Israeli singer: U.S. is boycotting me over past Obama comments

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Culture Minister Miri Regev vow to fix the visa issue for the Israeli singer invited to perform at the UN.

Amir Benayoun (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Amir Benayoun
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Singer Amir Benayoun said Sunday that the US government is boycotting him because of his past comments against then-president Barack Obama.
Benayoun, a well-known Israeli performer, was invited along with Miri Mesika and David D’or to perform at the UN in New York later this month. But while the others were both granted visas from the US for the event, Benayoun’s was denied last week.
“In one word, it’s because I’m Jewish,” Benayoun said in an interview Sunday morning on Reshet Bet. “I’m sure that at the end of the day they’ll let me fly but I’ve kind of lost interest.”
Benayoun said he was sure the denial came because of his past critical comments against Obama, about whom he told Galei Tzahal on Sunday: “I thought in his time was trying to destroy the Jewish nation.”
He told Reshet Bet: “I don’t know if America is a less democratic country than us, that we’ll know soon.”
Benayoun said he has no idea if he will end up flying to the UN for the performance on January 29, to perform the original song “The Last Survivor” in Hebrew, English and Arabic, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Sunday that she is working on fixing the visa issue so that Benayoun can fly in time. She said she attempted to be in touch with US Ambassador David Friedman but that he was out of the country.
Hotovely denied that there was any revenge or political motivation behind the visa issue.
“It happens all the time that Israelis get stuck with visa problems,” she told Galei Tzahal on Sunday.
Benayoun said last week that his visa request was officially denied 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.
Benayoun said Sunday that the Americans learned to boycott him from the actions of President Reuven Rivlin. In 2014, Rivlin canceled a scheduled performance by Benayoun at the President’s Residence over the content of one of his songs.
Last week, Meretz MK Esawi Frej sent an official letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asking that Benayoun not be allowed to perform due to what the lawmaker 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.
Culture Minister Miri Regev said Sunday that she has also been working to reach Friedman and has been talking to the Prime Minister’s Office to fix the problem.
“It can’t be that they would prevent the entrance of such a talented singer,” she said to Galei Yisrael on Sunday. “This is a bizarre and stupid decision.”