Mohammed Assaf: Can Palestine's "Arab Idol" Winner Help End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?


Mohammed Assaf is not just a Palestinian wedding singer who has an incredible voice and just became the winner of Arab Idol. On Sunday, Assaf was named a special ambassador by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the U.N.'s Palestinian refugee agency. 

Being the first Palestinian to win the Arab Idol contest, Assaf became a source of both entertainment and a voice that effectively unified the Palestinian people. In his final number, Assaf performed his rendition of the Palestinian nationalist anthem "Alli al-keffiyeh" ("Raise Your Keffiyeh") during which he called for peace and reconciliation between the two Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah.

Upon announcing Assaf as the winner, the Palestinian territories went into full-fledged celebration mode that included dancing, chants, fireworks, and tears of joy.

Mohammed Assaf, who received support from the Palestinian president and large businesses among other sources, has instilled a sense of pride among Palestinians and, as one Twitter user put it, "brought joy to people who didn't smile for the past 66 years of occupation."

Along with explaining that Assaf will be granted complete diplomatic privileges, President Abbas has explained that his winning was in turn a "victory" for Palestinians.

The manner in which Palestinians have responded to Assaf winning the competition is a true testament to how the arts and the work of figures in entertainment can be successful in making waves on the political front. 

Will Assaf be a figure who singlehandedly alleviates the woes from the perpetual violence that has occurred both between the Palestinian factions and between Palestine and Israel? Certainly not, but despite the fact that there are naysayers who somewhat rightfully argue that Assaf's success is irrelevant to the Palestinians' suffering, one cannot deny that his victory has helped reawaken Palestinian patriotism which could be vital in helping promote peace between the two warring Palestinian factions.

It may be difficult to assess what degree of impact, if any, Assaf's winning the Arab Idol title will have long term. Nonetheless, Mohammed Assaf's view on the craft of singing is one that is moving and incredibly inspiring, especially in the face of the ongoing struggles he and his people face living through political and social unrest.

"A revolution is not just the one carrying the rifle, it is the paintbrush of an artist, the scalpel of a surgeon, the axe of the farmer," he said. "Everyone struggles for their cause in the way they see fit. Today I represent Palestine and today I am fighting for a cause through my art and the message I send out."