Mahmoud Darwish was a voice of his people. Darwish, who died in 2008 has long been recognised as Palestine's national poet both in Palestine and internationally. His poems expressed the Palestinian people's humanity and were a chronicle of his people's joys, as well as their rage, anger and sadness at their dispossession and oppression at the hands of the Israeli state.
While Darwish's poems are recognised internationally as resistance art, according to Israel's Defense Minister, Avigador Lieberman, they are no different to Hitler's Mein Kampf.
Lieberman, a Russian settler who lives in an illegal Israeli colony on illegally occupied Palestinian land, admonished Israel's Army Radio for broadcasting one of Darwish's most famous poem's, Identity Card. He was joined by former spokesperson for the the Israeli Occupation Military and now Israeli Cultural Minister, Miri Regev, in calling for Darwish's poems to be banned from Israel's airwaves.
Identity Card (see english translation of the poem below) was written by Darwish in 1964. It recounts the plight of Palestinian refugees living inside the Israeli state in the wake of the 1948 Nakba, when more than 1 million Palestinian were ethnically cleansed from their homes by Zionist forces.
During the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic), which refers to the destruction of Palestinian society, more than 500 Palestinians towns were forcibly depopulation by Zionist terror gangs (who became the base of the official "Israel Defence Force"). More than 750,000 Palestinians fled to neighbouring states, while another 150,000 - 170,000 Palestinians became internally displaced refugees inside the newly created Israeli state.
Between 1949 and 1966, those Palestinians who had become internally displaced were forced to live under Israeli martial law. These laws, which did not apply to Jewish citizens of the new state of Israel. Martial law impacted on every aspect of Palestinian life, placing restrictions on Palestinian access to education and employment, as well as banning political activity of any kind. Under martial law, all Arab political organisations banned.
Martial law also meant that Palestinians were subject to regular curfews and could not leave or enter their own towns without permits. It is this apartheid permit system and oppression of Palestinians in their own land by the Zionist state which is the essence of what Darwish's poem, Identity Card, is about.
To compare Darwish's poem about resistance to settler-colonial repression and oppression to Hitler's manifesto is outrageous to say the least. However, Darwish's poems have long been viewed as dangerous by the Israeli state, precisely because they articulate not only the Palestinian narrative but also because they are part of the Palestinian people's resistance to Israel's settler-colonial oppression. Darwish's poem are a threat because they represent Palestinian sumoud (steadfastness): that despite all the horrors visited on them, the Palestinian people continue to exist and continue to struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination.
It is no wonder that Lieberman and Regev wants Darwish's poems banned from the airwaves yet again. It is not because they bear any resemblance to Hitler's manifesto but because they represent the Palestinian narrative and Palestinian continued resistance to Israel's occupation and apartheid regime.
You can also check out other articles on Darwish from a range of mainstream media sites here and here and here.
For more information on the apartheid nature of the Israeli state, you can read my earlier blog:
On Tuesday, Israeli army radio broadcast works by the iconic Palestinian writer as part of its "University on Air" program, including Darwish’s famous poem “Identity Card,” which drew the ire of Lieberman and other Israeli officials.
In a meeting with Army Radio chief Yaron Dekel, Lieberman said that broadcasting the poem contravened the station’s mission to “strengthen solidarity in society, not to deepen rifts, and certainly not to offend public sensibilities.”
Lieberman added that Darwish’s poems could not “be part of the Israeli narrative program” aired on the station, adding: “By that same logic, we can also add to the Israeli narrative Mufti al-Husseini, or broadcast a glorification of the literary merits of ‘Mein Kampf,’” referring to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s and 1930s -- whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu controversially blamed in October for the Holocaust.
“Identity Card,” written in 1964, details the indignities of life subjected to the bureaucracy of the Israeli occupation, and includes the lines “I do not hate people/Nor do I encroach/But if I become hungry/The usurper's flesh will be my food,” presumably the part targeted by Lieberman.
According to the Ministry of Defense statement, Lieberman said that there was “a big difference between freedom of expression and freedom of incitement.
”Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit called Lieberman “to remind him he has no authority to intervene in Army Radio’s programming.”
On Wednesday, Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev called the broadcast of Darwish’s poems “dangerous,” adding that Army Radio “cannot allow itself to glorify the anti-Israel historical tale, as Mahmoud Darwish is not an Israeli, his poems are not Israeli, and they go against the main values of Israeli society.”
Darwish, who died in 2008, is also known as Palestine's national poet, and stands as one of the most prominent figures of modern Palestinian literature. He has long been criticized by Israeli political figures for his stance against the occupation.