Like tens of millions of other Arabs, Amani Ali watched Mohammad Assef from Gaza winning the Arab Idol competition on TV last night. And she argues that Arabs should ignore the party-poopers and be proud of his victory.
There has been a lot of controversy regarding Mohammad Assaf, the Palestinian singer who won “Arab Idol” last night. Some said Assaf didn’t liberate Palestine therefore people shouldn’t celebrate the way they did; others said that Palestinians should “go liberate Palestine” instead of watching a stupid TV show; yet others praised his win and thought he deserved it.
On social media, Egyptians were praising and celebrating Ahmad Gamal (the Egyptian contestant) and Syrians were celebrating Farah Youssef from Syria. My own family were supporting Ziad Khoury, the Lebanese contestant. Each contestant was like a representative of their country, so it’s normal for Palestinians to support the Palestinian – who was a worthy winner with a great voice.
When Egyptians win a football game in the African Cup, don’t their streets fill up with joy and happiness? Some may indeed be going over-the-top and hero-worshipping Assaf, but in general Palestine has the right to be proud of its son. We should all be proud of him.
The Middle East is going through a difficult time and politics is something that divides people. It divides Lebanese as it divides Egyptians; it also divides Palestinians who are broadly separated into the Hamas and Fatah camps. But observing the celebrations of Assaf’s win, I could only see the Palestinian flag and Kufiyehs being waved. So music and culture unites us, thus Assaf is something that unites Palestinians and he sang and represented Palestine exceptionally well in front of the world. That can only be a positive.
As for those who say that people celebrating should be out there liberating Palestine, remember that the same people who are out in the streets in Ramallah, al Quds, Gaza, and other places are the same ones who are confronting the Zionist occupier everyday. They are the ones who are under continuous fire from the Zionist invader. They are the ones who live under occupation and resist it bravely with everything that they have.
So before you criticise let me ask you: “what are you doing?” Don’t sit on your armchair and “teach” them about resistance. Is it really too much for you that they are happy?
Resistance comes in different forms. Mohammad Assaf is shedding light on the injustice happening in Occupied Palestine, the mere fact that it took him several days to cross the Rafah border and arrive in Lebanon from Gaza highlights the hardship that Palestinian people live under. Assaf is a message, his songs on Palestine are also a message – if you support a cause then your words of support are important, they express your support for academic and cultural aspects of Palestinian resistance as well as the armed resistance.
Assaf sings about his nation and talks about refugees and the hardship of life under occupation and all the martyrs. Words, tones, colours, sounds are worth a much as bullets. And Assaf reminded those who have forgotten that Palestinians are still struggling for dear life in their own valiant way.
So Assaf may not have liberated Palestine but he made a people who have not truly smiled for 66 years happy. Did Ziad Khoury stop the unrest in Lebanon? Did Ahmad Gamal stop the chaos in Egypt? Did Farah Youssef stop the war in Syria? No they didn’t, but they did unite a people at a time when they are most divided. So kudos to those who overcame selfishness and small-mindedness and celebrated Assaf’s win.