by Ofra Yeshua-Lyth
Published on AIC on September 21, 2016
For quite awhile, the world hasn’t encountered a person who killed his or her parents only to request mercy for being an orphan. Yet not a day passes without Israelis complaining about their state’s “bad image” in the international media, never stopping to consider the fact that the “image” is an accurate facsimile of a situation the precious state had created with its own senseless, merciless hands.
In a country in which the prime minister has succeeded in transforming even the concept of “ethnic cleansing” into a comical pause in our daily dose of tragedies, and where photographers are persecuted for documenting crimes committed by soldiers, we should not be surprised at the inventiveness of a young prosecutor in Nazareth’s district court. This week prosecutor Elina Hardak was given authority over the worldwide press garnered by Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, who has been detained for a year due to completely fabricated charges born of the imagination of the Israeli police and other security forces.
Thus complained prosecutor Hardak in district court during a September 12th hearing on Dareen’s request to allow her and her family to celebrate Eid Al Adha together outside of their home: “it is sufficient to type her name into the internet to see that the gag order is nothing more than a recommendation for her, although she is aware of this prohibition, a prohibition that was set from the very beginning given [her] violations and their nature.”
This is, of course, a most curious pronouncement, as never was a gag order imposed on the poet’s detention or absurd interrogations by the police, both of which produced charges seemingly lacking in any legal basis as well as hearings of that have been held in public court sessions for months. Even if such an order was imposed, it isn’t possible to accuse the poet of violating it. She already has been denied any possibility of public expression for a year.
However, the status of her case has been reported on in blogs of political activists both here and abroad, and, in their wake, also by popular media. The coverage of her case spread like wildfire thanks to Yoav Haifawi’s writing on Dareen’s case in his blog Free Haifa (but only after Dareen had sat for seven months in detention, including three in prison). What to do? Journalists and bloggers have a soft spot for stories of silencing and this case – involving a gentle, 34 year old woman whose freedom is denied and is defined as a “public danger” due to a text that was sloppily translated from Arabic to Hebrew – is too good of a story to pass up.
Now the prosecutor, in the name of the state, accuses Dareen of becoming a famous internet personality, as if it wasn’t the state and its uninhibited legal apparatus that plucked her from anonymity for writing an emotional post on the internet in the wake of the shooting of another young woman in Afula. The police and prosecution have turned Dareen into a symbol – with the intention, of course, of frightening and deterring other Israeli citizens from using their legitimate right of expression – in order to loudly proclaim that the state can silence anyone who rebels against its methods of oppression. It now bothers them that the world is talking about Dareen.
The mythological story of Picasso relates: a representative of the government (it doesn’t matter which) whose planes bombed the city of Guernica furiously approached Picasso during the 1937 World Fair in Paris. At the faire, Picasso’s huge painting “Guernica,” which presents the terrible suffering caused by the bombing of this city, was exhibited. “This is your work?” asked the government representative. The artist replied calmly, “no, this is your work.”
Without comparing, heaven forbid, it must be explained to prosecutor Hardak that the reports of Dareen Tatour are the sole creation of her and her dispatchers.