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December 29, 2020 4:38 pm
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Tunisian Singer Receives Death Threats, Loses Job for Recording Duet With Israeli

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Noamane Chaari in the music video for ‘Peace Among Neighbors.’ Photo: Screenshot.

A Tunisian singer was reportedly fired from his job and received death threats on social media for recording with an Israeli musician a duet promoting tolerance between Muslims and Jews.

“Peace Between Neighbors,” released on Dec. 10, was performed by Mizrahi Jewish singer Ziv Yehezkel — who sings in Arabic — and Tunisian music producer, composer and singer Noamane Chaari. They recorded their vocals in separate studios in Israel and Tunisia due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

The collaboration between Chaari and Yehezkel was arranged by the Arab Council for Regional Integration, which advocates for a “culture of coexistence and integration,” and of which Chaari is a founding member, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

The song was written by a Yemenite artist, who asked to remain anonymous for his own safety.

Chaari worked as a music producer and composer for state-owned Tunisian television. According to Joseph Braude, founder of The Center for Peace Communications, which supports the Arab Council, “Tunisian authorities have targeted [Chaari’s] livelihood. Pressure from a senior official caused his firing from his job, and pressure from establishment institutions forced his private clients to leave him. This is a campaign to destroy him.”

The Tunisian Artists Syndicate also suspended his professional license.

Some Tunisians have called for Chaari’s execution and said on social media that he should “be taught a good lesson and beaten to death.” Other enraged Tunisians called on him to apologize, urged musicians to ostracize him, and demanded that he be prosecuted, MEMRI reported. During a televised talk show appearance earlier in December, Chaari was harassed by the show’s panel of experts and host.

The Arab Council defended the Tunisian singer, saying on Twitter, “We call on the Tunisian government to end the campaign of ostracism and incitement against singer-songwriter #Noamane_Chaari, and protect him from the dangers which the campaign has caused.”

US Senator Ted Cruz wrote in a tweet on Saturday, “What’s happening in Tunisia to Noamane Chaari is deeply troubling. American lawmakers are united in supporting coexistence across the region [between] Jews & Arabs. Tunisian authorities need to step up to protect calls for peace & to halt attacks against Chaari.”

Well-known Tunisian singer Chamseddine Bacha backed up Chaari in a lengthy Facebook post, and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stated that “music and culture shouldn’t be politicized.”

Chaari said he had not been paid for recording the song and explained that the song did not call for peace between Israel and the Arab countries, but rather peace “between Muslims and Jews.”

“I’ve never betrayed the Palestinian cause… I wanted to do a project on peace between religions, and above all, on peace between Muslims and Jews, who have been divided because of Israeli policies,” Chaari said. “I chose [Yehezkel] because he is against the system, loves Palestinians, and has Iraqi roots. He’s an Iraqi with an Israeli passport.”

In a Dec. 17 interview with Emirati website Al-‘Ain Al-Ikhbariya, Chaari explained that the project launched in February 2020 and was originally intended to include musicians of all faiths, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that goal from coming to fruition, MEMRI reported.

Listen to “Peace Between Neighbors” below:

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