Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ended up in a war of words on Tuesday with both singer and songwriter Yehonatan Geffen and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
The 70-year-old Geffen made waves Monday night when he compared imprisoned Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi to Joan of Arc, Hanna Senesh and Anne Frank.
In response, an irate Liberman called for Geffen’s songs to be banned from Army Radio and for him not to be interviewed by the station. But the attorney-general quickly jumped in and noted that Liberman had no legal authority to intervene with the station’s choices.
“I told Army Radio this morning to stop playing or interviewing Yehonatan Geffen on all its stations and I call on all media outlets in Israel to do the same,” Liberman said Tuesday morning. “The State of Israel will not give a platform to a drunk who compares a child who perished in the Holocaust and a brave fighter who fought the Nazis to Ahed Tamimi, a brat who attacked a soldier.”
Geffen published a short poem on his Instagram on Monday night about Tamimi, 16, saying she was born into this life, “and in that slap was 50 years of occupation and humiliation.” He then said she would “be in the same line as Joan of Arc, Hanna Senesh and Anne Frank.”
Tamimi was arrested last month for throwing rocks at and shoving and slapping IDF soldiers. Her detainment – and video of one of the incidents – has turned her into a much-publicized and polarizing figure in the region.
After Liberman’s pronouncement Monday morning, Mandelblit released a statement saying the defense minister lacks the authority to interfere in Army Radio’s decisions.
“The legal authority to determine the content that the station will broadcast is reserved for the professional employees of the station,” the statement read. “Of course, these statements do not legitimize the content of [Geffen’s] outrageous remarks.”
Liberman then hit back at the attorney-general, saying “I am guided by the law of common sense, which transcends any bureaucratic directive.” Liberman said he “rejected outright the position of the attorney-general.”
In response, early Tuesday evening, Mandelblit sent an official letter to Liberman reminding him that he does not get to decide which laws to follow.
“Needless to say,” he wrote, “the legal opinion of the attorney-general regarding this law is binding.”
In an interview on 103FM radio Tuesday morning, Nadav Ravid, the manager of Galgalatz, said the station would continue as normal.
“We don’t boycott artists because of the things they say,” he told interviewer Dror Refael. “[Liberman] doesn’t have the authority of an editor on Army Radio or Galgalatz.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev also weighed in on Geffen’s remarks, saying Tuesday that his comments crossed a redline.
“Yehonatan, Tamimi is not pure and is not ‘the prettiest girl in kindergarten,’” Regev said. “Rather she’s a terror-supporting criminal who is now sitting in detention. I recommend you return to your songs and don’t act like a poet who has been recruited to free Palestine.”
Geffen – a well-known writer and performer, and the father of singer Aviv Geffen – has long been known for his controversial statements. After the 2015 election, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reelected, Geffen called him a racist who promises death, not life. The next day, a man showed up at Geffen’s home and assaulted him when he answered the door.