Amir Benayoun is no stranger to controversy, but he probably did not expect to be the cause of a diplomatic incident. The young Israeli musician who records only in Hebrew was hardly known outside — and not that well inside — his home country prior to now.
The American embassy in Tel Aviv saw fit to respond to a music video he posted on Facebook. The video depicts a raven holding a head shot of Barack Obama in its beak as Benayoun’s latest song plays. (The video has since been taken down, but you can see it here.)
The embassy spokesman described the song to the Israeli website Wallah! as “repulsive,” and added:
We condemn any provocative and racist language, whether it is against the President of the United States or against anyone else, and we believe that most Israelis think like us.
Here — in rough web-based translation — is the first verse:
I bought a raven with a small and lovely moustache
Even though there are a lot like it in the streets, for free
Just because of my affection for Obama, let me say
That I named it after the ugly president
The reason I bought the cruel raven was to try
To inject in this treacherous creature a few drops of heart, at least
In the meantime, I’ve lost an eye, and I suffer from the wretched raven’s stupidity
And I await the death of the miserable creature
The hardest thing was for me to choose a unique name for him
He’s a raven like so many ravens who tried to erase us forever
It was hardest for me to pick an original name for him
Which would show what cruel garbage he is
The second verse is much of the same.
Benayoun is not shy about expressing controversial opinions. One of his earlier posts on Facebook was titled Ahmad, Ovév Yisra’él (“Ahmad, the Philosemite”). He posted it in the wake of the terrorist attack on a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem carried out by Arab-Israeli citizens. It depicted an Arab Israeli student attending university under the country’s equivalent of “affirmative action”; in it the protagonist admits that he is “ungrateful scum” who “loves Israel today, but tomorrow will go kill a Jew or two.”
This is also not the first time he expressed his opinion of Obama. In March — during the Passover season — he posted a song comparing Obama to the Pharaoh.
During the recent election campaign, when Mrs. Netanyahu was accused by disgruntled former employees of the prime minister’s residence of keeping money received from recycling bottles, Benayoun posted “The Bibi Song” in the prime minister’s defense. This earned him an appearance at a Likud party rally.
However, these are the musings of a singer on his Facebook page which would otherwise have gone mostly unnoticed. (A quick survey of my younger relatives in Israel revealed that he’s just not all that well-known.) Yet, the American embassy in Tel Aviv saw fit to respond. How they became aware of the latest video is anyone’s guess.
Though Benayoun did subsequently take the deliberately offensive video down, he was neither apologetic nor remorseful in an interview:
This isn’t necessarily Obama. [When I said I await his death], I meant the death of any creature who always desires our death. At the moment, the one working hardest on that is Obama. … I wanted the name of someone whose hobby is to bring about the destruction of the Jewish people. So, I though about several names; the name which came to me at last and most legitimately was Obama, in that he’s involved in current events.
When questioned again about whether this wasn’t a bit extreme, Benayoun answered:
He has equipped Iran, he has quickly given them the seal [of approval]; Iran wants to destroy us. I await the death of that creature called a Jew-hater, I wish for the death of this raven who is called Pharaoh, who is called Hitler, who is called Stalin, all kinds like them.
When asked if he considered his song an incitement to assassination, Benayoun replied:
I intended that some psychos should go from here, should fly and then make somersaults in the air nest to the White House?! I was only asking … “await,” when I say “await,” the appeal is to G-d, no-one else; I’m asking of G-d that anyone who seeks the destruction of the Jewish people, let him be destroyed first.
When asked why, if he was so unrepentant, he took down the post, he replied that he had been asked “not to sully the songs with politics, and you know what? I agreed.”
However, Benayoun has been “sullying” his music with politics for quite some time now. Now, because of the U.S. State Department, people may actually take notice.