Poetry News

Joanna Chen Responds to the Plight of Dareen Tatour

By Harriet Staff

At Los Angeles Review of Books's blog series "The View From Here," literary translator Joanna Chen reacts to Palestinian poet and photographer Dareen Tatour's punishment (house arrest) for writing and publishing poems on social media critical of the Israeli government. Chen writes to LARB from her native Tel Aviv: "Palestinian poet and photographer Dareen Tatour will not be able to click and read the words I write here." Let's pick up there: 

She is under home arrest, trapped in the small town of Reinah in northern Israel with her parents. Whenever she needs to leave the house she must be accompanied by a court-approved guard. She wears an ankle monitor that tracks her movements. She is banned from using the internet. Her computer, with all her poems, has been confiscated.

Two and a half years ago, more than a dozen policemen swooped on her house at 3:30 in the morning. She was arrested and taken to the local police station, still wearing her pajamas, for hours of questioning, accused of supporting terrorism and inciting violence against the Jewish state. Her crime? Posting poems on social media. Her words, clumsily interpreted by a policeman with no background in literary translation, have been used as evidence against her. The title of one of her poems, “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” is apparently enough to go to jail if you happen to be Arab. Another text posted on Facebook includes the word shahid (martyr) which means “victim” in Palestinian culture. For Israelis, however, it connotes a suicide bomber, a person prepared to die while murdering others.

As a literary translator, I believe translation in its purest sense can be a bridge to understanding others, “a lens into the underground life of another culture”, as Cynthia Ozick noted. In this case, however, the clumsy translation offered by the prosecution has become Tatour’s indictment. In the latest hearing, Tatour was deemed a danger to the Israeli public and it is likely she will be sentenced at the end of the month to years in prison.

Read more at Los Angeles Review of Books.


Originally Published: May 30th, 2018