Police bolstered their presence around a festival in Haifa as protesters attempted to disrupt an Arab rapper after the culture minister called for his invitation to be withdrawn.
Two people were briefly detained but released on condition that they stay away from Israeli Arab rapper Tamer Nafar’s concert at the opening of a community theater festival in the northern city, police said.
“The police presence will be strengthened to prevent friction and to preserve citizens’ safety and public security,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
Police prevented one protester brandishing an Israeli flag from entering the venue, Channel 10 reported.
Dozens of demonstrators shouted “Go to Gaza” and “traitor” during the show, according to the TV report.
Among the audience members at the festival was firebrand Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi, who was booed by protesters upon her arrival, some of who attempted to confront her.
Culture Minister Miri Regev, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, had demanded that Haifa mayor Yona Yahav withdraw the invitation to Nafar to perform, accusing the rapper of incitement against the Jewish people.
But city officials decided to stick to the original running order for the municipality-sponsored event, which they said is meant to bring Jews and Arabs together in the mixed city.
As he left the stage after playing a set, Nafar, who holds Israeli citizenship and identifies as Palestinian, thanked the crowd and acknowledged the protesters, some whom booed and whistled.
“Even you who screamed and tried to destroy my show, I can’t even hate you,” he said in Hebrew. “Salaam Alaykum.”
In an interview for Channel 10 on Tuesday, Nafar denied he ever called for the killing of Jews.
“It’s a little tiring that our rights are always being taken away,” he said. “Instead of talking about it and returning them [our rights] and ensure they are returned, we must defend ourselves.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Nafar confirmed he would still attend, telling reporters that “no one can silence my voice.”
Much of Nafar’s music relates to feeling oppressed by Israel.
Israeli media said Regev in particular objected to a song which included the lyrics: “Democracy? Why? It reminds me of the Nazis. You’ve raped the Arab soul, and it became pregnant, giving birth to a child called ‘terror attack’. And then you call us terrorists.”
Last month Regev walked out of a film award ceremony after Nafar and a Jewish performer read part of a poem by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.
Irene Abedi, a member of Haifa’s municipality, said they had written to the mayor to ask him to reject Regev’s request.
She said changing course would have gone against the city’s “multicultural” heritage and pandered to “right-wing extremist views that do not represent the majority in the state.”
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