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What Mohammed Assaf tells us about collective punishment and the one-state future

Israel/Palestine
on 31 Comments

Like so many others, I’m moved by Mohammed Assaf’s triumph, and more than that by the beauty of his singing and his dedication to Palestinian culture and political self-determination.  If you missed this story, you need only watch his audition video. You will see a sensitive young man, nearly overcome by nervousness, rising to the occasion. As the judges respond to the sweetness of his voice, he gains confidence, and his large soul comes into his song.  

But Mohammed Assaf’s story also has great political implications, involving collective punishment and the one-state future.

In December 2008, when Mohammed Assaf was 19, Israel launched the massive attack on Gaza called Cast Lead. The Goldstone Report later accused Israel of war crimes for targeting civilians in its attack: nearly 1400 people were killed over 3 weeks in that open-air prison, many of them civilians, including over 300 children.

When I went into Gaza in June 2009, John Ging of the UN told my delegation that the people of Gaza were “deeply civilized,” a truth we would see again and again during our visit.

Today when I watch Mohammed Assaf, and sense the depth of tradition and training in his voice, I remember Ging’s words, and think how easily this young man might have been destroyed in that attack, and we would never have known about him.

How many other young talented people were destroyed in that attack? How many other beautiful flames doused forever?

The story also illuminates the one-state future.

Mohammed Assaf has spent most of his life under Israeli control/occupation. Today he is a symbol of Palestinian dignity and strength; and so he reminds us of Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole and the other black American artists whose careers were deflected by racism. I think of Marian Anderson being denied the right to sing in an integrated space in Washington DC in 1939, and Eleanor Roosevelt taking a stand for her, proclaiming her a great artist. Because she wanted to claim Marian Anderson as an American. 

Already, Israeli Jim Crow has defined Mohammed Assaf’s career. Hatim Kanaaneh says Assaf couldn’t compete in the West Bank due to the restrictions.

One can only imagine the difficulties Assaf will have going forward, pursuing a career in Israel and Palestine… where segregation is the rule, and where even liberal Zionists affirm that segregation as just and proper.

What will Assaf be a symbol of, going forward? He is bound to boycott Israel. Does Israel really want that? Assaf sang several western songs during the competition, including this one. His career, we can only hope, will be as a singer for the world, not just for Palestine.

The majesty of his artistry dares us to imagine: What if he were representing a nation of equals, not divided along racial grounds? What if he were no longer representing an oppressed people, but the people of Israel and Palestine?

philweiss
About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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31 Responses

  1. seafoid
    seafoid
    June 24, 2013, 10:12 am

    Only people who are seriously ill are allowed to leave Gaza and travel within Erez Israel. There is no way Assaf will be granted permission to visit the West Bank because as a Gaza Untermensch his rights do not include the right to traverse any space controlled by the bots.

    http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/quotation.php?qid=249

    “Jews of the Diaspora must ask themselves if they should support a political system they would never have accepted in their own country. How many Jews would accept a ‘Christian-Democratic’ state, in which they would be discriminated against on account of being Jewish? How many Jews would accept a ‘democracy’ in which Jews are not permitted to purchase state land? ”

    How many New Jersey Jews would tolerate being denied access to New York City because they have been circumcised?

    BTW you have to read the Dersh’s latest mental riff in Ha’aretz against Alice Walker

    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/alice-walker-s-crass-bigotry-exposed.premium-1.531716

    “According to Walker in her new book, Israel routinely tortures innocent nine and ten year-old Palestinian children.

    According to Walker, Rachel Cory was “murdered”, just like three civil rights workers who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered in cold blood.

    According to Walker, there are roads that are for “Jews only,” rather than for Israelis of all religions and ethnicities.

    According to Walker, the big ugly security wall runs all through Israel and the Palestinian territories – “it is everywhere” – rather than through roughly 5% of those areas. Moreover, she suggests that the wall was put up solely to colonize the West Bank, and not to protect Israelis from terrorism.

    According to Walker, the Turkish flotilla terrorists who attacked the Israeli sailors who had boarded their ship were “assassinated” and “massacre[d].”

  2. AlGhorear
    AlGhorear
    June 24, 2013, 11:39 am

    As I posted on another thread, I read that the significance of the PA conferring diplomatic status on Mohammad Assaf it that will allow him to enter and travel in the West Bank.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      June 24, 2013, 1:05 pm

      Yes, but that won’t stop the Israelis applying the Regev Rule. Instead of ”they’re not journalists, they’re Palestinians”, it’ll be ”He’s not a diplomat. He’s a Palestinian.”

      That said, I don’t think Israel will stop Assaf from traveling to the WB. He is now something of an international celebrity, not just in the Arab world, and I don’t think the resulting furore would be worth it to them. Having said all that, the Israelis are so petty, spiteful and disdainful of international opinion that anything is possible.

  3. annie
    annie
    June 24, 2013, 11:40 am

    well, israel is attacking gaza again and talking about taking out a whole neighborhood. i wonder if their response to mohammed assaf is to take out khan younis. assaf is arriving back in gaza tomorrow.

    • yrn
      yrn
      June 24, 2013, 3:00 pm

      Why did Israel Attack Gaza today.
      Any Idea why ?

      • Cliff
        Cliff
        June 24, 2013, 3:41 pm

        hey yrn

        is israel still colonizing Palestinian today?

        was it doing it yesterday? yep

        tomorrow? yep

        so hamas rockets aren’t occurring in a vacuum

        its par for the course

        the bigger crime is the occupation and the colonization of Palestine and the subsequent destruction of Palestinian society by slow-creep ethnic cleansing

        not worthless rockets that have killed 8 people in 13 years

        but you and the other trolls are like that racist Rabbi who said a Jewish fingernail is worth more than 10000 murdered Palestinians

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        June 24, 2013, 3:46 pm

        Because Israel is routinely depriving them of life and livelihood and they get pissed off about it occasionally and launch some rockets. Israel, ever so conscious of its foundational need to kill a few Palis* for publicity and political purposes, well, kills a few Palis for publicity and political purposes.

        Does that about sum it up?

        Actually it’s almost always in response to an Israeli attack as Yousef Munnayer has shown in his work. So the better question is what did Israel do, this time, to provoke the rockets and risk its own citizens?

        * Sorry for using that word, but from the Israeli perspective little else explains such casual taking of life on an ongoing basis for such a long time and with no attempt at an alternative method (talking about it).

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        June 24, 2013, 4:06 pm

        “Why did Israel Attack Gaza today.
        Any Idea why ?”

        Yes, it was a terror attack. After Assaf’s win, and the positive, life-affirming message he brought to Palestinians everywhere, the zios want to drive home the point that their evil ideology of zionism does not permit their victims to have hope.

      • Donald
        Donald
        June 24, 2013, 4:12 pm

        “Any idea why?”

        The NYT reports today that the “ceasefire” was broken by Gaza rocket fire, and Israel responded. What Isabel Kershner does not report is that Israel has been shooting and wounding Gaza farmers and fisherman for months–it’s a regular thing, but in the racist world of Isabel Kershner when only Palestinians are wounded there’s a ceasefire in effect. When Gazans shoot at Israel the ceasefire is “broken”. These are all technical terms, only understood once you know who counts as human and who doesn’t.

        Kershner

        Palestinian Center for Human Rights report for June 13-19

        PCHR report on shooting at Gaza fisherman March through May

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        June 24, 2013, 4:26 pm

        Do they need a reason? It’s been what? … a whole 7 months since the last war on Gaza. Also, there’s a new government in Israel, and they’re going to need to prove to the good people of Israel that they’re just as macho as the last gang. What better way to do that than bash Gaza… again?

      • yrn
        yrn
        June 25, 2013, 9:24 am

        This is what I like about this blog.
        The real Journalist integrity.
        At list Donald mentions that “The NYT reports today that the “ceasefire” was broken by Gaza rocket fire”

        All the others including Annie, just read the response to the Gaza rocket Attack.
        But that’s not the issue.
        Lets look for an attack from Israel and then we will publish, who cares about the reason.

      • yrn
        yrn
        June 25, 2013, 10:35 am

        As your routine answer will be, what about the a comment to the article.
        You will be surprised.
        Israelis including me, are just very proud that Mohammed Assaf and the Palestinians won the contest.
        I am sure he will be welcomed in Israel and Israeli’s who love Arabic music and you will be amazed how many love Arabic music, would love to hear his music.
        There is nothing like music to get closer, the more music and cultural activities will be shared, the better.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        June 25, 2013, 12:21 pm

        “I am sure he will be welcomed in Israel and Israeli’s who love Arabic music and you will be amazed how many love Arabic music, would love to hear his music.”

        Yeah, you’re all open arms when you want the Palestinians to entertain you. But let them ask that you stop stealing their land, killing their children and oppressing them, then they get the “israeli kiss” (i.e., the butt of a rifle across the mouth.)

    • Rusty Pipes
      Rusty Pipes
      June 24, 2013, 3:24 pm

      In response to Gazan rockets, Lieberman claims that Israel may need to ethnically cleanse Gaza. Lieberman is probably more worried about the “existential threat” from Gazan “Art Rocket” Assaf who reminds the world that Gazans are not only human beings, but individuals with a variety of talents and dreams who are being oppressed by Israel.

  4. hophmi
    hophmi
    June 24, 2013, 12:14 pm

    You say that you “have great respect for Peace Now for opposing the occupation so vigorously.”

    Then, you completely distort their POV: by claiming that they thing segregation is just and proper. A complete and utter lie.

    “How many other young talented people were destroyed in that attack? How many other beautiful flames doused forever?”

    Do you wonder the same things about the children murdered in the Sbarro bombing and the Dolphinarium bombing?

    • philweiss
      philweiss
      June 24, 2013, 1:04 pm

      How can it be an utter lie when they state that Israeli Palestinians are “out of the mainstream”– and when demographic threat, language wholly alien to the US discourse of equal rights, is embraced by liberal Zionists routinely?
      Yes I wonder the same thing about the children murdered in Israel.

    • ramzijaber
      ramzijaber
      June 24, 2013, 1:52 pm

      hophmi, do you wonder the same things about the thousands and thousands of Palestinians murdered by the criminal zionists across Palestine, about the hundreds and hundreds of villages raised to the ground by the criminal zionists across Palestine, about the millions and millions of Palestinians who continue to be refugees scattered across the world due to the criminal zionists, about the mlllions and millions that are imprisoned and robbed from their freedom and dignity every day across Palestine by the criminal zionists? Do you wonder about that? Or their lives are less valuable than the life of one criminal zionist? Do you wonder hophmi????

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        June 24, 2013, 2:42 pm

        “How can it be an utter lie when they state that Israeli Palestinians are “out of the mainstream”

        Where did they say that? Point out where they said that “Israeli Palestinians are ‘out of the mainstream.'” They cited, in their promotional literature, a poll taken of Jewish Israelis, who are about 80% of Israel, and said that it was a mainstream poll. They did not say that the poll would not have been mainstream if it included Israeli Palestinians.

        “and when demographic threat, language wholly alien to the US discourse of equal rights, is embraced by liberal Zionists routinely?”

        It is not “wholly alien” to the US discourse of equal rights at all.

        You know, this really illustrates well why your position is so tenuous. Here’s the United States, whose conservative politicians talk nonstop about about the southern border as a euphemism for keeping Hispanics out of the United States, and, whose liberals say relatively little about the border and focus on allowing those already here to have a “path to citizenship” that basically, at best, will mean that people who have been here for a generation will stand in the back of the line.

        We cannot even get the DREAM act through Congress. Think about that. An undocumented Hispanic kid who is here since infanthood, graduates high school, and in many cases ,serves in the Army, and we can’t get a bill through Congress that gives him temporary residency, let alone permanent residency. You post these stories about Israel deporting a few thousand African immigrants (and I am one who finds the policy morally wrong). Do you have any clue how many people the United States deported last year? Well north of 400,000 people. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2012/1224/Deportations-of-illegal-immigrants-in-2012-reach-new-US-record

        Under the administration of a liberal President. With little opposition. People who have been in this country for DECADES. With families. Over stuff like misdemeanor convictions that were very old. Crack pipes. Petit larcenies. Most of them are Hispanic. You wanna take a bet on whether we’d have a policy like that if these people came from up north, rather than down south? From across the Atlantic, rather than from around the Gulf of Mexico?

        And this is a country with no regional security threat, whatsoever. And went through centuries of explicit racism, let alone the covert institutional kind, before getting even to this point.

        So even without going as far as saying simply that it is not the US and that the vast majority of the countries on this earth are not the US, your statement that our American tradition of equal rights does not talk in terms some Israelis do about demographic threats, is just dead wrong.

      • amigo
        amigo
        June 24, 2013, 4:13 pm

        And this is a country with no regional security threat, whatsoever. hopeknee

        The greatest threat to the USA can be found amongst the lilly livered politicians who fellate donkeys laden with zionist money and put the zionist entitie,s interests before that of the Nation they swore to defend and protect.

      • Inanna
        Inanna
        June 24, 2013, 8:38 pm

        Shorter Hophmi:

        “I can’t find any answer to your questions Ramzi Jaber so I’ll write a long, boring and irrelevant response instead.”

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        June 24, 2013, 8:58 pm

        Shorter Inanna: I didn’t read hophmi.

    • Sumud
      Sumud
      June 24, 2013, 2:10 pm

      How many other young talented people were destroyed in that attack? How many other beautiful flames doused forever?

      Do you wonder the same things about the children murdered in the Sbarro bombing and the Dolphinarium bombing?

      Another asanine message from The Hophmi School Of Hasbara Misdirection, AKA the ‘Look-Over-There Institute’.

      See how the ziobot waxes lyrical about the Good Old Days Of The Suicide Bombings, when demonising all Palestinians was easy, before they adopted the truly hateful tactic of non-violence. Hasbara’s golden age eh?

      Of course, scratch the surface and it too falls apart: from 2000-2010, for every 1 Israeli child murdered by a Palestinian, “civilised” Israel killed more than 10 Palestinians children.

      Why didn’t you answer Phil fully hophmi? About 300 Palestinians children were murdered by Israel during that attack. It took Palestinian suicide bombers 10 years to kill 120 Israeli minors. Israel exterminated 300 in 22 days. Israel FTW!

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        June 24, 2013, 3:20 pm

        ” before they adopted the truly hateful tactic of non-violence. Hasbara’s golden age eh?”

        Oh please, Sumud. The Palestinians have never collectively adopted the tactic of non-violence, and for the record, they never rejected it during the suicide bombing era. And you call it the hasbara golden age. It just shows how silly all this gets. Do you think that if people sat on their hands in the mid-1990s, and did little to promote Israel’s cause, that the coverage would have been very different? Carnage is carnage, and Western journalists in particular tend to side with the people from the democracy whose skin is being scraped off the ground by the Chevra Kadisha.

        As I’ve said many times, Israel is a modern state with a modern army. It is dumb to tick off a state with a modern army; many, many more of your young people will end up getting killed then theirs. Ask the Afghans. Ask the Iraqis. Both are far less culpable than Palestinians are in the I-P conflict. So the comparative casualties rates are a great tragedy; any death is a tragedy. But the blame is with those who thought it was a great idea to target Israeli civilians by lobbing ineffective rockets over the border.

        I am glad to see that many Palestinians have learned that much more can be accomplished through successful economic development and non-violence than can be accomplished with gory pictures and sensationalistic killings.

      • Cliff
        Cliff
        June 24, 2013, 3:43 pm

        hoppie, being a Jewish racist that he is (as a member of racist orgs like the ADL and AJC)

        is just like that racist Rabbi who said a Jewish fingernail is worth more than 10,000 Palestinian lives

        hence why he brings up some suicide bombing that happened years ago (while telling us it’s a waste of time to talk about Jewish terrorism in the Mandate or that hypothetical Palestinian violence is more important than actual Israeli violence)

        in other words, he’s a troll and Phil tolerates him for demographic purposes

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        June 25, 2013, 11:40 am

        “hoppie, being a Jewish racist. . . .in other words, he’s a troll and Phil tolerates him for demographic purposes”

        Moderator, hello0oooooo? Do you understand the comment rules? See number 4.

        Yes, I can see how my statements are just like his. Said no one literate ever.

        Sumud suggested that suicide bombing was a big thing in the West because of “hasbara”, which I think is a silly argument, and a counterproductive way of blaming all Palestinian ills on the hasbara boogeyman.

  5. Citizen
    Citizen
    June 24, 2013, 12:54 pm

    I forget who, but a regular commenter here commented wrt my comment Assaf is like Elvis in terms of social change via popular music, that Elvis made whites like black music, but Assaf is singing pure Palestinian, native music. None of it is borrowed. And so, reflection shows just how much the moral world has been turned on its head by Zionism.

    • Inanna
      Inanna
      June 24, 2013, 8:48 pm

      @Citizen, that’s they point I was trying to make. Elvis appropriated black music and sanitised it for whites but Assaf comes from an authentic, indigenous tradition that stretches back centuries.

  6. libra
    libra
    June 24, 2013, 1:58 pm

    Phil Weiss: …the one-state future

    Let’s not overlook the significance of Phil’s use of this term, not only in the title but also twice in his article. Phil dares to imagine the future and he clearly sees one state. No ifs or buts, no equivocation.

    Of course this does not make it happen. But before something can be built it must be imagined. Ultimately it is for the Palestinians to imagine this future, to choose it for themselves. But seeing the idea being openly discussed and accepted elsewhere can only help make this a real option for them.

    So for Phil to state and accept this idea so clearly on Mondoweiss in an editorial article is a small but nevertheless important step forward; an act of leadership which I greatly applaud.

  7. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    June 24, 2013, 3:55 pm

    Phil- You have been preaching to the choir too long, that you don’t realize or care about what your words mean to the casual reader. When you write regarding American friends of Peace Now “where segregation is the rule, and where even liberal Zionists affirm that segregation as just and proper”, any casual reader would assume that your link would be to some liberal group that approves real segregation. But instead it refers to rhetoric regarding polling, the practice of polling Israeli Jews and the rhetoric of labeling those polled as being mainstream, even when Israeli Palestinians are not polled. Even if such polling is horrible, which it is not, and even if the language of “mainstream” plus such polling is horrible because it indicates a willingness to view the two separate communities with their separate views of the future as something that need not be tackled at this very moment, still the casual observer thinks you are referring to some real issue, rather than a polling issue and the rhetoric attached to that polling.

  8. amigo
    amigo
    June 24, 2013, 4:04 pm

    “Today when I watch Mohammed Assaf, and sense the depth of tradition and training in his voice, I remember Ging’s words, and think how easily this young man might have been destroyed in that attack, and we would never have known about him.”PW

    I wonder how long before the zionists will label him as an existential threat to Israel.
    Will those caught listening to his beautiful music be labeled Terro-eeests.

  9. seafoid
    seafoid
    June 24, 2013, 5:49 pm

    Hoenlein wants to win back the campuses and he expects US Jews to fall in line.

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/hoenlein-to-haaretz-world-jewry-must-say-enough-to-delegitimization-of-israel.premium-1.531769#

    “This (Hawking’s BDS stand) is an effort to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state. It’s not about policy, it’s not about settlements, it’s not about ’67 — it’s about ’47, and it’s about Israel’s right to exist.” To his mind at least, world Jewry had grown far too nonchalant about efforts to delegitimize Israel. “It’s we who raise the barriers about what we can tolerate, and that’s got to stop. The Jewish community has got to say ‘Enough. We’re not gonna tolerate it.’”
    The Presidents’ Conference, comprising more than 50 national organizations in the United States, plans to launch a huge campaign this August to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, Hoenlein disclosed. “It will be a major Internet and social media campaign, in which we hope to reach every single college student in America. The goal is to educate in creative ways and win the public back.” Leading this effort on a pro-bono basis, he said, will be Jerry Ostrov, a former top executive at Johnson & Johnson and at Bausch & Lomb. “

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