Fw: Poetic justice

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Fri May 11 08:44:31 MDT 2001

[BOUNCE Non-member submission from
 ["Paul Flewers" <hatchet.job at virgin.net>]]

List Readers will be dismayed but not surprised by this latest act by
the Israeli authorities.

Paul F


----- Original Message -----
From: Moshe' Machover
To: moshe.machover at kcl.ac.uk
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2001 12:17 PM
Subject: Poetic justice

A special item for poetry lovers


 Ha'aretz, Thursday, May 10, 2001

 Poetry reading Shin Bet applies pressure to Israeli Arab writers

Not since the first Intifada has the government been so suspicious of
Arab writers now being hauled in for questioning.

 By Jalal Bana and Ori Nir

The Shin Bet has been hauling in Israeli Arab authors, journalists,
publishers, and even poets for "clarification and explanatory
conversations" - asking them questions about their writings.  Some of
those questioned say they were warned not to write anything that could
be construed as incitement.

The writers regard the questioning as an attack on their freedom of
expression and an attempt to intimidate them.  The Prime Minister's
Office confirms writers have been questioned because of
"extremist-nationalist" writing.

For many years there have been very few cases of security services
intervening in the writing of Israeli Arabs.  Now, there has not been
such an intensive campaign against them since the 1980s, during the
first Intifada when the government worried that writing it regarded as
"incitement" would pull the Palestinian violence in the territories
across into Israel proper.

In the last month, Shin Bet has questioned the three publishers of
Saut al Halk u'al-Huriya, published by the northern faction of the
Islamic movement, poet-columnist Abdel Hakim Masalha, and veteran
journalist Muhamad Ali Taha.

Taha, chairman of the Israeli Arab Writers Union, was chosen by the
Supreme Israeli Arab Monitoring Committee to serve as the head of the
Naqba committee three years ago.  He usually writes about Palestinian
nationalist affairs.  A month ago, while hosting his friend former
justice minister Yossi Beilin, he was served a warrant ordering him to
appear at the Misgav police station.

There, he was questioned by two Shin Bet officers who identified
themselves as Yarden and Yaniv.  They questioned him mostly about his
contacts with people in the Palestinian Authority and his role
organizing a joint rally by Israeli Arab and Palestinian intellectuals
last March.

Taha said that Yarden told him he was forbidden to enter PA-controlled
areas, and warned him about incitement in his articles and speeches.
According to Taha, his interrogators also demanded that he "be
careful" in his writing because of its impact on the Israeli Arab
community.  The interrogators, said Taha, told him they "know
everything" about him and that they have "a large file" on him.  They
quoted from his poetry and other publications.  "They did a doctorate
on my my writing before calling me in," says Taha, but he adds that
he's known more difficult times.  In the mid-'80s, a book of his
poetry was banned, since the authorities claimed it was incitement.
It eventually came out due to pressure from human rights organizations
and Jewish intellectuals.

But it's not only famous, veteran writers whose work is being analyzed
by the Shin Bet.  Abdel Hakim Masalha from Kfar Kara, who makes his
living selling ads in the local Arabic-language press and as a
newspaper distributor, took up poetry after the start of the October
riots, which lit a warning lamp at the Shin Bet.

Forty years old, he was questioned last week in the Hadera police
station.  "A Shin Bet interrogator told me 'your poetry is dangerous'
and they told me 'we're following everything you write.'" They told
him to tone down his writing because "readers, especially the young
among them, could understand the writing as incitement."

Masalha began writing after the start of the rioting, and he usually
eulogizes the fallen, describing their mothers' suffering.  His two
best known poems are about Asil Asala, the high schooler killed during
rioting in Arabe, presumably by Border Patrol bullets, and Muhamad
al-Dura, the youngster shot dead in his father's arms during a fire
fight at the Erez junction early in the Intifada.  In other poems
Masalha mentions the Sabra and Chatilla massacres and anti-Arab
rhetoric of Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

The Prime Minister's Office said that Masalha was indeed questioned on
May 2, "about nationalist poetry published in Saut al Halk."  That
paper's publishers have also been questioned.  One, Ali Salah, was
questioned two months ago in the Beit Shean police station when he
returned from a business trip to Jordan.  Some CDs of Islamic music
were confiscated, and later returned.  A month ago he was called in
again by the Shin Bet and questioned for four hours, he says.

The questioning was mostly about his contacts with "hostile Islamic
organizations" and the reasons for his frequent trips to Jordan,
Europe and the PA. Salah owns an advertising agency and is a singer in
a band.  He says his trips were only for business purposes.

The PMO says that Salah was questioned "due to suspicion about
contacts with illegal hostile elements overseas and in Israel."  As
for the apparent increase in the number of Arab intellectuals under
Shin Bet surveillance, the PMO said that the security service "does
not give out information about its operations.

  © copyright 2001 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved

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