I don’t know what demon possessed Ahinoam Nini’s brain when she wrote a long passionate letter to Palestinians during the Gaza war in which she railed against Hamas and called, in the most vehement terms, for the IDF to uproot it.
First a word of background: Noa is one of Israel’s premiere performers with a voice of honey. She is known for her pro-peace views and performs regularly with Israeli Arab performers and singers like Cheb Khaled (with whom she sang a breathtaking cover of Imagine featured here). She is to perform along with Mira Awad (also previously profiled here), one of Israel’s most prominent female vocalists, in the Eurovision Song Contest, as Israel’s entry.
But a strange thing happened to Noa on the way to Eurovision. While sunk in a funk during the Gaza invasion, she decided to pen her plaint for peace and to tell the world what was wrong with Hamas and its Palestinian supporters. While there is much in her blog entry that is laudable and true, the entire balance is skewed heavily against Hamas and shows such a fundamental misunderstanding about what really happened in Gaza and why that I’m left dumbfounded that she could’ve gotten things so utterly wrong:
I have often spoken out against fanaticism in my country, for I find it repulsive and unbearable. In government, in settlements, in synagogues, I am passionately against it. I have risked my career and my well-being for this belief.
Now I see the ugly head of fanaticism, I see it large and horrid, I see its black eyes and spine-chilling smile, I see blood on its hands and I know one of its many names: Hamas.
You know this too, my brothers. You know this ugly monster. You know it is raping your women and raping the minds of your children. You know it is educating to hatred and death. You know it is chauvinistic and violent, greedy and selfish, it feeds on your blood and screams out Allah’s name on vain, it hides like a thief, uses the innocent as human shields, uses your mosques as arsenals, lies and cheats, uses YOU, tortures you, holds you hostage!!
I know this is true my brothers!! I know YOU know the truth!! And I know you cannot say it for fear of life so I will say it for you!! I fear nothing!! I am privileged to live in a democracy where women are not objects but presidents, where a singer can say and do as she pleases! I know you do not have this privilege (yet…but you will, inshallah, you will…)
I know you are SICK of being held hostage by this demon, this ugly beast, not in Gaza, not in Iran or Iraq or Afghanistan, not anywhere!!! You are a people destined to flourish in peace! Your majestic history is overflowing with creativity, literature science and music, endless contributions to humanity, not crippling, torturing fanaticism, yelling Jihad and Shahid!
I see you sometimes, out in the streets, demonstrating with the monsters, yelling ‘death to the Jews, death to Israel!! But I don’t believe you! I know where your heart is! It is just where mine is, with my children, with the earth, with the heavens, with music, with HOPE!! You want nothing of this but you have no choice! I see through your veil of fear my brothers, through your burka! I embrace your hopes for they are mine!
My country has made many many mistakes over the years, I have watched it miss so many opportunities, and as a citizen of this country I am the first to admit it and criticize its foolery. I demonstrate, I vote, I speak out, I sing loud and clear.
But, now, today, I know that deep in your hearts YOU WISH for the demise of this beast called Hamas who has terrorized and murdered you, who has turned Gaza into a trash heap of poverty, disease and misery. Who in the name of “allah” has sacrificed you on the bloody alter of pride and greed.
My brothers, I cry for you. I cry for us too, yes, I cry for my fellow countrymen suffering the bombs in the south and north and everywhere, I cry for the kidnapped soldiers and the murdered ones, for their bereft families, for the innocence lost forever, but I cry especially painfully for you for I know your suffering, I feel you, I feel you!!
I can only wish for you that Israel will do the job we all know needs to be done, and finally RID YOU of this cancer, this virus, this monster called fanaticism, today, called Hamas. And that these killers will find what little compassion may still exist in their hearts and STOP using you and your children as human shields for their cowardice and crimes.
And then… then, maybe, Inshallah, we will again have an opportunity… we will again pick up our broken bodies and souls and walk slowly towards each other, reach out a tired hand, look into eyes filled with tears and with a choked voice say: “Shalom. Salam. Enough. Enough my brother ….
The level of sheer condescension and cultural superiority represented by this statement is mind-boggling. It shows that even those who speak out of heart-felt passion and concern can sometimes make fools of themselves. Passion must be informed by judgment and analysis. This Noa lacks. She blames Hamas for all the evils of Palestinian society. She claims she is critical of her own goverment and society, but whispers snot a word about WHY there is poverty, suffering and misery in Gaza. What about the siege? Does she think that Hamas prefers Gaza to not have food, water, power, medicine or commerce? Where is the moral intelligence that we so often hear in her music? How did her judgment entirely desert her?
I am not claiming that Hamas are angels. I would not vote for Hamas if I were a Palestinian. But how can Noa deign to tell the Palestinians what they are thinking in their hearts about Hamas? Is this the ultimate chutzpah or what?
Noa and Awad were scheduled to perform together at a Tel Aviv concert to benefit Gaza civilians but Israeli Arab and Jewish intellectuals excoriated Noa for her diatribe and she withdrew from the concert (here is Israeli director, Udi Aloni’s eloquent rejoinder). And rightly so. What right does she have to attempt to ease the suffering of those civilians through the concert, when she defended the very military operation by her own army which caused it?
This is one of those times when you scratch your head and say of someone you know to be more intelligent than that: what were they thinking? And by the way, Noa, your cover with Awad of We Can Work It Out is second-rate. The song doesn’t begin to delve into the depths of the suffering of this conflict as Imagine does.
There is some kind of moral disconnect that happens with Israeli liberals. They feel opposing their own government’s policies places them on such a high moral plane that they can start telling Palestinians how they should live their lives. It’s offensive and distasteful. Whatever happened to a bit of humility and introspection?
Thanks to reader Peter Drubetskoy for the original tip and finding the following subsequent post that Noa wrote after she was drubbed by her fans for her original comments:
about a week ago i posted a letter to my palestinian brothers everywhere.
in my original letter, i was very harsh in my words regarding Hamas. I was pointing a finger at them clearly, this came from my gut, from the deepest, most hurting place in my heart. The reason i did that, is that the horrible stories i have heard about Hamas from my Palestinian friends who used to live in Gaza (and escaped, barely, from death by Hamas), plus the videos on youtube of hamas using children as a human shield, or throwing fatach personnel blindfolded and cuffed from the roof of a building, plus endless testimonies from Palestinians…
All of this lead me to a very harsh reaction, praying the Palestinian people would finally be released from the clutches of this horror. I have not changed my mind about atrocities, cruelty and killing, but i know that pointing fingers at names and symbols is not the solution.
…I am willing to change my mind at any moment about anyone who is willing to stand up for co-existence, freedom and mutual respect and recognition. I am willing to apologize to anyone who feels unjustly offended. I can even push aside past atrocities…
…When we in Israel sum up the evidence including the rhetoric, the 8 years of rockets, the Iran and Hezbollah threats we react in proportion to a nightmare, not just to this or that incident. I believe the same thing is true for the subjective feeling of the Palestinians and the whole Muslim world. Therefore it is their responsibility to communicate through dialog their fears to us, Israelis, so that we can take it upon ourselves to melt this iceberg of suspicion just as we want them to reassure us of their peaceful and positive intensions and melt down our fears too.
My opinion is and was always the same: i am against violence in all it forms. I am against fanaticism in all its forms. I am against finger pointing and blaming as there is no end to it and i am totally against a unilateral black and white approach to anything. I think we all have the responsibility to look the truth in the face: we all brought this catastrophe upon ourselves and now it is our responsibility to do what we can to change it! That means…exchanging negative, violent rhetoric…with a rhetoric of peace, acceptance, dialogue and joint recognition (like the Geneva initiative which i totally support). This is our only hope.
The decision i made together with Mira Awad to go to the Eurovision contest with a message of peace is part of this theory: build, give a personal example of dialogue and co-existence, not the opposite
This is better. But why did it take her three attempts (there is a revised version of her first post which I’ve omitted) to get here? Call me a disappointed fan. And I feel badly for Awad, who is not only a stunning woman, but a talented actress and singer who has achieved much despite the racism that would hinder any Israeli Arab performer’s career. She has been placed in an untenable situation by Noa’s outburst.