The US authorities have refused the issuance of visa to popular Israeli singer, Amir Benayoun, scheduled to perform at the UN concert on Holocaust Remembrance Day at UN headquarters in New York.
The two other singers Miri Mesika and David D’Or, who were slated to perform, have received their visas without any delay. The three singers would perform “The Last One” in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, a 2014 song Benayoun composed and co-wrote with political strategist Moshe Klughaft.
The US Embassy in Israel resonated declining Benayoun’s visa with singer’s failure to convince the US consul of his intention to return to his homeland after the concert, though Amir Benayoun claimed that he ‘has a strong connection to his country, which ensures his return to Israel after a short visit to the U.S.”
New York trip organizers insisted the consulate’s reasoning of visa denial is absurd, considering Benayoun has a full line up of performances scheduled for February and March in Israel.
However, according to the media, the actual reason for Benayoun’s visa denial may be a bit more sinister.
First of all, Benayoun’s a very outspoken right-winger. During the Obama presidency, he had written and performed a song in 2015 about a “corrupt, cruel” pet crow that he named Obama, to which he wishes a swift death. Undoubtedly, there are US State Department officials, including many who work at the embassy in Tel Aviv, who don’t like Benayoun for insulting their former beloved president.
There are also people in Israel who are happy that Benayoun failed to get the visa. Prior to Benayoun’s visa denial, left-wing Meretz Party lawmaker Esawi Frej had sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, demanding the exclusion of Benayoun UN concert over what Frej called racist views. Guterres did not respond.
Whether the accusations against Benayoun stand or not, this will not be the first time he fails to take part in an event because of them. In 2014, the current President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, had disinvited the singer from the event scheduled to commemorate the Expulsion and Exile of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran on November 30.
The disinvitation was followed by the publication of a song a few days prior to the event, titled “Ahmed Loves Jerusalem”. In the song, Benayoun talks about an Arab student in Jerusalem, whom he calls “an ungrateful scum who will stab or shoot you in the back”.
The President’s Office issued a statement to announce the cancelation of Benayoun’s invitation due to racist connotations.
Meanwhile, the attempts of Israeli diplomatic officials to obtain the required clearance from the US authorities for Benayoun to perform at the UN concert on Holocaust Remembrance Day at UN headquarters in New York, remain unsuccessful so far.
Update, January 25th 2018: US grants visa for Amir Bennayoun