Israeli singer Amir Benayoun’s visa application to the United States to perform at the UN later this month has been denied, putting the event in jeopardy.
Benayoun was meant to join Israeli singers Miri Mesika and David D’or in performing the original song “The Last Survivor” at the UN headquarters in New York, at an event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. But while Mesika and D’or received visas from the US Consulate in Israel, Benayoun’s was denied, say organizers of the performance. The singer and songwriter was told by the embassy that he did not “sufficiently prove his intention to return to his home country” following the trip.
Those behind the event said unsuccessful attempts were made throughout the week to have the Foreign Ministry intervene. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Friday that she has asked the Foreign Ministry's consular department to look into the issue and it is being investigated.
The trio were slated to sing the song – written by Benayoun and Moshe Klughaft – in Hebrew, English and Arabic at the UN on January 29.
Earlier this week, Meretz MK Esawi Frej sent an official letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting that Benayoun not be allowed to perform due to what the MK deemed his racist views.
“I do not know what the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations was thinking about inviting Benayoun, a singer who has long been exploiting his talent and public sales to spread hatred and racism,” Frej wrote in the letter, giving examples of Benayoun's lyrics.
It's not the singer's first brush with controversy; he was disinvited from a performance at the President's Residence in 2014 by President Reuven Rivlin over the content of one of his songs.
Organizers of the New York trip said the consulate's reasoning for denying the visa was bizarre, considering Benayoun has a full line up of performances slated for February and March in Israel.
Benayoun said "the last place on earth I'm interested in being in is the UN, and therefore I've never tried to get a visa to the US. But for the sake of Holocaust remembrance, I'll accept even the humiliations of the process with love."