Minister Regev to shun music awards over performance of Palestinian poet's song

Culture minister opposes Darwish song at ACUM ceremony on Monday night.

Miri Regev (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Miri Regev
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Culture Minister Miri Regev intends to leave the ACUM Israeli music awards ceremony early on Monday night in protest.
Regev is not one to keep her opinions to herself, and has stirred up controversy at numerous cultural events over the past year. And now she’s boycotting part of the annual ceremony because one of the awardees intends to sing a song written by the late poet Mahmoud Darwish, who was regarded as the “Palestinian national poet.”
A spokesman for Regev told The Jerusalem Post that the culture minister will arrive at the event in Ramat Hasharon, give her speech and then leave before Mira Awad takes the stage.
“She won’t be staying for Mira Awad’s song,” the spokesman said.
Awad, an Israeli-Arab singer and actress, is set to receive a special award for her contribution to strengthening Arab creativity within Israeli culture. Awad, according to a report first published in Yediot Aharonot, plans to sing a song with lyrics written by Darwish – a poet Regev has publicly condemned in the past.
At last year’s Ophir Awards honoring the Israeli film industry, Regev walked out when Tamer Nafar, an actor and rapper, took the stage to read a poem by Darwish.
Nafar won the Ophir Award for best original music for his film Junction 48. Regev said she left the auditorium because she did not approve of the lyrics by Darwish, and that no Israeli should.
Awad said the culture minister is seriously misinformed.
“I am appalled at the continuing raging incitement against the late poet and his poetry, and the interference of the minister in matters of artistic expression,” Awad posted on Facebook on Sunday.
She said she invites the minister “to educate herself better regarding Darwish’s poetry and my work in general, because I would have never composed a text written by a Jew-hater, or any hater for that matter.”
The song Awad intends to sing is called “Think of Others,” whose lyrics include “As you wage your wars, think of others (do not forget those who seek peace).” Some of Darwish’s poems have garnered accusations of antisemitism, though the poet always denied it, and said he dreamed of peace and reconciliation between Arabs and Jews.
Awad is well known in Israel since she represented the country – alongside Jewish singer Achinoam Nini (Noa) – at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009. The duo sang “There Must Be Another Way,” a song about peace in Hebrew, Arabic and English.
Awad has also been in the TV shows Arab Labor and Israel’s Dancing With the Stars.
ACUM, the Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers of Music in Israel, meanwhile, indicated no intention to change its lineup.
“ACUM warmly blesses all the honored winners and wishes that they all can continue to create and enrich our lives,” it said in a statement.
“ACUM is a home for artists and focuses on concern for their well-being, their royalties and the preservation of their rights.”
While Regev will be leaving before Awad sings, it is unlikely she will let the performance go unmentioned in her speech. Earlier this month, at the opening of the Israel Festival in Jerusalem, the culture minister was greeted with boos after she had stated that she was opposed to state funding for performances featuring nudity. But she wasn’t deterred: “Nobody can shut my mouth,” she said. “I won’t get off the stage until I’m done.”