Ben White writes that Idan Raichel, one of Israel’s biggest pop stars and a celebrity in the world music pantheon, has publicly embraced (Hebrew) former IDF torturer Doron Zahavi. Zahavi is the former IDF interrogator accused of raping Lebanese prisoner Mustafa Dirani, while seeking intelligence about the location of Israel’s captured pilot, Ron Arad. Despite what Raichel writes below, I’m not aware that Dirani offered any useful information about Arad.
After Dirani sued in the Supreme Court, Israel released him. He then “sang” about the torture he endured. That led to sacking Zahavi and the closure of his notorious intelligence unit (recently re-opened) which interrogated Hezbollah prisoners using techniques that weren’t the most delicate, shall we say.
This didn’t end Zahavi’s career by a long-shot. The Jerusalem police hired him as their “Arab affairs” officer to help “improve” relations between the Jewish and Palestinian communities in the Holy City. You can imagine how deftly he pursued such a delicate job. Then he sued the State for the “suffering” he experienced when he was fired for the IDF. So far, the case has been tossed in a lower court. But I understand he’s appealing.
As I reported here, Zahavi’s name couldn’t be published inside Israel (he was known, oddly as “Captain George”) because the justice system tends to protect well-placed security officials, even if they are accused torturers and rapists. Nevertheless, I reported his name over three years ago (White doesn’t seem aware of this in his report).
What’s shocking about White’s report is that Idan Raichel has heartily endorsed the despicable acts of Zahavi:
The man to whom we are indebted for the information about Ron Arad–instead of getting a medal, he’s fighting for his good name. It’s a dirty rotten shame. Dirani never worried about Arad’s basic human rights. It’s truly of no interest to me how “George” got the information about Arad from Dirani. SHAME!
In a comment in this thread responding to a woman who disagrees with his views, he writes:
Tell me if in his interrogation it would’ve been sufficient to read him 15th century poetry to finally break him so that he would tell us the information about the unfortunate Arad. I have a sense that on the one hand “George’s” expertise isn’t in this type of poetry; but that on the other, he knows his own job pretty well.
Those of you who’ve read this blog for any length of time know that I have a great interest in both Israeli arts and culture and world music in general. So I’ve followed Raichel’s career for many years. I’ve thought of him as a gifted performer, someone who was attuned to the grace and harmony of life. His music, his harmonies, his collaborators are stunningly beautiful. All the more so because he’s reached out to Ethiopian, Mizrahi and African musicians to create a beautiful vision of musical transcendence. I’ve said that here.
But he’s turned all that to dreck with these horrible words. He’s shown that his music is nothing but a mask hiding the disgusting racism that lurks within. This of course isn’t the first time he’s shown his true colors. He chose to perform at a music festival in the settlement of Nokdim, the home of Avigdor Lieberman. Didi Remez posted a passage from an interview (Hebrew) in Yediot with Raichel from last year in which he said:
“I believe our role as artists to enlist in Israeli hasbara. This is a war to save our home, to save our nation. In time of war, we must all enlist. Period. I grasp hands with our soldiers, yes those so moral; and strengthen the IDF as a moral army such as you won’t find in all the world.”
Raichel isn’t the first Israeli star to capture the hearts of Israelis, only to find the dark matter within. Naomi Shemer, composer of Yerushalayim shel Zahav, was of course a settler devotee. The golden-voiced Mizrahi star, Yehoram Gaon, is right-wing. Outside of Israel, we have the example of Ezra Pound embracing Mussolini and airing propaganda broadcast for the Axis during World War II. Artists and performers are human just like the rest of us. They betray their values just as we sometimes do. For more commentary on this, listen to the soulful voice of Llewyn Davis singing the heartbreaking, The Death of Queen Jane in the new Coen Brothers film, then spend a few minutes watching the horrible things he does to everyone around him. That will tell you a bit about how the world produces people like Idan Raichel.
Henry Norr wrote a good post that summarized Raichel’s musical career and collaborations.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.