For the past year and half, a strange and disturbing drama has been playing out in a Haifa courtroom. In the defendant’s seat is a poet, on trial for a political poem she wrote, performed, and published on Facebook. Whether she goes to prison for publishing that poem rests largely on how the judge ultimately interprets a few words translated by a policeman whose main qualification is that he studied Arabic literature in high school.
All that — along with decades of policies meant to ensure there is only space for one national identity in a state that, whether its leaders want to believe it or not, is bi-national — set the stage for the arrest and trial of Dareen Tatour. Her story is a sign, symbol and symptom of the authoritarian tendencies rising in Israel and around the world. Her story is the story of potentially liberating and empowering technology being subverted by state authorities in order to oppress and suppress. Hers, unfortunately, is the story of 2017.