WATCH

Local Rap Star Urges Arabs to Vote in Israeli Election 'Or End Up Outside the Homeland'

Tamer Nafar, who defines himself as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, releases new video urging Arab youth not to boycott the upcoming Israeli election

Screengrab from Tamer Nafar's video "Tamer Must Vote," released April 4, 2019.
Screengrab/YouTube

Controversial rap artist Tamer Nafar is urging Arab youth not to boycott the upcoming Israeli election in a newly released song and video, contending that they must use the ballot box to fight the “fascists” who want to transfer them out of Israel.

The song’s chorus declares: “The fascist goes, and everything goes his way. Either we vote or end up outside of the homeland.”

Only by voting, he sings in “Tamer Must Vote,” can they can help “erase” right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman and “imprison” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Explaining why he recorded the song, Nafar said: “If our vote can help send Bibi to jail and throw Lieberman out of the Knesset — then it’s already worth voting. This is our struggle and I don’t intend to give up any tool at my disposal. We must shed indifference, not for Israeli democracy, but rather because of racism and apartheid … we must not give up our representation.”

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In his new song, the rapper — who defines himself as a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Lod — faces off against himself in a “Tamer vs. Tamer” rap battle, fighting his desire to boycott the April 9 election out of rebellion or indifference, reflecting the position of many young Arabs.

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Nafar’s skeptical side argues that participating in the system supports a government that bombs Gaza; that Israel is “using” Arab votes “to look liberal”; and that all politicians — including those from the Arab sector — are worthless.

“Did they deal with poverty? Did they bring us
schools and jobs? After all, we only see them out
there during elections Why should I lose a day’s
work? I voted last time and it fell apart.”

His alter ego responds:

“If our vote
will erase Lieberman, imprison Bibi, then we’re ready”

He adds:

“Don’t underestimate their fascism
Look what they did to our grandparents
Tell Bennett, tell Shaked, that I’m not moving
Tell Feiglin that I’m not moving
Tell Smotrich that I’m not moving
Tell Kahane’s cronies that I’m not moving
I wanted to boycott but decided I don’t want to stay outside
For my brothers and sisters in ’67 I’m going to vote
For the March of Return I’m going to vote
It doesn’t make sense for me to give up a tool when I hardly have any tools.”

Nafar has publicly clashed several times in recent years with Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev. In 2016, she walked out during Nafar’s performance at the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars after a poem by Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish was recited.  

Nafar referred to the incident in his new song, noting that “When Miri tried to get me off the stage, they stood with me,” arguing that Arab politicians in the Knesset have value and should not be viewed as being solely responsible for the problems in their communities.

“During every crisis they stood and presented my pain and yours.
In any case, poverty’s not the work of your brothers, but rather your cousins,” the rapper chants, blaming Arab citizens’ troubles on Jewish, not Arab, forces in the government.

Israeli Arabs make up enough of the electorate — about 17 percent, equivalent to slightly more than 20 seats in the 120-seat Knesset — to significantly impact the election. Theoretically, if they turn out in significant numbers, their votes could push a center-left bloc into power. But if, as in previous years, a significant percentage sit the election out, the advantage goes to the right, led by Netanyahu.

In the 2015 election, some 63 percent of the Arab electorate turned out (compared to an overall voting rate of 72 percent). Two years earlier, only  54 percent turned out (compared with 62 percent in the general population). According to a new poll, the proportion of Arabs saying they intend to vote on Tuesday had dropped by 19 percent from the 2015 figure. 

The drop in Arab participation could be equivalent to nearly two and a half Knesset seats, with nearly all of the benefit going to the center-right bloc.