Reprinted from Gush Shalom
Ruvi Rivlin, who was recently elected to the high but largely ceremonial post, is far from being a leftist. On the contrary, this scion of a family that has been living in Jerusalem for seven generations, believes in a Jewish state in all the country from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan river.
But Rivlin is a true liberal. When he read The Poem he was shocked to the depths of his soul. Then he remembered that the writer of this masterpiece had been invited to the President's residence to read from his works. He was promptly disinvited.
For this the President was attacked from many quarters. How dare he? What about artistic freedom?
THE "POET" in question is one Amir Benayoun, a popular "oriental" folk singer. "Oriental" music, in this context, means the melodies preferred by oriental Jews, based on the Arab music of their former homelands with primitive lyrics about love and such.
The professional fortunes of Benayoun were declining, but The Poem restored them, and how! It became the center of a stormy national debate, all the media discussed it at length, even Haaretz printed it verbatim. Politicians, commentators and everyone else who respects himself or herself praised or condemned it.
The imaginary narrator of The Poem is an Arab named Ahmed, who dreams about killing Jews, especially Jewish babies.
My own translation:
"Salaam Aleikum I am called Ahmed / And I live in Jerusalem / I study at the university a thing or two / Who enjoys all the worlds like me? / Today I am moderate and smiling / Tomorrow I shall ascend to heaven / I shall send to hell a Jew or two / It's true that I am just ungrateful scum / That's true, but I am not to blame, I grew up without love / The moment will come when you turn your back to me / And then I shall stick into you the sharpened axe.
"I am Ahmed living in the central region / I work near a kindergarten and am responsible for gas containers / Who like me enjoys two worlds? / Today I am here and tomorrow they will not be here / Many of them, very many of them will not / It's true that I am nothing but ungrateful scum / That's true, but I am not to blame, I grew up without love / It's true that the moment will come when you turn your back to me / And then I shall stick into you the sharpened axe / It's true that I am nothing but ungrateful scum / That's true, but I am not to blame, I grew up without love
"It's true that the moment will come when you turn your back to me / And then I shall shoot you straight in the back."
SUBSTITUTE DAVID for Ahmed and Berlin or Paris for Jerusalem and you have a perfect anti-Semitic poem. It is totally certain that the Bundesprasident would not invite the author for tea in his residence.
But the president of Israel was attacked from all sides for canceling the invitation. The rightists attacked him for rebuffing a true patriot, many leftist do-gooders disapproved in the name of freedom of creation and universal tolerance.
When I was a nine-year old in Germany, I heard the catchy song "When Jewish blood spurts from the knife / Everything will be twice as good." If the author was still alive, would German liberals demand that he should be accorded artistic freedom?
Benayoun (39) bears an Arab name. Benayoun derives from the Arab term of endearment "Son of (my) Eyes." His first name sounds like the Arab title Amir (prince), though written differently. He was born in a Beersheba slum, his parents are immigrants from Morocco. They could be called Arab Jews, as my parents were called German Jews.
Benayoun was not a fanatic to start with. But when his brother adopted a more extreme form of the Jewish religion, he followed suit. This procedure, called "Return to the Faith," is almost always accompanied by a rabid racism.
The poet claims that his spiritual master is the Messiah. He does not carry amulets, only a dollar bill given to him by the late (?) Rabbi of Lubavitch who, his US followers claim, is the Messiah and did not die.