Broadcast on Palestinian poet Darwish puts Army Radio in crosshairs

Senior ministers slam public radio station over educational program that featured nationalist writer Mahmoud Darwish

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish seen during a signing for his new book in Amman, Jordan, February 23, 2008 (AP/Nader Daoud)
Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish seen during a signing for his new book in Amman, Jordan, February 23, 2008 (AP/Nader Daoud)

Israel’s Army Radio has come under fire by senior ministers after broadcasting an educational program on renowned Palestinian poet and author Mahmoud Darwish.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday summoned station director Yaron Dekel to explain why the nationalist Darwish was featured in the “fundamental Israeli texts” program on the station’s educational broadcast.

“It is a serious matter that the works of a man who wrote anti-Zionist texts that are used to fuel terrorism against Israel would be included in the Army Radio program alongside ‘Jerusalem of Gold,'” the classic 1967 song by Naomi Shemer, Liberman said.

“It’s clear this should not have happened, and it will not be ignored,” he added.

After the program aired Tuesday, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev slammed the state-funded station for “going off the rails.”

An Army Radio studio seen on February 4 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
An Army Radio studio seen on February 4 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“A publicly funded Defense Ministry radio station must not be allowed to highlight and glorify an anti-Israel narrative,” she told the Hebrew-language NRG website.

Army Radio, Regev charged, “is providing a platform to the Palestinian narrative that opposes the existence of Israel as a Jewish democratic state.”

“Darwish isn’t Israeli, and his writings are not Israeli, and are essentially in opposition to the core values of Israeli society,” she added.

Regev called on Liberman to intervene, urging him to defund the station.

In response to the criticism, Army Radio on Wednesday defended its programming, saying in a statement that its educational broadcasts sought to “enrich and engage” their listeners with a variety of ideas.

“On this platform we’ve hosted programs on various topics including the literary works of Rabbi Kook, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Theodor Herzl and Naomi Shemer, as well as the text of the Declaration of Independence.

“We believe that academic freedom obligates us to offer our listeners a wealth of ideas,” the station said.

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.

Earlier this year Army Radio courted controversy when an anchor compared bereaved Israelis to Palestinian families mourning relatives killed while carrying out attack against Israelis.

Last month, Liberman appointed Defense Ministry director Udi Adam to evaluate the necessity of Army Radio’s continuing operation. He told the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday that Adam’s recommendations would be submitted in September.

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