Singer Ariel Zilber on Monday accepted a prestigious award from the Association of Composers, Authors, and Publishers of Music in Israel (ACUM), but not before his prize was downgraded.
The controversial singer, whose statements in support of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane as well as advocating the release of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir from prison have outraged many, used his acceptance speech at the ACUM awards Monday night to blast the non-profit recording agency for downgrading his original lifetime achievement prize to one for his contribution to Israeli music.
“I would give back the prize, but I cannot ignore the love that I have received from the public in recent days,” Zilber said onstage. “If it were up to me, I would dismantle ACUM and form a new organization that champions the belief that everyone on this planet may express an opinion.”
Zilber was thrust into the spotlight when Achinoam Nini, the world-renowned singer known for dovish political views, turned down an award from ACUM because of its decision to hand a prize to Zilber.
Speaking to Army Radio on Tuesday, a defiant Zilber said that he has no regrets regarding any of his previous statements.
“Political elements are using me,” he said. “I never called for Yigal Amir’s release. I said that if they were already releasing other murderers – Jews and Arabs – there’s no reason not to commute the sentence of Yigal Amir, despite the fact that he assassinated a prime minister whom I was particularly fond of.”
Media reports indicated that the decision to downgrade Zilber’s award was the result of pressure on ACUM’s board of directors from Dalia Rabin, the daughter of the slain prime minister.
ACUM’s decision elicited howls of protests from right-wing politicians.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote on his Facebook page: “ACUM’s capitulation and its decision to give Ariel Zilber a prize for contribution to Israeli music instead of a lifetime achievement award is tantamount to surrender and kowtowing before the Bolshevism of extreme left-wing elements.”