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The New Arab Staff

Israel to ban much-loved singer Mohammed Assaf from entering Palestinian territories

Mohammed Assaf gained global fame after winning the 2013 Arab Idol contest [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 October, 2020

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An Israeli MP has said that a permit allowing 2013 Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf to enter the West Bank will be withdrawn.

An Israeli member of parliament from the right-wing Likud Party has announced that Israel is working to prevent a famous Palestinian singer from entering the occupied Palestinian territories.

Avi Dichter, who was formerly Israel’s minister of internal security, said that a special permit allowing Mohammed Assaf to enter the occupied West Bank would be withdrawn.

Assaf became a phenomenon across the Arab World in 2013 after winning the Arab Idol contest. He was named an ambassador of peace by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the same year.

Dichter added that Israel would work with the United Arab Emirates to prevent Assaf performing any more concerts there. Assaf, who grew up in Gaza, currently lives in Dubai with his wife.

Read also: How music preserves Palestine in the face of Israel

The UAE and Israel signed a deal normalising relations last month and after it was announced, the UAE took measures to silence any criticism of it.

Dichter said that the measures against Assaf were being taken because of videos he had made calling for resistance against Israel.

Israel prevents any Palestinian from Gaza from entering the West Bank without a special permit. Assaf’s status as an UNRWA ambassador allowed him to obtain the permit.

In a tweet on Thursday, Assaf said that Israel’s decision to withdraw the permit was “a continuation of the oppression and curtailment of freedoms which my people suffer from.”

The Israeli ban on the singer’s entry to the Palestinian territories, “will not stop me loving and singing about my country on every stage,” Assaf said.

Israel’s actions against Assaf were condemned by Palestinian Authority Minister of Culture Atef Abu Seif, who called the “part of [Israel’s] war against Palestinian arts and culture.”

“This Israeli campaign and incitement against Palestinian arts and against one of the stars of Palestine -- who carry to the world the voice and story of our people suffering under the occupation -- will not succeed in undermining the eternal message of the Palestinian artists and their struggle," the Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Assaf as saying.

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