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Mohammed Assaf invades! (50 years after the Beatles)

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New Jersey

Mohammed Assaf, North American Arab Idol tour, November 15, 2013 New Jersey

There’s a North American Arab Idol tour performing to packed, sold out houses in cities across the country. It features the show’s finalists Ziad Khoury from Lebanon, Farah Youssef from Syria, and the main act is, of course, winner Mohammed Assaf.

From California to D.C., Assaf is an embodiment of Palestinian hopes and memories.




New Jersey

New Jersey





Mohammed Assaf visits The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Detroit Chapter

Considering the overwhelming response thus far, CNN has an odd title on top of its browser. “Arab Idol tries to make it in America”. Gee, ya think? CNN quotes Assaf about conditions back home in Khan Younis:


“The camp is like a densely populated residential area. There’s only a meter or two between each house. With people this close together, conditions are difficult,” he said. “Whether politically, because of the occupation, or economically, conditions are difficult. I can’t even describe how difficult the conditions are — and the poverty and unemployment of my society,” he said.

Later, CNN makes a strange assertion:

Before the show, fans flocked to have their photograph taken Assaf. While clearly the center of attention he remained soft-spoken and gracious with them all, whether they simply wanted to congratulate him or tell him how wonderful his smile is.

“The most beautiful thing is the love of the people. When you see that a lot of people see you as something, and encourage you, and they love you, you feel that they want to finish this journey with you that you’ve been dreaming of,” Mohammed said.

Assaf was aware that he would be one of the few Gazans the world would see who was not involved in politics, and not interested in taking sides.

“My life now is wonderful,” he said, “but what I miss most is my family and friends. Where I am from people love each other, we are very close… fame is nice, but when they get to be with me, it will be even more wonderful,” he said.

Before it was time to go on stage he stood quietly out of the view of the crowd, smiling and looking at the floor as he waited for his introduction. When he heard his name, his eyes lit up, a megawatt smile spread across his face, and he took over the stage.

An elderly woman in traditional Palestinian clothes was at the very front of the crowd, pressed up against the stage. She waved her arms feebly as he sang. “Do you see this woman?” one of the organizers of the event asked, pointing at her. “She has never been to a concert in her life until now.”

Really, Assaf is not interested in “taking sides”? Does he have a choice? Does any Palestinian have a choice? The reporter surely missed the meaning of Mohammed Assaf’s acceptance speech when he won Arab Idol, or failed to see what he had to say about Netanyahu in his interview with us.

As Goodwill Ambassador for the UNRWA Mohammed Assaf will be speaking and  performing at the United Nations on Nov. 25, in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People.

Here’s a wonderful video of his performance in Chicago. Enjoy.

Update: Post originally stated that Assaf is from Jabaliya, due to editor’s error. He’s from Khan Younis. Thanks to Nawal.

(Previous Mohammed Assaf coverage on Mondoweiss available here)

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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22 Responses

  1. just on November 21, 2013, 10:35 am

    CNN misses the entire point AGAIN.

    Congratulations to these amazing and successful troubadours! Many thanks for bringing their brilliance, their talent and beautiful languages to our shores………this is how education and understanding and appreciation begins. There’s a whole wide world filled with people out there that the average American has no clue about. And for the immigrants who have chosen this land to be theirs, they must feel so good about this incredible display of “home”.

    Thank you Annie! Goose bump worthy! Assaf is a Goodwill Ambassador, indeed.

    • Chu on November 21, 2013, 12:54 pm

      yeah. It’s impressive how a young man who is only on a talent show is having such an impact. It’s changing the perception.

  2. Walid on November 21, 2013, 11:04 am

    A symbol of hope for all Palestinians. He said he doesn’t take sides and he probably doesn’t but his parents are fervent followers of Abbas which was surely a delicate situation for them while they were still living in Gaza until he won the Arab Idol prize.

    • Walid on November 21, 2013, 11:28 am

      Arutz Sheva upset with Assaf because he never seems to stop talking about the occupation and of life being miserable under the Israelis, especially to CNN in Chicago.

      Was he supposed to say that life was good under the occupation?

      • just on November 21, 2013, 11:39 am

        They can’t handle the TRUTH. Many more in the world have known the truth for seemingly forever. Like I said, Assaf is perfect as the Goodwill Ambassador for truth and much more…

        No hasbara can touch him. He’s the perfect antidote to the spew coming from the Nakba deniers. Living, breathing, singing, humble, gentle, and enormously talented and gorgeous. He sings of what he knows, and celebrates the Arabic people and pays homage to the greats that have gone before– that’s what bothers them so very much.

      • Walid on November 21, 2013, 12:38 pm

        Just, an impressive tour of something like 30 cities in US and Canada. Most of Assaf’s audience will be Palestinian. It’s a smart tour because singing with him will be the Syrian and Lebanese finalists that he beat so that should attract other Arabs to his shows; there are about 5 million of those in the US.

        The video of the Syrian Farah Youssef that contains about 5 or 6 songs she sang on Arab Idol:

        and the Lebanese Ziad Khoury

      • Walid on November 21, 2013, 1:11 pm

        oooops, got tripped in all my youtubes. The link above that was supposed to be of the Syrian Farrah Youssef is actually of Ziad Khourry with the Moroccan Salma Rashed. After Assaf, Salma was my favourite.

        For the proper Farrah Youssef :

      • annie on November 21, 2013, 1:53 pm

        walid, Farrah Youseff opened for him in vegas, she was hot/fantastic.

  3. Cliff on November 21, 2013, 11:12 am

    It’s not that CNN ‘missed the point’ – they outright LIED.

    THEY don’t want to present a popular Palestinian human being as caring about his homeland and the well-being of his people.

    But they’ll plug PR for Jewish colonists and Zionist thieves all day long.

    • Walid on November 21, 2013, 12:33 pm

      Cliff, people like Assaf screw up the Zionists’ narrative that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular are bloodthirsty terrorists. States-side, 46% of the 200,000 or so Palestinian-Americans living in the US hold a college degree.

  4. amigo on November 21, 2013, 11:14 am

    Warms the cockles of my heart to see this.

    For Zionists , it sends a chill down their spines.That makes it doubly rewarding.

  5. Pamela Olson on November 21, 2013, 12:33 pm

    Ya rab, this makes me so happy I can hardly stand it. So much wish I could have made it to one of his concerts! But I was traveling all during his tour (with some near-misses, dang). He’s not still coming to the NY/NJ area, is he?

    • Walid on November 21, 2013, 12:55 pm

      November 15th, he was in Elizabeth, NJ. On 17th was in DC. You missed him unless Brooklyn gets added at a later date.

    • annie on November 21, 2013, 1:56 pm

      pam…how could you miss it? i heard he’s singing at the UN tho. maybe you can make that. or dallas/houston this weekend!

  6. Hatim Kanaaneh on November 21, 2013, 1:58 pm

    Thank you Annie for the well-deserved attention. It is indeed a heart-warming gesture to have posted the recording. Unfortunately, technically speaking, it doesn’t do Assaf justice. I am tempted to blame the technical shortcoming on Chicago’s mayor. Somehow, he must have jammed the waves.

    • just on November 21, 2013, 4:15 pm


    • annie on November 22, 2013, 9:55 pm

      Hatim, we’ve featured many many videos of Assaf performing and i agree technically speaking, this may not be his best. but i love the parts of the video he aims the microphone at the audience and they start singing knowing every word to his now famous (trademark) song Ali Keffiyeh. he’s a real star, the real deal. and i was fortunate enough to see/hear him perform live, simply thrilling.

  7. mariapalestina on November 21, 2013, 4:22 pm

    Wow, am I a lucky one!! I get to see him in Pasadena as an 80th birthday treat. Can’t wait. I’ll be there with my keffiyeh and my bells on.

    • just on November 21, 2013, 7:57 pm

      Enjoy! Happy Birthday! It’s past time that you hit the jackpot!

      (wear lots of bells in continued good health!)

    • Walid on November 21, 2013, 10:48 pm

      Happy coming birthday, Maria.

    • annie on November 22, 2013, 9:37 pm

      wonderful maria! what a birthday treat indeed. happy birthday.

  8. just on November 21, 2013, 5:59 pm

    What a pleasure to “meet” you Doctor.

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