Arab rapper cancels concert over police protection despite court go-ahead
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Arab rapper cancels concert over police protection despite court go-ahead

After mayor says Tamer Nafar’s songs do not meet ‘moral standards’ of Umm al-Fahm, judge rules reason does not ‘justify restricting freedom of speech’

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Arab-Israeli rapper Tamer Nafar performs on-stage during a festival in the northern Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin on October 23, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY MAJEDA El-BATSH)
Arab-Israeli rapper Tamer Nafar performs on-stage during a festival in the northern Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin on October 23, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY MAJEDA El-BATSH)

A concert featuring popular and controversial Arab Israeli rapper Tamer Nafar, which was scheduled to take place in Umm al-Fahm on Thursday, was called off even though the Haifa District Court overturned an earlier decision by the town’s mayor to cancel it.

Nafar and Umm al-Fahm Mayor Samir Mahameed agreed at a meeting in Haifa on Thursday that the concert would not be held in the town “at this stage,” a post on the artist’s Facebook page said.

On Tuesday, the Umm al-Fahm Municipality announced that Mahameed decided to cancel the concert, stating Nafar’s songs do not meet “the religious, moral, educational and cultural standards” of the town and “contain expressions and terms that do not correspond to our cultural and social lexicon

The local body also stated that the musical performance was not presented to the board of the community center, where it was scheduled to occur, for review.

The 40-year-old rapper, who has challenged social norms in Arab-Israeli society, suggested that he had decided to nix the performance rather than be forced to be escorted by police for his protection.

A number of Umm al-Fahm residents had protested on social media against Nafar’s expected arrival in the town.

He said that he will “enter Umm al-Fahm and meet its people as if he is one of its inhabitants” and added that he will not accept “arriving in it with Israeli police protection,” according to the post on his page.

He also thanked everyone who supported “the right of young men and women to attend my performance or any artistic performance.”

A view of Umm al-Fahm (Courtesy of Karen Lehrman Block)

Nafar, a native of the central Israeli town of Lod, made a name for himself as a co-founder of the band DAM, considered the first Palestinian hip-hop group.

A number of his songs advocate for feminism and criticize patriarchy in Arab society; his music also expresses support for equality between Arabs and Jews and ending Israel’s military rule over the Palestinians.

Earlier on Thursday, the Haifa District Court annulled Mahameed’s decision to cancel the concert, which was slated to occur at a community center in the town.

The court made the ruling after the Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a petition to it to challenge Mahameed’s decision.

Haifa District Court Judge Bettina Tauber said that the Mahameed’s reasons for canceling the concert did “not justify restricting freedom of speech.”

She also noted that the concert was slated to occur inside a community center, which would mean only those who want to attend the event would hear Nafar’s music.

“We are not talking about an event that will occur in the city streets where passersby could be exposed to a performance or message against their will. We are talking about a performance that will be in a closed hall, in which everyone interested in going to it must purchase a ticket,” the judge stated. “A part of the public that wants to see a performance, regardless whether it is a minority or a majority, has a right to do so in a civilized society.”

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