Palestinian poet Dareen Tartour was released from an Israeli prison yesterday after serving a five-month sentence, Haaretz has reported. Tartour, a 36-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel from Al-Reineh, just north of Nazareth, was imprisoned for posting a poem titled “Resist, my people, resist them” on social media. She was found guilty of “incitement to violence” and “supporting terrorist organisations”.
“I am very happy to have freedom at last after three years in prison, remand, house arrest with an electronic cuff and again house arrest,” said Tartour after her release. “At last I’m free, and I will continue writing. I will not stop. Of course I won’t. The whole case was about a poem.”
The poet was first arrested in October 2015 and served 97 days in prison. She was then released to house arrest but prevented from using her mobile phone or internet. Tartour’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, explained that there was no precedent in Israeli law for such restrictions being placed on her. In May, Tartour was convicted by Nazareth Magistrates’ Court. She was then sentenced in late July and served a further 42 days in prison until her release yesterday, +972 magazine explained.
PEN International – a global association of writers with a focus on freedom of expression – issued a statement condemning the conviction: “Dareen Tartour has been convicted for doing what writers do every day – we use our words to peacefully challenge injustice […] PEN will continue to call for justice in this case.”
Tartour is not the only Palestinian citizen of Israel to be arrested for her social media activity. Last week, prominent activist Raja Eghbaria was detained by Israel and interrogated “about Facebook status updates he posted over the past 12 months.” The following day, an Israeli court ruled that Eghbaria could be held in administrative detention without charge or trial while Israeli police “continued their investigations”. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre said in May that Israel has arrested 500 Palestinians, including women and children, as a result of their social media posts since the 2015 Jerusalem Intifada.
These arrests have been seen as part of Israel’s increasingly stringent attempts to crack down on freedom of expression, with the charge of “incitement” often levied against Palestinians. In August, the Knesset (parliament) passed the first reading of the so-called Facebook Bill, which would authorise Israeli courts to issue orders to delete internet content “if it harmed the human safety, public, economic, state or vital infrastructure safety”. The bill was due to be re-read before being made into law.
The Facebook Bill is the latest extension of the new “Cyber Unit” created within the Israeli government in 2017. The Unit will work to pressure social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter to crack down on any content deemed to be critical of Israel. According to the unit’s own figures, 69 per cent of its requests to remove content have been agreed to by the social media giants in question.