Rabat – Accused of serving Israeli propaganda and seeking to promote the country’s culture at the cost of the integrity of the Palestinian cause, Israeli singer Noam Vazana has found herself caught in a credibility gap, between her intentions as an artist and their interpretation by the Moroccan public.
Invited to perform at Tangier’s Tanjazz festival on September 15-16, Vazana’s arrival to Morocco abruptly set off controversy with Morocco’s cultural sphere. Critics perceived the singer, a former member of the Israeli army, as a tool employed by the Israeli state to whitewash its treatment toward Palestine, while supporters stated that she simply came to Morocco to spread coexistence and kindness among peoples.
Following her performance, Vazana has stepped into the war of words and told her own story in an interview with Morocco World News.
An Israeli National Sings to the Universe
Vazana refuted the claims by Moroccan activists that she was an active member of the Israeli army and that her career had been actively promoted by Zionist groups to “normalize” Israel through musical performances.
Sion Assidon, a prominent Moroccan Jewish pro-Palestinian activist, stated in protest of the Tanjazz performance that Vazana “prides herself on participating in the criminal Israeli army,” when the military “committed horrific massacres against innocent Palestinians,” according to the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Fresh out of high school, Vazana had been drafted into mandatory military service in Israel, for which she served between 2000 and 2002. However, she rejected the accusations that she had “murdered children and killing innocent Palestinians,” in the words of critics.
“People who criticize me for having served in the army missed out on several facts simply to promote their own agendas against me,” she told MWN.
The 34-year-old artist said that she did serve in the army, but in its orchestra. “I never held a gun in my life nor was I ever in a battlefield,” Vazana noted. “Reading what is reported onme in the media, I was stunned. [Critics] simply overlooked that I was in the orchestra, and readily labeled me as a murderer.”
To bolster its argument against the singer’s appearance, the PACBI noted that Vazana had received financial aid for six consecutive years from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, “one of the institutions of the Zionist lobby that seeks to polish Israel’s face and whiten its crimes against the Palestinian people.”
Shocked and baffled, Vazana gasped for air before reacting to PACBI statement. “I sincerely do not understand how accusations are thrown on me without fact checking,” she said.”When I was a young musician of eighteen, full of hope and belief in music, I participated in a music competition organized by the America-Israel Cultural Foundation once in two years and I won the competition three times. The prizes, given each 2 years, accumulated to a six year study subsidy that paid half of my tuition to the music academy.”
She added, having participated in a music competition “does not mean that I have political doctrines nor does it mean that I became a member of the foundation. Also as far
as I know, the AICF is a cultural organization of charity, helping emerging young Israeli artists to pay their studies in the university, not lobbying or promoting propaganda.”
Oceans Apart: Artists and Politicians
In a 2014 interview with the America-Israel Foundation, Vazana, said that “whether Israeli artists like it or not, they are also representing Israel regardless of the content of their work.” Her statement was taken as an evidence that supports Israel political and military agenda.
She argued that her words were taken out of context. ““If any of these accusers would have ever listened to my music and have googled my social activities they would change their minds. I do not support any military or political agendas. My agenda is and always was my music and how it can help people get together.”
“I play 90-100 concerts in a year around the world so I get to meet many people and see different countries. Often I get commentary after my shows that people are surprised to see good things coming out of Israel. It seems that because of negative image of Israel in the media things like art and science and social contribution are being diminished. It is then feels to me that I have more weight on my shoulders to also show the good things.”
She said that her nationality shouldn’t be used to immediately condemn her. “Israel is also home to people with good hearts and intentions. Not all of us are murderers. We are also human. It hurts that just because I am Israeli, I am prosecuted. I am also human […] Israeli artists must show that there is goodness in Israel as well.”
Vazana stated that while artists are often the ones who speak out and criticize governments, she personally focuses on the humanitarian perspective of violence, rather than the political.
“It is important for me to say that I am an artist. I represent art, not war nor violence.I defy violence.”
As an individual, Vazana said that she plays the music she feels she“needs to play,” not inspired by a political agenda. “I am not promoting any propaganda or lobby. What the government does is its business.” For her, the music she produces and plays promotes “inspiration and kinship, similarity and love not difference and violence.”
“I have worked with Palestinians artists in Israel and Netherlands . We have more similarities than differences. We have similar cultural heritage and a love for music, because “ music is a tool to promote goodness and transform existence.”
“Music and inspiration are the opposite of war,” she stressed.
Aren’t We All Moroccan?
With a father from Fes, and a mother from Casablanca, Vazana is a member of the Jewish community that migrated to Israel from Morocco. Her performance in Tanjazz isn’t her first visit to Morocco. “This is the third time I come to Morocco,” said the artist, adding that this visit is very special to [her].”
“During this visit, I had the chance to visit the city of my origin: Fes. The experience marked me because as I was walking in the street, I discovered that people were singing a song that my grandmother used to sing to me as a child in Ladino,” a language spoken by Spanish Jews, who migrated to Morocco in the 1500s.
She continued to say that the only way for her to communicate with her grandmother, who only spoke Ladino, was through “the melody I heard in the streets of Fes.”
“Fes took me down memory lane to when I was a child. It had me in tears.”
Vazana has recorded a full album in Ladino, which will be released this week. Through this album, she intends to shed light on her cultural heritage.