The Israeli delegation to the UN that will commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day next week will be one person smaller than originally planned. Singer Amir Benayoun will not be joining his colleagues Miri Mesika and David D’or when they perform on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York.
Benayoun, who co-wrote “The Last Survivor,” with Moshe Klughaft, which Mesika and D’or will sing in Hebrew, English and Arabic, ran into difficulties when he tried to get a visa to visit the United States. The singer said his initial denial was politically motivated, and he refused to return for a follow-up visit when he learned his visa was still not guaranteed.
“Of course I won’t go back to the embassy,” Benayoun wrote on Facebook last week. “If they wanted to give me [a visa] they could just do it without all this rattling around.”
Organizers of the trip said on Monday that Mesika and D’or will go ahead and perform the song – which they recorded with Benayoun – at the UN without him. A spokesman for the event said “nobody is going to replace him, he’s irreplaceable,” but that Mesika and D’or will perform the song in three languages as planned.
Earlier this month, Benayoun’s initial visa request was denied, while Mesika and D’or’s were approved. In a series of interviews with Hebrew media, the singer said he was sure the reason stemmed from his harsh criticism of former US president Barack Obama when he was in office.
Benayoun said the official reason given for the denial was because he did not “sufficiently prove his intention to return to his home country” following the trip. Organizers of the event said the consulate’s reason for denying the visa was bizarre, considering Benayoun has a full line-up of performances slated for February and March in Israel.
Soon after the original event was announced, Meretz MK Esawi Frej sent an official letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting that Benayoun not be allowed to perform due to what the MK deemed his racist views.
“I do not know what the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations was thinking about inviting Benayoun, a singer who has long been exploiting his talent and public sales to spread hatred and racism,” Frej wrote in the letter, giving examples of Benayoun’s lyrics.
In response to Frej’s letter, Alison Smale, a deputy of Guterres, said Benayoun was not invited by the UN to appear at its UN Holocaust Memorial Ceremony which will be held on January 31.
The event in which Benayoun was slated to take part in has been organized by Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. While the UN’s official calendar lists several events in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, including those in partnership with B’nai B’rith, the Museum of Jewish Heritage and other organizations, the event organized by the Israeli mission is not included.
Organizers say 350 to 400 people are expected to take part in Monday’s event, including ambassadors from around the world and Holocaust survivors. The song is also slated to be used as part of Holocaust memorial ceremonies held in Turkey and Kosovo this year.