President Rivlin Cancels Performance by Singer Who Published anti-Arab Song

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Amir Benayoun, June 2013.Credit: David Bachar

President Reuven Rivlin has canceled a performance by an Israeli star singer who caused controversy earlier this week after publishing an anti-Arab song describing a fictional Arab student as "ungrateful scum."

The song "Ahmed loves Israel," sung from the viewpoint of the fictional Arab, continues with him saying that “one day, it’s true, you’ll turn your back to me and I’ll strike you with my well-honed ax." The song was posted on Facebook. 

Singer Amir Benayoun was scheduled to perform in a ceremony marking the expulsion and departure of Jews from Iran and Arab countries. The director general of the President’s office Harel Tubi told the ceremony’s organizers that “following the posting of Benayoun’s song, I would like to inform you that he will not be welcome at the President’s residence.”

Benayoun posted his new song on Facebook last Sunday, causing an uproar and a public protest, due to its harsh lyrics describing an Arab student in Jerusalem, calling him “an ingrate, a piece of filth” who harbors an intention to shoot someone or kill them with an axe. By mid-day on Monday there were over 120,000 viewings of the music clip on Benayoun’s Facebook page, which has one hundred thousand followers. The song evoked a lengthy debate on the page, and was shared and re-sent hundreds of times by viewers. Many accused Benayoun of incitement to racism, some even threatening to file complaints with the police.

In an interview Benayoun gave to Army Radio, he lashed out at host Yael Dan and at legal scholar Prof. Kremnitzer from the Israeli Democracy Institute, after the latter stated that this song could lead to charges of incitement against Benayoun. Benayoun refused to apologize for his lyrics, adding that “according to your criteria you are a murderer yourself since you just incited people against me. Your words have consequences and I don’t buy your stories.” When the host tried to restrain him, Benayoun asked: “If someone commits a murder near my house tomorrow will you take responsibility? Enough with this hypocrisy, I get my inspiration from the latest murders. You’re murderers yourselves, your words lead to murder - you should be ashamed of yourselves!”

The people in charge of Benayoun’s Facebook issued a clarification: “A message from Amir: the song published yesterday was only meant to express his emotions, not to call for violence against anyone. We’re absolutely against any violence – if we had a violent nature we couldn’t sing these pained songs that come straight out of the heart. To all those who expressed shock, we suggest that you first be shocked and concerned by the rampant terror in this country. First be shocked by Jews being murdered in their bloodied prayer shawls, by citizens being run over by animals, by terrorists firing at residents of the south from within schools and hospitals. These are more shocking than a song that only expresses pain and concern.”

This isn’t the first time Benayoun has dealt with political subjects in his songs. In parallel to his career as a singer, Benayoun has been addressing his followers on Facebook for several years, publishing songs there that don’t end up in his albums or on his You Tube label, where he maintains a more dignified presence.

Last week he published a song called “Jewish Blood”, following the synagogue massacre, in which four men at prayer and a policemen were murdered, with others injured. In the song Benayoun asks: “Till when more afflicted orphans, more tearful widows, more small children whose dreams have been shattered, more young orphans as the devil again begins his dance – does being Jewish mean dying daily? Another song called “The Day After” was published after the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers last summer, while a further one was dedicated to IDF soldiers.

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