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Update: Assaf in victory: ‘Today I represent Palestine and I’m fighting for a cause’

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To grasp the impact Mohammed Assaf is having on the Arab world and beyond, watch this CNN coverage of Assaf’s victory. Thus far, it’s the best video of the moment. On Arab Idol’s stage, Mohammed Assaf is announced the winner and drops to his knees and prays while the audience goes wild with confetti falling all around (we referenced this incredible moment here).

Update: Here is video of Assaf apparently arriving today at Cairo airport to a scrum of photographers.

There may be a few of our readers who just don’t get what the big deal is about. CNN hosts Jonathan Mann with CNN Mohammed Jamjoon reporting from Beirut discuss the implications of Assaf’s victory. Jamjoon calls this “the feel good story of the year” and talks about how it resonates even wider than the Middle East, in a post-Arab Spring world. The hosts interviewed both Assaf and Nancy Ajram.

Says Assaf: ” The Palestinian people can speak in a million languages full of beauty, love and peace to the Arab world and to the whole world, the Palestinian people don’t love wars and killing and destruction.”

Ajram on why the show was so special, offers this shocker: “We in the Arab world have bright young talented people and we know how to dream big. ”

CNN also interviews a Palestinian on the street: “this is the best thing that’s happened to Palestine since God knows when.”

As Allison Deger noted, “I’ve never before heard the phrase ‘while Palestinians partied,’ on network news, unless it was about 9/11 or something.”

And here is an AlJazeera interview with Mohammed Assaf , his intentions are clear. Fourteen seconds in:

The revolution is not just the one carrying a rifle, the revolution is the paintbrush of an artist, the scalpel of a surgeon, the ax of a farmer. This is something I consider to be logical. Everyone struggles for their cause in the way they see fit. Today I represent Palestine and today I’m fighting for a cause also thru the art I am performing and the message that I am sending out.

Arab Idol has added an infographic at their website featuring the coverage of Mohammad Assaf’s victory in headlines from around the world. Check it out.

(Enass Tinah contributed to this report)

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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35 Responses

  1. crone
    June 24, 2013, 1:37 pm

    Annie, again thanks for keeping the coverage coming… here’s something you may not have seen…

    Assaf named goodwill UN ambassador

  2. AlGhorear
    June 24, 2013, 2:04 pm

    Thanks, Annie. That’s a good story and on CNN no less.

    • W.Jones
      June 24, 2013, 3:52 pm

      Is this CNN International that no one watches? On is it on the regular addy TV station that millions have piped into their homes?

      If the latter, it’s noteworthy, as its earlier interview that got blitzed shows:

  3. jsinton
    June 24, 2013, 2:39 pm

    Hard to underestimate the impact in Palestine. First really worldwide “good” news since Oslo accords.

    • W.Jones
      June 24, 2013, 4:03 pm

      If you want to include Oslo as good news (which it arguably was.)

    • Taxi
      June 24, 2013, 4:10 pm

      The “world”, according to you, might consider the Oslo Accords as “good” news, but it certainly wasn’t good for Palestine, either at the time, or viewed and analyzed now retrospectively (read: the acute expansion of the illegal zionist settlement enterprise since Oslo).

      I’d say Assaf’s thrilling and heart-warming victory is most certainly the best news that Palestinians have heard since 2006 when Hizbollah sucker-punched the idf’s jaw damn good and hard. But this one, humble Assaf’s human story, his dazzling shooting stardom, his utopian vocal soulfulness, give off a particularly irresistible, beautiful and dreamy appeal against the violent and turbulent political environments most Arab youth live in. Because Mohamad Assaf, despite his severe environment, cultivated his natural passion and succeeded so spectacularly, Arab youth all around now dare to dream and “dream big” – yes! And dare to be both religious and modern. Yes! Dare to explore new paths outside of victimhood and nihilism, for empowerment of self and of country. Yes. The future is being made brighter by the phenomenal example of Mohamad Assaf.

      Viva Palestina!

      Viva tomorrow’s Arabs!

      • bintbiba
        June 24, 2013, 5:10 pm

        Taxi, you often make me nod, smile, giggle,whoop in agreement. Today you bring tears .Thank you for your passion and beautiful style. You have lived among us, you know all our weaknesses, foibles as well as our diversity and character. We feel the love.

      • Taxi
        June 24, 2013, 5:33 pm

        Thank you, bintbiba. It’s easy to love Palestine and all her children.

  4. Citizen
    June 24, 2013, 3:06 pm

    I view the emergence of Assaf as I do that of Snowden, and Manning. We don’t seem to have a new Daniel Ellsberg, do we? At least we have Breaking The Silence… and Code Pink.

    Can they all together outsing Sheldon Adelson’s casino, anti-union, rabid Zionst dollars? I doubt it with our Dick and Jane crowd. They’re mostly just not up to the challenge.

  5. seafoid
    June 24, 2013, 3:12 pm

    It’s a great story but CNN house observations such as “He has given Arabs something to smile about”

    are just patronising shite . Why can’t those rag heads just get on with each other? Look, they make themselves so miserable.
    If I were some dumb Yank watching that in my foreclosed home that’s what I’d be thinking.

    But in reality it’s all political economy. It’s a system.

    Who decided to tear Syria apart? Who funds the IDF?
    Who keeps the Egyptian Army in weapons?
    And who is Sheldon Adelson?

    • annie
      June 24, 2013, 3:59 pm

      i didn’t hear it that way seafoid. what i heard in that was more along the lines of what ajram said about ‘we know how to dream big’. it also reminds me of this quote by Marcel Khalefeh. (Enass sent me an gorgeous photo of Khalefeh and Assaf this morning) you can read here:

      beginning with “when we plumbed the depths of our arab heritage searching for a lumnoius gem”…and so it goes that what moves people more than anything is beauty and love. so why not?

      • seafoid
        June 24, 2013, 4:14 pm


        I’m afraid I got enough of the touchy feely CNN stuff with Tahrir Square in 2011.

        The people of the region deserve better journalism.

        Russell Brand is an odious misogynist and he caused a journalistic car crash on Morning Joe but he did make one very interesting contribution about network journalism
        at 6.42

      • Inanna
        June 24, 2013, 8:17 pm

        Annie, I’d love to see that photo with Marcel Khalife. Link?

      • annie
        June 25, 2013, 12:16 am

        check your inbox Inanna, i would link to it but i’m not sure if it’s online.

      • Inanna
        June 25, 2013, 6:19 am

        Thanks Annie, much much gratitude. Check your inbox too. I’ve got a name for your ‘fever’.

  6. Chu
    June 24, 2013, 3:16 pm

    Great. There is so much propaganda against Palestinians,
    this will help people in the US to see Gazans not as terrorists.
    u go boy…

  7. Citizen
    June 24, 2013, 3:19 pm

    The rocket of peace is not a suicide bomber or IDF F-16–it’s a Palestinian singer. All the hasbara and US government parrots in the world can not defeat Truth.

  8. AlGhorear
    June 24, 2013, 3:22 pm

    And he won by a whopping margin. An estimated 60 million votes were cast and he received 60.2%, or 37,200,000. link

  9. annie
    June 24, 2013, 3:52 pm

    we just updated with a video of him being mobbed on arrival in cairo today.

  10. justicewillprevail
    June 24, 2013, 4:23 pm

    Not only a gifted and beautiful singer, but truly eloquent young man, who can say in a few sentences the truth about Palestine and Palestinians, to the entire world. What a sweet moment. No amount of paid-for hasbara can buy or deny this. Truth and beauty are more powerful than guns, tanks and F-16s.

  11. RudyM
    June 24, 2013, 4:28 pm

    As irreligious as I am, I have to admit I love the way he throws a monkey wrench into all the glitz by bowing down to pray.

    • annie
      June 24, 2013, 5:02 pm

      rudy, i was stunned when i watched it live, til my reception cut out. and he didn’t look like he had any plans to get up right away either. it was amazing. did you see how the presenter taps him on the back and people swarm around and then it cuts away? it’s really amazing isn’t it.

      • bintbiba
        June 24, 2013, 5:22 pm

        annie, you have been magnificent the last few days .Thank you,and thank you Phil,Adam, Allison for all your input ,comprehension and appreciation of the real significance of what just happened.

      • annie
        June 25, 2013, 12:17 am

        ah bintbiba, thank you~it’s wonderful to have people to share it with.

  12. just
    June 24, 2013, 4:53 pm

    I hope that the Assaf family had good rest last night and today. Thank goodness for all Palestinians– be your peace-loving, hope seeking selves!

    Do not let ‘them’ steal your joy!

    • seafoid
      June 24, 2013, 5:42 pm

      Mrs Assaf is very impressive.
      I expected her to wear a suicide belt but she actually appeared to love her child.
      I must stop reading the Jerusalem Post.

  13. Inanna
    June 24, 2013, 8:16 pm

    He’s not just a rocket, he’s a star and he’s going to light the way. Thanks Annie for following this and keeping everyone updated. I could not be happier for this beautiful young man and for Palestine and for us, that we have the joy to hear him.

    • annie
      June 25, 2013, 12:19 am

      my pleasure and i couldn’t have done it alone, i owe a lot to the staff and especially Enass for this post and the updates.

  14. annie
    June 25, 2013, 3:44 am

    this is radical. mohammed assaf is arriving home to gaza and it’s on livestream now. this is from Enass!

    • just
      June 25, 2013, 8:20 am

      Nobody can take this joy and jubilation away. Thank you Enass, Annie, and Mondoweiss.

      Thank you Mohammed Assaf and his enormous family of Palestinians!

  15. yourstruly
    June 25, 2013, 9:08 am

    why not a singer to unite and galvanize an oppressed people?

  16. bijou
    June 25, 2013, 9:36 am

    Omar Barghouti nails it:

    “He did not win because of sympathy, he won because of solidarity, because of support, and because of amazement by many people across the Arab world by his talent; and I think another aspect of Mohammed Assaf that stands out is that he transcended being a victim. Yes he is a victim, like most of our people; 69 percent of the Palestinian people are refugees … but he transcended that, reminding the world that we are not mere victims, we are actors, we resist colonisation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing … Mohammed Assaf is a new face of Palestinian cultural resistance, and I would dare say he is a kind of a new Palestinian phoenix rising from the ashes of the Nakba of 1948.”


    From an interview here:

  17. RudyM
    June 26, 2013, 12:18 pm

    The New York Times (blog anyway) has discovered the story, and it’s all about Hamas, of course:

  18. RudyM
    June 29, 2013, 12:50 pm

    Meanwhile there is a front page story in the NYT today, with a prominent photo, about rabbis in Yuma, AZ blessing grain intended for matzo.

    I’m afraid I’m beginning to see the light.

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