, a 35-year-old poet, and took her away.dareen_tatour

“You look like a terrorist,” an interrogator told her. The Israeli government accused Tatour of inciting violence with her poetry and Facebook posts.

She faces up to eight years in prison, if convicted on all charges. Her case is still pending, and the trial will resume on Sep. 6.

Tatour has already spent three months in Israeli prisons, and another six months under house arrest in an apartment near Tel Aviv, which her family was forced to pay for.

In late July, an Israeli judge ruled that she can continue her house arrest in her family’s home near Nazareth.

The judge’s decision came after more than 250 prominent writers, intellectuals and artists published an open letter calling for Tatour’s release. Among those who endorsed the letter were Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Dave Eggers, Claudia Rankine and 10 Pulitzer Prize winners, including renowned poet Alice Walker and journalist Kathryn Schulz.

Since then, more than 7,000 people have signed the letter, and activists have created an international solidarity campaign in support of Tatour.

Tatour’s story is one of many. From October 2015 to July 2016, the Israeli government arrested roughly 400 Palestinians for social media posts, according to local rights groups.

Yet her case has gotten particular international attention, given its chilling implications for civil rights for Palestinians in Israel, the U.S. government’s closest ally.

U.S. social justice group Jewish Voice for Peace recently published a video message featuring Tatour in her home in Reineh, an Israeli city near Nazareth, where she remains under house arrest.

Salon organized an interview with Tatour. The interview was conducted in person, in Arabic, and translated with the help of Yoav Haifawi.

Can you explain what has happened since your arrest and imprisonment?

I’m still detained and pending trial, since they burst in at 3:30 am on Oct. 11, 2015. A large police force raided our house, and asked my parents to call me, because they came to take me. They did not have an arrest warrant, violating the most basic laws.

After my interrogation they decided to put me on trial and to hold me in prison until the end of the trial. I can say that the interrogation and the trial are a farce and a shame for any system that claims to be democratic.

Initially I was jailed for three months, during which I was transferred between three prisons: Jalameh, Sharon and Damoun.

Later, the court put me under house arrest in the Tel Aviv area, and this meant I was in exile far away from my town. I stayed there for over six months, during which I was prevented from going out and from communicating over the internet at all times, day and night.

Then, in the wake of the mounting solidarity campaign protesting the undemocratic practices against me, I was transferred to the house arrest in my town, Reineh. Here, I’m not allowed to go out, except for just six hours per week, and they’re making me wear an unremovable electronic bracelet on my ankle to monitor my movements.

What were the conditions like in the prisons? Can you talk about your experience and the other Palestinian prisoners?

First, there are thousands of Palestinian prisoners serving sentences in Israeli jails, and among them women and children — in addition to administrative detainees, who are being held by Israel without charge, and of course without trial, for an unknown period, because, according to the emergency laws, administrative detention can be extended repeatedly with no limit.

When I was in prison I was with Palestinian women prisoners. I experienced the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners in all humanitarian aspects. I witnessed the neglect they suffer in Israeli jails, in terms of environmental and health conditions, and cruel treatment.

The prisoners in general, and especially women prisoners, are deprived of basic human rights, and I mean especially the right to receive proper medical treatment.

Israeli prisons are full of injustice; whatever I say will not be enough to describe the life of Palestinian prisoners there. I met there innocent women prisoners who didn’t commit any crime.

For example, I was arrested because of a poem, and I met a girl who was detained because she wrote a private letter to her sister about personal and family concerns, and because she said the word “suicide,” she was thrown in jail for three months.

Why do you think Israel is going after poets and other artists, and arresting Palestinians for social media posts?

The political persecution, detentions and restrictions on freedom of expression, in my opinion, are a symptom of the crisis of Israel. As the Zionist authorities intensify repression and step up their incitement campaigns against Palestinians, they feel more weakness and impotence.

On the one hand the Palestinians increasingly reject their colonial practices and racial oppression; on the other hand, as a response to the emerging culture of hatred at the popular level, an opposing anti-fascist stream is taking shape in Israeli society. This puts Israel in a dilemma, forcing it to step up its repression, thus exposing the Israeli regime as anti-democratic.

Is it hypocritical for Israel to insist it is a democracy while it arrests people who criticize it?

Of course it is. Israel is not a democratic state. To the extent that it is democratic, its democracy applies only to one category of people, of citizens — that is, it is only democracy for Jews. For this reason I call it sectarian democracy or fake or hypocritical democracy.

However, even this kind of democracy started collapsing recently, as I explained in the previous answer.

Do you know if the letter from the 250 literary figures helped improve your situation?

Yes, of course. The solidarity campaign, including the petition, which was signed by many artists, writers and people from all over the world, helped very much.

In the beginning the conditions of my detention were very harsh. I was detained for several months in a house near Tel Aviv, away from my family and the place where I used to live. I was completely isolated from people; I was prevented from leaving the house altogether. It was more like a detention in solitary isolation cell in exile. It continued like this for more than six months.

Before the escalation of the solidarity campaign, my lawyer filed a request to transfer my home detention from Tel Aviv to Reineh — my town — but the prosecution strongly objected, refusing even to let my request be heard in court.

However, after the publication of the petition, it changed its attitude to the request, and eventually approved. My return from Tel Aviv to house arrest in Reineh greatly alleviated the conditions of my detention.

Do you think that continuing public pressure may influence the final verdict in your case?

Yes, definitely, the public response to the call for solidarity in my case, and around the issue of freedom of expression in general, is the only effective pressure that may change this unfortunate situation.

I believe that public pressure may force the Israeli authorities to reconsider the persecution of Palestinian artists, writers and young activists just because they express their rejection of oppression.

What gives you hope?

Hope is the foundation of life. There is a saying that I used to repeat before my arrest, and I still say it: “We dream in order to continue living.” Here I compare dreams with hope, because without hope we are going to die even as we are alive, and only our bodies will remain.

Hope is the sense of life, of freedom, of safety. It is what gives meaning to everything experienced by humans; we breathe hope to live meaningful lives.

What can human rights activists in the U.S. and elsewhere do to help fight for your rights and the rights of other Palestinians?

The U.S. government is the world’s biggest supporter of Israel. Activists in American society can put pressure on Israel in order to shed light on the issue of freedom of expression and the harassment by the Israeli authorities against those who oppose their views.

Palestinian Arab people in Israel are facing campaign of racist incitement, on both official and popular levels. Attacks on them multiply just because they speak Arabic in public places. These are dangerous developments. In this regard, I believe human rights activists should sound the alarm before it is too late.

Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.