Palestinians relished a rare moment of pride and national unity after a 23-year-old wedding singer from a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip won “Arab Idol,” a regional TV singing contest watched by millions of people.
With the announcement of Mohammed Assaf’s victory, fireworks lit up the sky over the West Bank and Gaza. Thousands who had watched the final show on outdoor screens in the two territories broke into cheers and chants of “Palestine, Palestine.”
As Assaf advanced in the competition, excitement and national pride kept building in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, the territories where the Palestinians one day hope to establish a state. Rooting for the talented performer has allowed Palestinians to feel as one people, forgetting at least briefly their political and geographic split. Gaza is cut off from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which lie on the other side of Israel.
Politicians have tried to latch on to Assaf’s popularity. The Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called Assaf in May to congratulate him on his strong showing and later, in a statement, urged people across the region to vote for the singer.