Troublesome Arab Poetry Book Bound for Final Court Battle

A book of Arabic poetry that the government wants to ban because it praises anti-Israel violence will enter its third and apparently final court battle before the state’s High Court of Justice.

The poems attack the Israeli army and its soldiers, urging continued violent struggle against “the occupiers.”

Arab poet Shafik Habib, a resident of the Galilee village of Deir Hanna, was initially convicted by a local court in Acre for publishing writing that constituted incitement to terrorism.

The Haifa District Court, however, later acquitted the poet and permitted the book under rights guaranteeing freedom of speech.

The government has now petitioned the High Court, arguing that the district court did not properly interpret the anti-terrorism ordinance.

The district court acquitted Habib, reasoning that the poetry could not “directly cause the death of human beings.”

The state argued that the poems’ praise for acts of violence could lead to the death of human beings and did satisfy the standard required to ban it under existing law.

One of his poems praises Palestinian youths fighting Israeli soldiers: “The occupier, armed from head to tail with all sorts of American weapons, stands helplessly against an angry stone, thrown by the hand of a small child,” he wrote.

“Therefore, stone, crush the heads of those fools, whose hands are smeared with blood,” Habib wrote.

Another poem reads: “You were standing against the occupier bare as the sun, but protected like the night; not afraid of death, ridiculing the army by means of explosives and submachine guns.”

The state argues that these poems should not be protected by the right to free speech, since they amount to direct incitement for terrorist acts.

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