Lieberman Compares Works by Palestinian National Poet to Hitler's 'Mein Kampf'

The defense minister admonishes Army Radio chief for a program about the poet, Mahmoud Darwish, broadcast by the station.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday compared Army Radio's broadcast of a program about Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish with "glorification of the literary marvels of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf."

Lieberman, as quoted by a ministry statement from a meeting with the radio's chief, Yaron Dekel, said the station's main role was to "strengthen social solidarity and not to widen social rifts."

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

A man walks past street art showing the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, in Erriadh, south of Tunis, Tunisia, October 28, 2015.
Mosa'ab Elshamy, AP

Lieberman asserted that "there is no intervention on the part of politicians in the programs broadcast on Army radio," the ministry statement said. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit phoned Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman late Wednesday to remind him he has no authority to intervene in Army Radio’s programming.

Lieberman said that "the military station's mission is to strengthen social solidarity and not to widen rifts, and certainly not to hurt public sensitivities."

Lieberman, who accused Darwish of calling for the expulsion of Jews in his poems, said further that as opposed to what the program posited, the poet cannot be included as part of Israel's narrative. He said that "by the same logic we could add the Mufti al-Husseini to the Israeli narrative or broadcast a glorification of the literary marvels of Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf.'

Army Radio chief Yaron Dekel, May, 2015.
Yossi Zeliger

Darwish, who died in 2008, is widely considered 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.

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.