Israeli defence minister grills army radio over Palestinian poetry

AFP , Wednesday 20 Jul 2016

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish
Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish looks up before a reading of his poems during a book exhibition in Beirut April 13, 2007. (File Photo: REUTERS)

Hardline Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday summoned the head of the army radio station for "clarifications" over a programme on a Palestinian nationalist poet, the minister's spokesman said.

The state-run nationwide station, which is hugely popular with the general public, ran the item on the poet Mahmud Darwish on Tuesday as part of its educational "university of the air" series.

Spokesman Tzachi Moshe's Hebrew-language statement quoted Lieberman as saying that including Darwish and his works in the programme was "a grave matter".

It called the late poet "someone who has written texts against Zionism -- which to this day are used to fuel terror attacks against Israel."

Darwish, who died in the United States in 2008, was given a hero's funeral when his body was brought to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Arab Israeli parliamentarians and dozens of foreign dignitaries among the attendees.

Considered the Palestinian national poet, he authored their 1988 declaration of independence, won a number of international prizes and is widely considered one of the Arab world's greatest writers.

An army radio statement defended its broadcast on his work, saying that "academic freedom and openness give us an obligation to give listeners access to a wealth of ideas."

In the year 2000 left-wing education minister Yossi Sarid proposed adding Darwish to the national school curriculum but was overruled by then-prime minister Ehud Barak.

Israeli media reports say that Lieberman, who heads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, would like to shut down the army station which he views as leaning too far to the left.

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