Arab Israeli singer and television personality Mira Awad on Saturday denied reports in the Israel media that she withdrew from the UK Zionist Federation’s Israel Independence Concert in London because of death threats against her and her family. She said she asked to be dropped from the concert because it was set for Israeli Independence Day.
Though a press release from the Zionist Federation on Friday said Awad’s cancellation was due to threats on her life and several Israeli media outlets carried the same report, a message posted by Awad on her Facebook page on Saturday told a different story.
The message read: “Today, in the Israeli radio, they said that due to threats on my life I canceled a show in London I was supposed to appear in.
“I think it’s time to tell the whole story about this much discussed concert: While I was busy with Dancing with the Stars, my manager Ofer Pesenzon was approached with a request for a concert of Noa [Ahinoam Nini] in London, with me as a special guest. Ofer agreed, thinking it would be a good opportunity for me to expose my music, and more importantly, spread the more-than-ever relevant message that Noa and I try to convey. Later on, the date of the show was set for Israel’s Independence Day.
“The minute I heard about this concert, I asked Ofer to cancel my participation, out of consideration for the complexity of this date for me. Ofer understood my emotions for the subject, and admitted he had done wrong in scheduling the show without thinking of the repercussions, and immediately started working on cancelling my participation out of respect for my request. It took time and lot’s of explanations, but he managed to do it.”
Awad, and Nini represented Israel at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest and have performed together at venues around the world to packed audiences. Awad has worked to promote coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Israel not only through her work with Nini, but also through various other platforms.
According to a report in the Jewish Chronicle on Friday, Awad had received death threats over the planned performance.
“Mira and [Nini’s] message is about finding a peaceful way forward. It is tragic that when both sides try to come together by any means possible to build a better future for Israel and its citizens, there are those prepared to use violence and intimidation to destroy it,” Awad’s manager Pesenzon, said in response to the threats.
“Mira is in an impossible position,” Pesenzon told Army Radio. “I’ve received phone calls from Jews saying that there’s no way an Arab should be performing for Israel’s Independence Day, and likewise Arabs have called saying the same thing.”
Awad will stay in Israel while Nini performs in London.
“Our concert is a celebration of independence but it’s also about building understanding. Mira wanted to be the Arab-Israeli voice promoting a peaceful way forward,” said Zionist Federation executive director Alan Aziz, following Awad’s withdrawal from the line-up.
Awad grew up in Rameh, an Arab village near Karmiel, and lives today in Tel Aviv. Her family, which still lives in the Galilee, employs strict measures to ensure their security.
This isn’t the first time Awad’s conciliatory stance toward her Israeli identity has landed her in hot water. Days after she was selected to take part in the 2009 Eurovision on behalf of Israel, a group of Israeli Arab artists and intellectuals, including filmmaker Mohammed Bakri and his son actor Saleh Bakri, sent Awad a letter asking that she not take part in the contest.
Among other claims, the letter read that “the image of Israel as a democratic, enlightened and peace-loving state is what drives the international community to support Israel. By participating in the Eurovision you are participating in the Israeli propaganda machine.”
At the time, Awad denied claims that her appearance would be used to whitewash Israeli actions against Palestinians, saying, “The government didn’t choose to send me to Eurovision. Noa and I agreed because of our eight-year collaboration.
In November, the Givat Haviva educational center awarded Awad and Noa the Haviva Reik Peace Prize, “in recognition of their courageous endeavors, separately and together, for peace and Israeli-Palestinian relations.”