Mohammed Assaf
Mohammed Assafframe of video

Singer Mohammed Assaf of Gaza, who became the first Palestinian Authority Arab to win the 'Arab Idol' competition this week, has earned praise within Israel as well as in the PA and the Arab world for his talent. One Walla reporter even suggested that the reason many Israelis had not heard of the “talented Palestinian youth with the silken voice” had to do with racism.

However, there is a side to Assaf’s message that many are ignoring, the Latma media watchdog and comedy site reported.

It was widely reported that shortly after his victory Assaf saluted “the people of Palestine, who have been suffering for decades from the occupation.”

In Arab media, a more precise quotation was given: Assaf stated that Arabs have been suffering occupation “for more than 60 years” – thus referring not to Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War and the subsequent Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria, but to Israel’s establishment by the United Nations as a reborn modern state in 1948.

According to Latma, Assaf also made a less-publicized salute, dedicating his performance to the “shahids” – the Islamic term for “martyr” used to refer to terrorists who are suicide bombers and those who die fighting Israel or the West.

He also dedicated his victory to “the prisoners,” a reference to Arabs imprisoned in Israel for terror or terror-related offenses.

The Palestinian Media Watch organization noted that one of the songs Assaf sang during the popular Arab competition 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.

 “How much self-hate does it take to get excited over the victory of an individual who wants to push us out of the land?” Latma’s Shuki Blass asked.

However, an expert in local Arab culture provided another reason that may be behind the singer's statements.. “It's very simple. If you do not express your hatred of Israel and loyalty to the regime, it's unlikely you would be granted permission to go anywhere -- and it's very likely you would be hanged as a collaborator.”

"Many Gaza Arabs want to leave, but in order to do so they need permission from the Hamas government, which is run by terrorists dedicated to destroying Israel.

"Assaf in particular has reason to want to leave", the source noted. “This young man has no future in Gaza, if he wants to pursue a career as a vocalist. Hamas is battling internally for survival right now against Salafi forces, which are even more extremist Islamists than they are. Neither supports singing in night clubs or really any form of non-Islamic musical entertainment as an art form.”

“If he wants to leave, stay alive, and keep his family alive along the way, this young man has little choice but to toe the "party line" if he makes any public statement at all -- and in his position, I would bet that he indeed was forced to say something to the Arab public when he was anointed the PA 'darling of the year.' It is unlikely that he had any choice in the matter,” she concluded.