Rivlin Scraps Concert Over Singer's Views on Arabs

Israeli singer Amir Benayoun denied gig at state event in the President's Residence due to song calling Arab terrorists 'slimy ingrates.'

Tova Dvorin, | updated: 12:34

Amir Benayoun
Amir Benayoun
Flash 90

President Reuven Rivlin's office has cancelled the scheduled appearance of popular singer Amir Benayoun at a state event next week, following controversy over the singer's latest song.

Benayoun had been scheduled to sing at an event marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran for next Sunday, November 30. 

However, on Tuesday, the Director General of the President's Residence, Harel Tubi stated in a letter to the event organizers that his appearance had been scrapped from the agenda.

"Against the background of the release of Amir Benayoun's latest song yesterday, I wish to notify you that we will not be able to allow him to perform at the President's Residence," the bulletin said.

"Amir Benayoun is a renowned and exceptional artist, and his talent has greatly contributed to Israeli music," it continued. "However, his statements made at this time of conflict and tension, even if uttered out of frustration and pain, do not, to say the least, help bring calm to the streets, and are inconsistent with the responsibility required of the President's Residence, and of all institutions with influence over the public discourse, to work to alleviate tensions, and promote cooperation rather than division in Israeli society."    

The song in question is entitled "Ahmed Loves Israel," and depicts Arabs smiling to the camera as they ready themselves to kill Jews. In it, Benayoun "plays the part" of two ostensibly "moderate" Arabs who later go on to murder Jews, and labels Arab terrorists "slimy ingrates." The song was composed in response to several recent incidents of Arab residents of Jerusalem and elsewhere committing deadly terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli civilians. 

But despite the outcry many have contended that the song - whose lyrics can be found below - is not racist but a form of legitimate free expression.

Minister for Senior Citizens, Uri Orbach (Jewish Home) issued a response to the move shortly after the announcement was made, saying that he would cancel his own appearance at the upcoming event out of deference for Benayoun's rights.

"The cancellation of singer Amir Benayoun's concert at the President's house, marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran, contradicts our position," Orbach stated. 

Orbach added that while he respects Rivlin, he views the cancellation as an infringement on freedom of expression. 

"Punishing artists due to their opinions is an impermissible act, so unfortunately I cannot attend," he said. "If Benayoun isn't singing, I won't speak." 

Audio of "Ahmed Loves Israel" (in Hebrew):

Lyrics:

Salaam Aleikum, my name is Ahmed.
I reside in Jerusalem, I study at the University a thing or two.
There's no one like me that enjoys both worlds
Today I am moderate and smiling
Tomorrow I'll fly up to Heaven
Sending a Jew or two to Hell.

It's true I'm just a plain slimy ingrate
It is true but I'm not guilty as my childhood was loveless
It's true that moment you turn your back to me
Then I'll bring down on it a sharpened hatchet.

My name is Ahmed
I live in the country's center.
I work right next to a kindergarten
And behind it some cooking gas balloons.
There's no one like me that enjoys both worlds
Today I'll be me
And tomorrow they'll be not,
Many many of them will not be.

It's true I'm just a plain slimy ingrate
It is true but I'm not guilty as my childhood was loveless
It's true that moment you turn your back to me
Then I'll shoot straight into it.




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