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Mira Awad

Arab Israeli vocalist Mira Awad shares the stage with Jewish Israeli singer Noa.



FE: This month (November 2014) you've been here in the states participating in several events as an artist and as an activist for change. Tell us about that! 

MA: I attended the Other Israel film festival in New York where a number of projects that I'm involved in were screened. To mention a few: "Write down I'm an Arab", a documentary about the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish which I made the music for and lately released the sound track of (Under the name- Write down). "East Jerusalem, west Jerusalem", a documentary about the latest album by David Broza where Israeli and Palestinian artists collaborated together. And of course "Arab labor", the highly rated TV series portraying the complex reality of  Palestinian citizens in Israel. All these projects portray in different ways the complex reality of the region. In Miami I received the PODER - women in power Reconciliation award from the ABC foundation for my work as an artist and humanitarian.

FE: Do you believe that artists have a special role to play in the politics of peace? Why or why not?

MA: I actually do. Artists have a platform from which they can suggest alternative realities to their followers, they can use their voices to spread understanding and solidarity, or apathy and self centeredness , and I would always prefer to listen to an artist who spreads the first. However, I do not expect all artists to be politically outspoken, nor believe they should be pressured into it, as I personally know the heavy prices that can be paid for it. It should be a personal choice. I chose to express my perspectives and have paid heavy prices for it, but then again I gained a loyal and resilient audience because of it.

FE: Even in the face of great criticism from the Arab community, you continue to collaborate with fellow artists such as Noa and David Broza, both of whom are Israeli Jews. What about these artistic relationships make them worth enduring the backlash you receive as a result?

MA: First of all, you can see from my choices that I choose to collaborate with the best! Therefore the first benefit from these collaborations is the pleasure of working with the most professional and excellent musicians, the second is the friendships and the brave human bonds developed both with Noa and David along the years, these are people whom I care for deeply. Without these two elements, our collaborations would not last and would be artificial. The third element, which adds value is the symbolic importance, that here we are, people from different backgrounds and different perspective on things, working together and raising a call for solidarity. All these things combined make me stand strong in front of criticism regarding the collaborations.

FE: You have said that these are “impossible times for freedom of speech in Israel and the region.” Why is that true, and what can be done about it? Or maybe a better question is, what do you do about it?

MA: These are definitely hard times for freedom of speech. Throughout the whole region extremists are loud and clear in their attempts to spread fear and hatred, everyday we hear new stories of violence and terrany.
As for Israel, During the last summer, it was very hard for intellectuals to express views that did not correspond with the main stream, and those who did, faced threats, hateful comments, and some even lost jobs. I perceive this as a dangerous trend that needs to be addressed if the Israeli people really cherish democracy. The fact that there are evil powers out there should not be an excuse to unleash the evil powers within.

FE: How do you feel about cultural boycotts in general, and what are your thoughts on the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), specifically?  

MA: I do realize that boycotts have worked in the past, and am a fan of Mandela's achievements myself, but while boycotts might make sense when directed at official authorities, they are very problematic when directed at intellectuals. A cultural boycott means shutting down and shutting up artists and intellectuals, whom are usually the people who can help most in bridging and dialoging.
Some people consider boycotts a ligitimate way to protest, and I believe in those peoples' right to express their protest the way they see fit, it's too bad that the boycott crowd do not have the same democratic tolerance to other ways of protest, and to thise of us who choose bot to join boycotts. You'll never hear me condemning any of the international artists for either choosing boycott or not, it is their personal choice. There is a strong statement in boycotting, but there's also a powerful statement in showing up and speaking your mind, and it should be a personal choice to make.

FE: Have the boycotts affected you personally and professionally?

MA: Boycotts have sometimes affected me, both personally and professionally, I had concerts canceled because I was accused of being a "collaborator" with Israeli artists or institutes, on the other hand, I've also suffered whenever the Israeli public opinion thought I was leaning more towards my Palestinian affiliation. The complexity of being a Palestinian within Israel is not known to many people, add to that a Palestinian who's trying to fight for equal citizenship for Palestinians within Israel.

FE: How do you cope, emotionally, with the backlash and criticism that comes from expressing your opinions as an artist?

MA: I try to stay concentrated on the big picture, on the thought that we all derive from the same tree: the human family tree, and that time gets things into proportion. Sometimes the spirits heat up about something that in a year or two is no longer relevant, and I try to keep that perspective in mind.

FE: In the face of continued bloodshed and hostility in your beloved homeland, how do you manage to keep singing? Are you ever tempted to give up on the power of art?

MA: Many times, and in fact, during the last summer I silenced my singing voice for almost three months, out of a heavy feeling that singing was not appropriate, and a bleak conclusion that everything I have ever done as effort for bridging between people has failed. So, yes, I think about the relevance of what I do on a daily basis, and whether through my art I can really make a difference. This is an ongoing question and only time will show whether my choices were right.

FE: What do you say to artists who want to engage in the politics of peace but who hesitate for fear of the backlash?

MA: Artists should always be true to themselves. If they believe something should be done or said, they should go for it, they might risk some popularity for a while, but they will attract the right audience for themselves, and if they are consistent enough they will also realize that even audiences that do not agree with them respect them deeply for who they are and their persistence.


I'm always looking for new and exciting opportunities. Let's connect.


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