Israeli culture minister walks out on performance based on Palestinian poet’s work

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s minister of culture and sports, Miri Regev, walked out on an awards ceremony during a song based on a work by a Palestinian poet that the official said “hoped … for the death of the Jewish state.”

Arab-Israeli singer Mira Awad was performing the Mahmoud Darwish piece that sent Regev out of the Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers ceremony on Monday evening. Awad received an award for promoting Arab creativity within Israeli culture.

Darwish, who died in 2008, was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Regev said before the event that she would not stay in the auditorium for the song. She explained in an address to the audience that Darwish was a “Palestinian poet who hoped … for the death of the Jewish state, who wanted to eat the flesh of the ‘occupier.’”

She also said, “It’s clear to me and a very large public that this isn’t an artistic decision; it’s a political one,” Regev said. “You want Arab poetry? By all means. I’m the one who increased the budget for Arab artists, more than ever before.”

Awad said in a post on Facebook that Regev was mistranslating Darwish’s works and that she would never have performed words written by a Jew hater, The Times of Israel reported. She called on Regev to “educate yourself” on Darwish’s poetry. Awad posted the words to the poem, “Think About Others,” in Arabic, Hebrew, English and Spanish.

Regev caused a stir at the Ophir Awards, Israel’s Oscars, last September when she walked out in protest while the Arab-Israeli rapper Tamer Nafar performed a poem by Darwish. Regev returned to present the best film award and was loudly booed.

“I have a lot of tolerance for the ‘other,’ but I have no tolerance for Darwish and anyone who wants to eliminate Israel,” Regev said at the time.

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