Tunisian singer says show cancelled over Palestinian concerts

AFP , Saturday 5 Aug 2023

A Tunisian singer who rose to prominence during the Arab Spring revolution in her homeland announced Wednesday an upcoming show in Tunisia had been cancelled for supposed "normalisation" with Israel.

(Photo: AFP)

In July, Emel Mathlouthi performed in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem, as well as in Bethlehem and Ramallah, both in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. She did not perform in Israel.

Artists who perform in Israel often face fierce resistance from the BDS movement, which calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions of the Israel over the mistreatment of the Palestinians.

Mathlouthi, 41, had been set to perform at the Hammamet International Festival in Tunisia next week.

"I am very sorry to announce our much awaited concert in Hammamet has been cancelled with no official reason," Mathlouthi said in a statement posted on Instagram.

"We believe that our latest tour in beautiful Palestine has sparked an unjustified controversy accusing me of normalisation."

In a statement to AFP, Mathlouthi said she had been subjected to a "big misinformation campaign" and that she "just did shows with Palestinians for Palestinians."

Organisers of the Hammamet festival did not respond to AFP's request for comments.

"They believe that going to Palestine anywhere is normalisation," the singer told AFP.

Her concerts were "in no conflict" either with BDS guidelines or those from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, her Instagram statement said.

BDS backed Mathlouthi, saying in a statement that it "distinguishes between artists who entertain the oppressors, art-washing apartheid, on the one hand, and artists who stand with the oppressed."

"Arab artists who respect the relevant BDS guidelines... contribute to our cultural resistance," the statement added.

Suhail Khoury, general director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music at Birzeit University, who invited Mathlouthi to perform, said "she should be commended and not condemned for what she did".

Khoury added: "She is a great singer and Palestinians love her. She was outstanding, probably one of the best performances that Palestine has ever seen."

The Ramallah concert concluded with Mathlouthi singing the Palestinian ballad "Wein a Ramallah" and waving a Palestinian flag, an AFP correspondent in attendance said.

Mathlouthi told AFP the Hammamet cancellation is "clearly an attack against me personally and what I stand for... I grew up knowing about the Palestinian struggle, and I have always sung for Palestine."

She said Palestinians "don't want to be isolated. They want artists like me that come from other Arab countries that speak Arabic" to perform for them.

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