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.
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)