The office of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin announced on Tuesday that it was canceling the appearance of a pop star who has been accused of racism at an upcoming state event, according to the Associated Press. Israeli singer Amir Benayoun had been slated to perform at an event on Nov. 30 marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries and Iran, but controversy over his latest song “Ahmed Loves Israel” appears to have forced Rivlin’s office to rethink the invitation.
In a statement, the office said that Benayoun’s sentiments in the song are “inconsistent with the responsibility required of the president’s residence,” adding that "his statements made at this time of conflict and tension ... do not, to say the least, help bring calm to the streets."
Tensions have been high in Israel amid a push for new legislation that would formalize the country’s status as “the Jewish state,” according to the AP. A parliamentary vote for the measure had been scheduled for Wednesday but has been delayed amid an outpouring of criticism by Israel’s Arab community.
The release of “Ahmed Loves Israel,” a song about an Israeli Arab described as “ungrateful scum,” reflects some of these mounting tensions. Issawi Freij, a knesset minister from the left-wing Meretz party, called on police on Monday to investigate the singer for incitement to violence, according to the Times of Israel. Meanwhile, Uri Orbach of the right-wing Jewish Home party issued a statement saying that he would cancel his own appearance at the president’s event in protest of Benayoun’s rescinded invitation, reported Israelis news agency Arutz Sheva.
Benayoun has had brushes with controversy in the past and is known for producing music related to current events, according to the Jerusalem Post. His latest effort has already garnered over 136,000 views on Facebook as of Tuesday. In response to the outcry over the video, the singer posted a clarification on his Facebook page. “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.... There are a lot of things more shocking than a song that expresses hurt and fear and nothing more,” he said, according to the Times of Israel.
Israel has seen a wave of violence over the past month that has resulted in the killing of 11 people by Palestinian attackers. Jerusalem in particular has served as a flashpoint for tensions in recent weeks, with a spate of stabbings, in its Old City.