President cancels singer’s gig over ‘racist’ song
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President cancels singer’s gig over ‘racist’ song

Amir Benayoun will not be allowed to perform at event after releasing ‘Ahmed loves Israel’ to widespread criticism

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Singer Amir Benayoun (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Singer Amir Benayoun (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A popular Israeli singer was disinvited Tuesday from an upcoming event at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem after he released a song many saw as expressing racist sentiment against Arabs.

Amir Benayoun was slated to appear at next Sunday’s event raising awareness about the expulsion of Jews from Arab states and Iran.

Benayoun’s song “Ahmed loves Israel,” was released on Sunday and led to calls for police to investigate him for incitement.

“Against the background of the release of Amir Benayoun’s latest song yesterday, I wish to notify you that we will not be able to allow him to perform at the President’s Residence,” the director general of the President’s Residence, Harel Tubi, wrote to the event’s organizers. “Amir Benayoun is a renowned and exceptional artist, and his talent has greatly contributed to Israeli music. However, his statements made at this time of conflict and tension, even if uttered out of frustration and pain, do not, to say the least, help bring calm to the streets, and are inconsistent with the responsibility required of the President’s Residence, and of all institutions with influence over the public discourse, to work to alleviate tensions, and promote cooperation rather than division in Israeli society.”

Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach from the rightist Jewish Home party said he would no longer participate in the event after Benayoun was barred.

Benayoun’s song, about a theoretical Arab Israeli youth stabbing Jews, garnered accusations of racism as Israel copes with a wave of attacks by East Jerusalem residents.

“It’s true that I am just ungrateful scum,” Benayoun sings in the name of the fictional Ahmed in “Ahmed loves Israel.”

“It’s true, but I am not guilty, I wasn’t brought up on love. It’s true that the moment will come when you will turn your back on me, and I’ll stab you right in the back.”

In the song, one version of “Ahmed” lives in Jerusalem, studies at the Hebrew University, and is well-liked. In another, he lives in Tel Aviv, managing gas balloons near a kindergarten.

“Who benefits from all worlds like I do? Today I am moderate and smiling. Tomorrow… I will send to hell, a Jew or two,” the lyrics go.

On Monday, Meretz MK Issawi Freij called on the police to investigate Benayoun for incitement to violence. Some comments on Benayoun’s Facebook page called him a racist, while others urged him not to apologize.

By Monday evening, the song had garnered over 55,000 views on Facebook.

תכירו – אחמד אוהב ישראל. שיר אקטואלי חדש של עמיר בניון.

Posted by ‎עמיר בניון – העמוד הרשמי Amir Benayoun‎ on Sunday, 23 November 2014

On Monday afternoon, Benayoun posted a clarification on his Facebook page. “In order to remove any doubt, the song from yesterday, ‘Ahmed loves Israel,’ was only meant to express feelings, and does not call for any violence against anyone. We are absolutely against violence, and if we were for violence, we would not be singing painful songs that come straight from the heart,” he wrote.

“For all those who are shocked — I suggest that first of all, be shocked by and fear the terrorism raging through the country. Be shocked first of all by the Jews murdered with prayers stained by blood. By civilians being run over by these animals. By terrorists firing at residents of the south from schools and hospitals. There are a lot of things more shocking than a song that expresses hurt and fear and nothing more.”

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