Mohammed Assaf performs at the stadium of Dora in the West Bank town of Hebron August 3, 2013.(photo: Mahmoud Illean/Demotix)
(Update: Mohammed Assaf’s political statement below)
As Israel announces 1,200 new housing units over the Green Line, the second announcement of settlement expansion within one week, the Jerusalem Post says that Israel P.M. Netanyahu complained to Secretary of State John Kerry, Palestinian incitement undermines peace:
He also included a link to a YouTube video that depicts the popular winner of Arab Idol Muhammad Assaf singing a song at the Barcelona soccer game in Hebron that spoke longingly of Israeli cities within the pre-1967 lines as belonging to Palestine.
Assaf’s performance at Dora stadium on August 3rd included Palestinian national songs Ali Keffiyeh and Ya Tir Ya Tair/Oh you bird going home. And what are those incitement lyrics? Some of them:
Palestine is my beautiful country
Go to Safad and Tiberias
Send my love to Acre and Haifa
Don’t forget the Arab Castle, Nazareth
Tell Bissan [Galilee city], its people are coming back
Oh Jerusalem, my tears are scattered
My people is, around the world, scattered
Update: Mohammed Assaf spoke of peace, independence, freedom and unity after his performance at Dora stadium last week. He also stated “I have no trust in Israel at the moment”. Amazing, Mohammed Assaf is truly the gift that keeps on giving. (Thanks to kamanja in comments)
Nabila Ramdani reporting in the Guardian, Arab pop star adds his voice to the calls for a peace deal for Palestine.
“I have a great responsibility to my people,” said Assaf, after performing at a new stadium near Hebron in the West Bank to thousands of ecstatic fans. Nationalist songs such as Ya Tair al-Tayer (Oh Bird in Flight) provided solace to those yearning for full Palestinian independence, but Assaf is convinced that real change is possible.
“I am confident that I will see a free Palestine in my lifetime,” he said. “I sing about popular themes but they centre on the hopes of my own people – dreams of independence for the West Bank, for Jerusalem and for Gaza. We’ve been under Israeli occupation for decades.”
“There are many ways to make a difference in life, but my way is as an artist,” said Assaf, a graduate of Palestine University who has just become a UN youth ambassador. “I’ve always wanted to make my voice heard around the world, to sing about the occupation, about the security walls between communities, and about refugees. My first ambition is a cultural revolution through art. Palestinians don’t want war – they are tired of fighting.”
Assaf is, more specifically, calling for a return to Palestine’s 1967 borders, as well as articulating peace demands which include guaranteed security from attack, freedom of movement, an end to illegal Israeli settlements and the return of prisoners and refugees. “The subject of peace is massively complicated,” said Assaf. “The Palestinians want independence and freedom, just like everyone in the world. Thousands of us are professionals – teachers, doctors and lawyers. We all want our dignity and rights.”
“These are the kind of issues I want to highlight,” he said, pointing to the harsh restrictions which govern ordinary life for some 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza. Assaf is also concerned at the division between Abbas’s Fatah, which runs the West Bank, and Hamas, the Islamist movement that administers Gaza.
“Unity is the key – Hamas and Fatah should come to an agreement,” said Assaf. “It’s insane that we effectively have two governments at the same time as being colonised by Israel. It’s hugely frustrating for me, and for all Palestinians.”
Expressing scepticism about the short term, Assaf added: “To be honest I have no trust in Israel at the moment. If they give us our land and our rights back, I will sing in Israel, but they have to do something positive. It’s up to them. They have made no effort to dismantle their illegal settlements, for example – quite the opposite.”
(Previous Mohammed Assaf reports on Mondoweiss available here)