Sunday, March 1, 2009

Israel's Motley Duo

Israel is back in the spotlight, but this time in quite an unusual way: Eurovision.

While no newcomer to the annual pan-European song contest--Israel has actually won the #1 place in 1998 after a performance by the infamous transsexual Dana International--this year it is making headlines with Noa and Mira Awad, its performers for the next (54th) Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Moscow on May 16.

The quintessence of the issue is the ethnicity of the two performers: Noa is a Jew, while Mira Awad is a Palestinian, despite the fact that many think the Jewish half of the duo (pictured right) is actually Arab, while the Arab performer (pictured left) looks Jewish. At least, according to them, that's what many viewers initially believe.

And, as can be expected, this "experiment" of sorts has been lambasted by some as a "cynical attempt" to improve Israel's international image after the recent 34-day Gaza war. In particular, this has caused a backlash in Arab media, with some Arab outlets calling Mira Awad a "traitor," while others are urging her to boycott the performance entirely.

As it stands now, it appears the duo will perform nonetheless, but things can change. Their piece will be called "Faith in the Light," which will also politicize the performance.

Ah, controversy around Israel yet again, which I can't say is exactly unexpected, although it may have been the underlying point all along: to create commotion around Israel, but this time focusing on the country's music-cum-society. A change of sorts, indeed.

However, in any case, I don't think this performance will result in a miracle overhaul of Israel's image in the Arab world, or in Europe for that matter.

But it is a quaint attempt.

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