Culture Minister Miri Regev walked out of the Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (
Israeli Arab singer Mira Awad, who received an award for promoting Arab creativity within Israeli culture, sang a song using the lyrics to Darwish’s “Think of Others.”
Regev made clear prior to the ceremony that she would exit the Tel Aviv assembly hall rather than listen to the song, which was performed as planned.
Beforehand, the culture minister addressed the crowd, lambasting both ACUM and Darwish. She described him as a “Palestinian poet who hoped… for the death of the Jewish state, who wanted to eat the flesh of the ‘occupier’ and even extended beyond mere words by joining the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization).”
Regev welcomed the option of celebrating other Arab songs and poems, “but Darwish is another saga,” she argued. “It is permissible to say and I say so here: Arabic poetry — yes, Darwish — no.”
In a Sunday Facebook post defending her decision to perform the song, Awad said that Regev was mistranslating the lyrics. “I am appalled at the continuing raging incitement against the late poet and his poetry,” she added.
Awad went on to invite Regev to “educate herself” on Dawish’s poetry, saying she would “never have composed a text written by a Jew hater.”
Darwish, who died in 2008, is considered a Palestinian national symbol and was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Born in a village that later became part of northern Israel and a resident of countries including Lebanon, France and Jordan, he spent part of the last years of his life in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Darwish was a frequent visitor to Israel, where four of his books were translated into Hebrew.
He was critical of Israel as well as of terror group Hamas, which currently rules the Gaza Strip.
In 2000, the Education Ministry briefly considered adding him to school curriculum, but pulled the idea after right-wing outcry.
In September 2016, Regev made a similar scene by walking out of the assembly hall when a Darwish poem was recited at the Ophir (‘Israeli Oscars’) Awards. She later returned and addressed the audience, but was booed and several audience members walked out during her speech.
Then, Regev came under fire after saying that Arab Israeli actors who stood up and raised one hand in protest as Darwish’s poem was read were making “a Nazi salute.”
Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh said then that Regev “abused the memory of the Holocaust” by making the comparison.
“In the face of ignorance and racism from the minister of culture there rises a new generation of Palestinian artists and creators who are citizens of the state and choose art as the instrument of struggle,” Odeh wrote on Facebook.
Regev drew angry reactions from actors last year when she discussed withdrawing funding from a Jaffa port theater run by Arab actor Norman Issa, because he had refused to take part in a Haifa Theater production in the Jordan Valley, considered part of the West Bank.
In 2015 Regev took aim at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, when the art house theater promoted the 48mm Festival, known also as The Third International Film Festival on Nakba and Return.
Jessica Steinberg contributed to this report.