Court Convicts Arab Poet of Incitement

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

An Israeli court on Thursday convicted an Arab poet of online incitement to terrorism for using a poem as the soundtrack to images of Palestinians in violent confrontations with Israeli troops.

Dareen Tatour, 36, posted online a video of herself reading out her poem “Resist, My People, Resist,” accompanying footage of masked Palestinian youths throwing stones and firebombs at Israeli soldiers.

It was published in October 2015 during a wave of deadly Palestinian street attacks on Israelis. Tatour was arrested a few days later, and prosecutors said her post was a call for violence.

Tatour, who denied the charges, said her poem was misunderstood by the Israeli authorities. It read: “Resist, my people, resist them /Resist the settlers’ robbery/ And follow the caravan of martyrs.”

She said there was no call for violence in the poem, rather for a struggle, which Israeli authorities had cast as violent.

The Israeli judge convicted her, delivering a 52-page verdict that went into a detailed literary analysis of the text and video, and of the Arabic word “shaheed” – which means “martyr” in English.

Tatour’s case became a cause célèbre for freedom of speech advocates in Israel. It drew attention to the advanced technology used by Israeli security agencies to trawl through social media to identify and arrest users suspected of incitement to violence, or of planning attacks.

In her ruling, the Israeli judge came down against the defense’s interpretation of Tatour’s words, pointing to a separate post in which Tatour had used “shaheed” to describe a Palestinian assailant who had stabbed a 15-year-old Israeli.

“The combination leaves no interpretation of the word ‘martyr’ other than a violent interpretation that incites to terrorism, and to follow martyr-attackers,” the verdict said, rejecting defense witnesses who claimed that “shaheed” could refer to non-violent action as well.

Tatour was also charged with supporting a terrorist group. Prosecutors said she had expressed support for Islamic Jihad’s call for an uprising.

The average sentence in incitement cases is nine months, though the maximum term that Tatour could face is five years. The court has not issued a date for her sentencing.