Arab Idol superstar to reach West Bank; others still blocked

July 1st, 2013. The expected arrival of Arab Idol superstar Mohammed Assaf in the West Bank today is exceptional not only for its significance to the Palestinian people, who view him as a national hero, but also because it deviates from Israel's policy blocking access between Gaza and the West Bank. Were Assaf anything less than a superstar, he would have little chance of setting foot on West Bank soil, due to the Israeli policy limiting travel to "exceptional humanitarian circumstances".

Mohammed Assaf is not a football player on the Palestinian national team and, to the relief of his fans and family, does not need urgent medical treatment. He is not a senior merchant, married with children. He does not work for an international organization. Therefore, according to Israel's criteria, he would be banned from entering the West Bank. Even Gaza's star runners, including Olympic competitors, were banned from reaching the Bethlehem marathon this past spring.

We applaud Israel's approval of Assaf's request to travel to the West Bank – and hope the same treatment will be accorded to those in Gaza who have yet to achieve superstar status.