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Israel MK calls performance of Darwish poem a ‘provocation’

Darwish is known as Palestine's national poet, and stands as one of the most prominent figures of modern Palestinian literature
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev at the Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 2017 [Eli Sabati/Facebook
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev at the Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 2017 [Eli Sabati/Facebook

Israeli Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, yesterday expressed opposition to the recitation of a poem by renowned Palestinian author Mahmoud Darwish at an Israeli cultural event, calling it a “provocation” and requesting that the performance be cancelled, according to a Hebrew website.

According to news site Maariv, Mira Awwad, a famous Palestinian singer and actress with Israeli citizenship, is set to perform a Darwish poem during an award ceremony of the Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers in Israel (ACUM) today, where she is to receive a prize.

Darwish, who died in 2008, is known as Palestine’s national poet, and stands as one of the most prominent figures of modern Palestinian literature. He has long been criticised by Israeli political figures for his stance against the occupation.

Regev, who walked out of an Israeli movie award ceremony in September over the reading of a Darwish poem, has previously called the Palestinian writer the “leader of the Palestinian industry of lies” and objected to the performance of his works in Israel.

Read: Israel is a troubling guardian of the holy land

Regev reportedly asked ACUM to cancel Awwad’s performance, although the artists’ group rejected her request.

Responding to Regev’s opposition, Awwad said in a radio interview yesterday that she didn’t “understand why Miri Regev does not want to listen to Mahmoud Darwish’s poems. She hasn’t read his poems, and so she is quoting him completely wrong.”

“Identity Card,” a poem Darwish wrote in 1964 detailing the indignities of life subjected to the bureaucracy of the Israeli occupation, has often been targeted by Israeli authorities for including the lines:

“I do not hate people
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper’s flesh will be my food.”

“Mahmoud Darwish says in his poem about the occupation that he will eat the occupier’s flesh,” Awwad said. “If Miri Regev recognises that she is an occupier in her state, then this poem is talking about her. A sentence like ‘will eat the occupier’s flesh’ does not include incitement against all the Jewish people.”

In July, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman equated the broadcast of Darwish poetry on Israeli radio to glorifying Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”.

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