Gazan 'Arab Idol' Attacks Israel on US Tour

Singer who praises 'martyrs' and sings of 'Palestine' replacing Israel tours US, talks to CNN about 'the occupation.'

Ari Yashar,

Mohammed Assaf
Mohammed Assaf
frame of video

Mohammed Assaf, a resident of Gaza since the age of 5, became the first Palestinian to win the "Arab Idol" singing contest this summer. Currently he is on a nationwide US tour, where he has been telling US news media about the "Israeli occupation."

After winning the contest Assaf was named as a special ambassador to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) by Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

He is filling his role as a PA ambassador now, performing last week in Chicago as part of his US tour.

During the tour he gave an interview to CNN, in which he described the Gazan town of Khan Younis where he grew up after his family moved there from Libya when he was a child.

Referring to Khan Younis, Assaf blamed Israel for what he said were difficult conditions: "whether politically, because of the occupation, or economically, conditions are difficult."

He similarly said leaving Gaza to participate in the singing contest in Egypt was difficult "because of the occupation."

This is not the first time Assaf has used his position to attack Israel and deny its very right to exist.

In the "Arab Idol" singing contest itself he reportedly said Arabs in Israel have been "suffering occupation" for more than 60 years, referring not to Israel's victory in the 1967 Six Day War when Judea and Samaria were liberated, but rather to Israel's re-establishment as a modern state in 1948.

He also reportedly dedicated his performance to the "shahids (martyrs)," referring to terrorists who either carry out suicide attacks or die fighting Israel and the West.

Furthermore, Palestinian Media Watch noted that in the contest he sang a song that referred to several Israeli cities within Israel's 1949 Armistice Lines as part of “Palestine,” among them Tzfat, Akko (Acre), Haifa, Nazareth and Beit She'an.