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Amid Power Cuts In Gaza, Arab Idol Assaf Rocks UN, Sponsor in the Wings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 26 -- Last night at the UN the Gazan singer Mohammed Assaf triggered dancing in the ECOSOC Chamber with his hit "Raise the Koufiyeh." Today he held a press conference in the UN, flanked with a promoter from MBC Television.

  It was said from the beginning that questions should be limited to Assaf's roles a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

  Inner City Press noted that outgoing UNRWA Commissioner General Filippo Grandi recently spoke about the lack of fuel for the power plant in Gaza. Further research found this lack has led to children walked in raw sewage in Az Zeitoun in Gaza.

  The first question, though, went to Pamela Falk of UNCA and CBS (if they cover this), who asked a fawning question about Assaf returning to Gaza to inspire the youth. Another of his promoters spoke of an apartment in Dubai, tours of the US. On the podium the man from MBC touted his company's affiliation with Al Arabiya, linking itself to Arab youth and even, it seemed to the "Arab Spring."

  There have been American musicians who've held UN press conferences, but not with the on-stage participation of their promoters network. This is called an advertisement, in most places.

  Assaf told a funny story of how he pressed to get into the Arab Idol contest in Cairo. (The new Cairo of Sissi and its impact on Gaza is, of course, another topic, one deemed off limits for the MBC press conference.)

  The moderator called on Inner City Press but another journalist, a former UNCA president, insisted on grabbing the floor. Due to the insistence, video here at 31:35, Inner City Press didn't cede but rather asked its Gaza power and sewage question quickly, without taking the time UNCA did to say, thank you on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access. In fact, FUNCA's focus on this press conference is on the commercialization.

Assaf answered that infrastructure is not UNRWA's job, but donors should come forward. Fair enough. We wish him well. Watch this site.


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