Israeli Defense Chief Raps Radio Boss for Show on Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish

Avigdor Lieberman says the Palestinian poet’s works 'are still used as fuel for terror attacks against Israel.'

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Poet Mahmoud Darwish in Ramallah in 2007, a year before his death.
Poet Mahmoud Darwish in Ramallah in 2007, a year before his death. Credit: Nir Kafri

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has summoned Army Radio chief Yaron Dekel because of the broadcast Tuesday night about Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish – part of a series on formative Israeli texts in the station’s “University on the Air” program.

“This is a serious issue in which someone who has written texts against Zionism – which are still used as fuel for terror attacks against Israel – is included with his works as part of Israeli society’s formative texts,” Lieberman said via his communications adviser.

Lieberman mentioned Naomi Shemer’s song “Jerusalem of Gold” and Natan Alterman’s poem “The Silver Platter," saying these should not be on the same list as Darwish’s works.

“It’s obvious that this is something that constitutes a cultural decline and it’s impossible to continue with business as usual,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman during a faction meeting in the Knesset, June 6, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman

Darwish, who died in 2008, is often regarded as the Palestinian national poet. Poems by Darwish have long been an elective in advanced high school literature programs, though a former education minister once tried but failed to include the material in a compulsory curriculum.

His poem entitled “Think of the Other Person” is a part of a program about the Holocaust taught to Arab high school pupils. Two other poems are taught as electives in Arab high school literature programs, and some of his poetry is offered in other Israeli Arabic language and literature curricula.

About three weeks ago, Lieberman asked the director general of the Defense Ministry, Udi Adam, to consider Army Radio’s future. At the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, Lieberman said Adam must submit his conclusions by the beginning of September.