by Giulio Meotti
United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain and Sudan. The list of countries of the Arab-Islamic world that have made peace with Israel in recent months is impressive.A Tunisian singer thought it was time to put this atmosphere of normalization into music. So, on December 13, Noamane Chaari uploaded a video of a song he had just recorded with an Israeli musician. The song, in Arabic, speaks of dreams of peace, of olive trees, of the sea, of Tunis, of Jerusalem. Chaari recorded it with Ziv Yehezkel, an Iraqi Jew. An invitation to build bridges between Jews and Arabs.
Host of a broadcast of the famous radio station Mosaïque Fm, the young musician was the subject of death threats. Stressing that the author of the lyrics, a Yemeni poet, remained anonymous so as not to risk beheading in his country, host Hedi Zaiem asked: “What will happen to the man who sang it?”.
Threatened with death, fired by his employer, Channel 1 of public television, Noamane Chaari now tells L’Obs: “I have been accused of espionage and treason. Some media have deliberately tried to antagonize Tunisian public opinion, invoking the violence against me “.
Thus, in the supposedly most moderate country in the region, the only “Arab Spring” of any success, it is still a crime to sing peace with the Jews. Conservative president Kaïs Saïed speaks of a “Zionist entity”, like the Iranian ayatollahs. And the Ugtt union, which won the Nobel Peace Prize, has put back on the table the idea of a law that criminalizes the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. The union of music professionals, affiliated precisely with the Ugtt, condemned Chaari’s “provocation against the Tunisian people and all the Arab people”.
The singer had also traveled to Israel with an Arab delegation. His “fault” is also that of having written the song with a Jew of Iraqi origin and a Moroccan mother, while images of Baghdad appear together with those of Tunis in the music video.
Behind all this, of course, is the long history of Arab Jews, driven out to the order of a million after the birth of Israel. A great taboo that, in Tunisia, is symbolized by the synagogue of el Ghriba, in Djerba, the island that was the traditional residence of Jewish Tunisian Cohanim, priests..
“The best thing you can do now is look at the camera and apologize to the Tunisians,” a TV presenter tells Chaari. “Why should I apologize? I didn’t do anything wrong.” “Did you sing with an Israeli and you won’t apologize? All Tunisian artists will boycott you. Nobody will work with you anymore.”
Chaari notes that “the threats come from a Facebook group that has many journalists among its members”. From his official page he receives private messages: “You will die like your father”. For four weeks, Chaari had been participating in a program broadcast by the national channel Wataniya. After the clip, the musician received a phone call telling him to “stay home for a month”.
Cultural normalization remains taboo:
– Amin Maalouf, the French-Lebanese writer, after appearing on the Israeli channel i24, was at the center of a campaign with requests to deprive him of Lebanese citizenship and to put him on trial.
-Same fate for the Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, guilty of having shot some scenes in Israeli territory.
-Boualem Sansal was removed from the prize he was given for writing the most successful Arabic novel in France after he attended a literary festival in Jerusalem.
-For visiting Israel, the great Egyptian writer Ali Salem has seen his career destroyed forever.
-And the boycott also hit the Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra, guilty of favoring normalization with the Jewish state.
-When Sarah Idan, the beauty queen of Iraq, took a selfie with Miss Israel, a contest of verbal violence broke out.
Without cultural normalization and clearing the Jewish taboo, the Arab world will only build a paper peace with Israel. And Israel should be aware of what lies behind their concept of “peace”.