Israel to Stop Promoting Campaign Led by Arab Rapper Amid Right-wing Lawmaker's Protest

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Rapper Tamer Nafar participating in a panel on crime in the Arab community, in 2019.
Rapper Tamer Nafar participating in a panel on crime in the Arab community, in 2019.Credit: rami shllush

The Labor and Social Affairs minister has ordered to stop promoting a video campaign led by Israeli Arab rapper Tamer Nafar to assist children who have been molested, after a right-wing legislator slammed the promotion of the videos on the ministry’s digital platforms.

Tamer Nafar, a prominent rapper who founded the first Palestinian hip-hop group DAM and identifies as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has worked on a campaign on reporting domestic violence suffered by children and youth in the Arab community in Israel. The campaign was headed by the Efshar nonprofit association, which operates protection centers for at-risk minors ("Beit Lin") across Israel.

Efshar's video from The Labor and Social Affairs Minister twitter account

The ministry allocated only 40,000 shekels to promote Efshar's campaign on their social platforms, which gained the exposure of some 1.5 million people. 

The campaign, which will continue running without the ministry's promotion, caused an uproar both on the Israeli right and among Palestinians. Nafar, who regularly criticizes Israel, was blamed for dishonesty after seemingly cooperating with the state for the campaign. In a letter to the ministry on September 19, far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir described Nafar as "an extremist, nationalist and inciter who is known for his antisemitic and anti-Israeli messages."

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen told Ben-Gvir that he ordered his office to stop promoting the campaign on the ministry's social networks accounts, though he noted that it wasn't an official ministry campaign. Sources in the ministry said however that the campaign was doing remarkably well and that "phones have been off the hook" since its inception.

“In light of the information that you detailed in your letter," Cohen wrote to Ben-Gvir last month, "I instructed my staff to stop sharing the content on the ministry's website."

Ben-Gvir also cited an example from the lyrics of “Min Arhabi?” (Who is the terrorist?) by Nafar's group DAM. “This song," he wrote, "accuses Israel of terrorism against the Palestinians, justifies the Palestinian terrorism during the First Intifada [civil uprising], and even compares Israel to Nazi Germany."

The Efshar campaign on reporting domestic violence and abuse on social networks will continue regardless, with another video set to be released next week as part of a series of songs written by Nafar.

“I don’t know what they're talking about," Nafar said in response. "This important campaign run by Beit Lin Nazareth is addressed toward young victims of physical and sexual violence in the Arab community, and it will continue to run for their sake. Wait until next week," he added.

Cohen's office said that the video was promoted only for a couple of days out of professional reasons and that "its promotion stopped even prior to Ben-Gvir's appeal." In addition, "the video is apolitical and does not carry a controversial message. The ministry ensures that all of its contents do not offend any community, especially when an important matter like this is at stake."

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