Singer Amir Benayoun performed to a sold-out audience at a Tel Aviv venue on Tuesday evening, as a media storm raged about him over a song he penned which many said expressed racist sentiment against Arabs.
The singer performed various songs from his repertoire, but ignored calls by some audience members to sing the song “Ahmed loves Israel,” which was released on Sunday and led to calls for police to investigate him for incitement.
Several audience members interviewed by Ynet said they disagreed with the song but came because they appreciate Benayoun’s other work.
“We came to see an artist perform and didn’t really concern ourselves withe the hubbub,” said one audience member identified as Moshe, adding that ‘Ahmed’ was “unnecessary and inappropriate.”
Others said they saw no fault in the singer’s actions.
“He simply said what everyone is thinking,” said a woman, identified as Yael.
Around 400 people attended the concert.
The popular singer was disinvited Tuesday from an upcoming event at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem due to his controversial song. Benayoun was slated to appear at next Sunday’s event raising awareness about the expulsion of Jews from Arab states and Iran.
“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.”
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.
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.”