Arab Idol champ in Gaza, urges Palestinian unity

June 26, 2013 • Entertainment

Palestinians wait for the Arab Idol winner Palestinian Mohammed Assaf, unseen, at the entrance of Rafah crossing point on the border between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Huge crowds of Gazans gave a gleeful welcome Tuesday to the first Palestinian winner of the Arab Idol talent contest, thronging the territory’s border crossing with Egypt and the singer’s home in hopes of embracing him, but internal politics surfaced quickly. Assaf’s victory in the popular contest Saturday sparked huge celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza, giving Palestinians a sense of pride. (AP Photo/ Hatem Moussa)

KHAN YOUNIS REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinians have a new voice: a 23-year-old wedding singer from a Gaza refugee camp touted as a rare symbol of national unity after he won the Arab world’s top TV contest.

But Mohammed Assaf’s homecoming Tuesday highlighted the harsh reality of political divisions between the Islamic militants who rule Gaza and the Palestinian president in the West Bank.

Even as thousands thronged the streets in a frenzied welcome for the newly crowned winner of “Arab Idol,” Hamas supporters stayed away, unable to reconcile the young crooner’s triumph in the world of glitzy entertainment with their religious beliefs.

In contrast, Hamas’ main rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, portrayed the singer’s victory as an achievement for all Palestinians, apparently hoping Assaf’s popularity would rub off on him.

The singer with the silky voice and warm smile had put Palestinian pride center stage throughout the competition, bringing many in the audience to their Login to read more

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