Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed Army Radio Commander Shimon Elkabetz to stop playing or interviewing Yehonatan Geffen in any of the station's broadcasts after the poet compared Palestinian teen provocateur Ahed Tamimi, indicted for attacking IDF soldiers, to Anne Frank, Hannah Szenes and Joan of Arc.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, however, determined Lieberman had no legal standing to intervene in the station's broadcasts, to which the defense minister retorted he was "rejecting Mandelblit's opinion out of hand."
Geffen posted the poem on his Instagram account Monday along with a photograph of Tamimi, and described the young woman as a fighter for justice. "A pretty 17 year old did a terrible thing, and when a proud Israeli officer once again invaded her home, she slapped him," Geffen wrote.
"She was born into it and that slap carried 50 years of occupation and humiliations. On the day the story of the struggle is told, Ahed Tamimi, with red hair, like David who slapped Goliath, you'll be alongside Joan of Arc, Hannah Szenes and Anne Frank," he concluded the poem.
The poem drew intense criticism, and prompted Lieberman to announce Tuesday morning that, "The State of Israel will not provide a platform for a drunkard who compares a girl who perished in the Holocaust and a hero who combated the Nazi regime with Ahed Tamimi, a brat who attacked a soldier. Geffen's chasing of headlines is sickening and outrageous."
Lieberman added in his Facebook post on the matter, "The proper stage for Geffen's nonsense are broadcasts of Hezbollah's Al-Manar network."
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev also commented on Geffen's poem, and said, "Yehonatan Geffen's outrageous reference to Ahed Tamimi as comparable to Hannah Szenes, Anne Frank and King David is surely part of Geffen's delusions."
Addressing Geffen directly, Regev said, "Yehonatan, Tamimi is not naïve and not 'the prettiest girl in kindergarten' (a reference to one of Geffen's earlier songs—ed), but a terror-supporting criminal who is now in custody. I suggest you return to your songs and not deal with imagery concocted by a poet determined to liberate Palestine."
"The ghastly comparison between the heroes of our people's Holocaust and terrorist Tamimi, on the same week the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is crossing a red line by someone seeking to rewrite history," Regev added.
In explaining his position on Lieberman's lack of authority to intercede with Army Radio, Mandelblit said, "The legal authority to determine the content of the station's broadcasts is only in the hands of its professional officials."
However, the attorney general did qualify in saying, "The aforementioned opinion should not be taken to legitimize in any manner the content of the outrageous statements made."
Defense Minister Lieberman did not appreciate Mandelblit's position, responding to say, "My role as defense minister is to shield all soldiers—both regular and reserve—who cannot retort to politicians and public figures.
"My only guide is the law of common sense, which stands above any bureaucratic instruction. With all due respect and admiration, which I do have towards the attorney general, in this instance I reject his position out of hand. He would have been better served denouncing Geffen, who's desecrating both Jewish history and IDF soldiers. Army Radio is first and foremost a military station, and will not provide a platform for tongue-lashings by some Israel basher or other against our soldiers."
Mandelblit rejected Lieberman's remarks and made it clear that according to the law, as ruled in the past, the defense minister in charge of the station has no legal authority to interfere with the content broadcast on it.
"Even though these are outrageous things," Mandelblit wrote to Lieberman, referring to Yehonatan Geffen's poem, "the Defense Minister is not authorized to give such instructions to the commander of the IDF radio station."
He noted to Lieberman that his directive "was given unlawfully and without authority," and added that "the legal opinion of the Attorney General regarding the law is binding, since he is the authorized interpreter of the law for all state authorities and government ministers in general."
"The legal authority to determine the content that will be broadcast at the station is only given by the professionals of the station," he stressed.
"In all matters of journalistic and professional content, the station is not subordinate to the military echelon and its military hierarchy, and certainly is not subject to any political involvement."
"The station enjoys journalistic independence and its broadcasts are not dictated by the chief of staff or the defense minister—who are not authorized to intervene in the professional, editorial, journalistic and artistic considerations (of the station)," he concluded.