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Rafeef Ziadah

Rafeef Ziadah

THE DOGMATIC radicals among Irish supporters of the Palestinians are outraged at the aesthetes on the editorial team at RTÉ’s arts programme, Arena, who bravely held the line against Palestinian propaganda posturing as poetry recently.

The innocent souls at Arena had invited Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadah to read her poetry on their programme recently and were, one supposes, looking forward to enjoying and critiquing poetry by the Palestinian refugee on subjects like British poet Philip Larkin’s world view or WB Yeats’s mysticism. Imagine their consternation, then, when they learned, perhaps via some erudite RTÉ researcher, that Ziadah’s work contains poetry that speaks to the Israeli depredations against her people amounting, as most Irish people see it, to genocide. The nerve.

Naturally the people who gave the country Section 31 for so many years and who always demand fair and equal treatment for all sides were not going to inflict such a one-sided view on the station’s listeners and, wearing their public service broadcasting hat, disinvited the scheming poet from their programme.

On the way out the door, so to speak, Ziadah was treated to a lecture about broadcasting standards and was told that she was being barred from Arena because of the need for balance. It was suggested to the poet that she should bring her poetry to RTÉ’s current affairs department, where they could provide the necessary balance.

Ziadah has been touring Ireland and has packed out the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and the Mick Lally Theatre in Galway, among other venues, to full houses and emotional, standing ovations. She told angry audiences about her ‘disinvitation’ and the ethical discourse she had been treated to by the Arena cognoscente, whose artistic boundaries she had failed to breach.

For some inexplicable reason, Ziadah was not persuaded by the lecture from Arena’s art lovers and she posed the question: If I chose to read an anti-genocide poem on the arts show, does that mean the programme must find an artist or poet to read a pro-genocide poem in order to provide balance?

Some audience members present at the Galway show, including singer Honor Heffernan, were moved to ignore Arena’s pressing need for balance between genocide and anti-genocide in the arts and they have written to Arena presenter Seán Rocks and its editorial team expressing their outrage.

Will RTÉ hold firm against the pro-Palestinian philistines that want to trample on the station’s vaunted ethical values?

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