Home > Israel-Palestine > Music and Tennis Offer Differing Persepctives on Israeli-Arab Relations

Music and Tennis Offer Differing Persepctives on Israeli-Arab Relations

With a right-wing government forming in Israel and violence continuing in Gaza, prospects for peace between the Jewish state and the Palestinians seem to be dimming. Yet against this backdrop, the selection of a Jewish-Arab duo to represent Israel in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest offers a ray of hope for peaceful coexistence.

The selection of the Jewish-Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, who goes by the name Noa, and the Arab-Israeli singer Mira Awad to represent Israel  marks the first time an Arab will sing for Israel in the highly popular musical competition, which will occur in Moscow in mid-May. Noa and Mira Awad have previously performed together (Click her to see the duo on YouTube), and they told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that they plan to perform a song with lyrics in Hebrew, Arabic and English at the competition to emphasize the importance of coexistence.

“Some people will see an Arab girl who looks Jewish and a Jewish girl who looks Arab, which is what we are,” Nini told Haaretz in an interview. “Maybe it will open some people’s minds.”

According to Haaretz, some have criticized Awad for agreeing to participate in the competition, saying that her appearance will gloss over what they see as Israel’s poor treatment of Arabs and Palestinians.

“The Israeli government is sending the two of you to Moscow as part of its propaganda machine, which is trying to create the appearance of Jewish-Arab ‘coexistence’ under which it carries out the daily massacre of Palestinian civilians,” reads a petition in opposition to Awad’s participation, according to Haaretz.

But Awad told Haaretz she feels compelled to participate in the competition despite the criticism:

“The situation is very depressing and very complex now, and we understand that it might seem to some people a bit cynical…sending a Jewish singer alongside a Palestinian singer.” Awad said.

She said she was going to make the point that Jews and Arabs had no option but to find some way to live together.

“It’s very important for me not to go back to the corner and just disappear,” she said.

Israel’s decision to send the duo to Eurovision also stands in stark contrast to a decision by the United Arab Emirates to deny an Israeli tennis player a visa to participate in a tournament there that began Sunday. The UAE’s refusal to allow Shahar Peer to play in the tournament was criticized by tournament organizers and tennis-stars alike, though an Al-Jazeera column supported the UAE’s decision, calling it an important part of a boycott of Israel, and comparing it to sports boycotts enacted against South Africa during apartheid.

After the UAE’s decision to bar Peer, the Television Channel decided not to air the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, which she was to compete in. Pressure from tournament organizers and sponsors led the UAE to allow an Israeli to enter the country in order to compete in the men’s portion of the tournament next week. According to the Al-Jazeera article, however, the UAE’s decision to grant Israeli tennis player Andy Ram a visa was “special permission,” and does not represent a change in UAE policy, which generally denies Israelis entrance to the country.

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