Mohammed Assaf of Gaza, who won the "Arab Idol" singing contest last June, is scheduled to perform in the Israeli-Arab city of Nazareth on April 27. The grassroots Zionist group "Im Tirtzu" is working to block the performance given Assaf's repeated attacks on Israel.
Im Tirtzu notes that Assaf dedicated his contest victory to the "shaheeds", or "martyred" terrorists, and the "prisoners," or Arab terror convicts in Israeli jails.
Assaf similarly sang songs in the contest referring to several Israeli cities not over the 1949 Armistice lines, including Nazareth, where he is to perform, as well as Tzfat, Haifa and others, as being part of "Palestine."
Im Tirtzu announced Thursday that it will send an urgent letter to Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar, asking that Assaf be denied a permit of entry into Israel, reports Walla!. They also intend to call on Sa'ar to more closely monitor funding for Nazareth's municipality, "which apparently is making its residents more extremist day by day, in various events against the country."
All of Israel "is Palestine"
Im Tirtzu adds that Assaf appeared on a TV program last August claiming that "the state of Palestine sprawls from Rosh Hanikra until Eilat," listing two Israeli towns on Israel's north and southern borders.
On the show, reportedly, "he sang the words 'my land of Palestine,' turned to Tzfat and Tiberias, sent blessings to the sea of Akko and Haifa, and sang 'don't forget Nazareth and tell Beit She'an of the return of its people.'" All noted towns are Israeli and not over the Armistice lines.
"The singer has already made statements on Arab media many times saying he will be glad to perform in Nazareth and before all of the '1948 Arabs' (Arab citizens of Israel), because 'this is our land,'" said Im Tirtzu Director Matan Peleg.
"A performance like this only distances even further the Arab population in Israel from the Jewish popluation, separates them more from the society, and makes the camps more extreme and divided," argued Peleg.
His songs "express legitimate love for his homeland"
The office of Nazareth Mayor Ali Salem responded to the Im Tirtzu protest, claiming that Assaf was invited "from artistic considerations only."
"The political aspect is not the only aspect he sings about. He isn't coming to free Palestine," remarked Salem's office, claiming the performance would improve Israel's relations with its neighbors.
"Even his songs that have nationalistic content are legitimate, because he expresses his love for his homeland," added the office of the mayor of the Israeli city.