Tens of thousands of jubilant Palestinians celebrated into the early hours of Sunday after a 23-year-old Gazan singer won the prestigious Arab Idol talent show that has captivated millions across the Middle East since March.
The meteoric rise of Gaza’s Mohammed Assaf to snatch the top prize in the pan-Arab singing contest sparked an unprecedented outpouring of joy across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, unifying an often divided public.
Assaf’s victory in the finals, held in Beirut and screened live on television across the Arab world, marked the first such success for a Palestinian entertainer.
“Mohammed Assaf is the Arab Idol!” declared the presenter of the show which is modeled on the US hit show Pop Idol, as colored confetti rained down on the cheering audience.
The handsome, tuxedo-clad singer immediately dedicated his win to “the Palestinian people, who have been suffering for more than 60 years from (the Israeli) occupation”.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas immediately crowned him a national goodwill ambassador, and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees named him their UNRWA Youth Ambassador.