|Assaf receiving his award as Arab Idol Season 2.|
I came across an insightful article written by Maysoon Zaid, an American comedian and activist of Palestinian descent. As she writes:
The story of how Mohammed Assaf got to audition in Cairo from Khan Younis is the stuff that episodes of Glee are made of. As the legend goes, Mohammed had to beg and bribe the Egyptians, at Rafah crossing, to let him out of Gaza and into Egypt. His incredible journey spanned two days and when Mohammed finally arrived in Cairo, he was too late. The gate was closed. Devastated, he called his mom to tell her he was coming home. Like a true stage mom, Entisar Assaf wasn't having it and wouldn't allow her son to quit. She told her child that coming home was not an option and to get his singing self over that gate by any means necessary. Apparently, all Palestinians have an inner Spider Man and scaling walls is child's play.
Mohammed obeyed his mama and hopped the wall. Once inside, our hero faced another roadblock. He didn’t have a contestant's number and no number means no audition. He had come too far to give up now, so like a scene from a Broadway musical, Mo spontaneously broke out into song right in the middle of the gaggle of people waiting their turn to audition. He sang his heart out. A man from the crowd stepped forward and handed Assaf his audition number. He told Mohammed that he was just there clowning and that Mo had a real shot and could have his spot. The kid from Gaza had finally caught a break.
I was struck by how his story represents the daily struggles of Palestinians and their perseverance in achieving their dreams. His story inspires Palestinians, and all Arabs, to fight for freedom and to never lose sight of their roots even in times of hardship. Assaf's ability to compete against all odds and his subsequent victory provided a sense of hope, a source of inspiration, and another voice for Palestinian people.
Assaf's experience and modesty makes him a fitting figurehead to draw attention to the Occupation. He does not dwell on the past but he is focused on improving the future and promoting peace. Assaf's peace campaign is just beginning. He is proud of his heritage and of his people; he wants to show the world Palestine's potential as well as encouraging the world in joining his campaign. When returning home to Gaza after his Arab Idol win, Assaf exclaimed, "Thank you Palestine and thank you Arab nations! Thank you for your support and standing by my side to put a light on the suffering of my people in Gaza and West Bank. I give you this win because I am proud and I am proud to have you behind me."
• New York Times: 'Arab Idol' Winner Returns to Palestine to Cheers and Unease
• The Guardian: Arab pop star adds his voice to the calls for a peace deal for Palestine
• The Next Arab Idol: Palestine's Boy Wonder and Stereotype Buster