The Palestinians had reason to celebrate for a change. The jubilant outbursts in Palestinian cities throughout the West Bank and Gaza after Mohammed Assaf, 23, from Khan Younis, Gaza, won the Arab Idol competition, were unprecedented. For the Palestinians, a new national hero was born, and the masses, who watched him win on huge television screens set up on the streets, were ecstatic. The night skies lit up with fireworks this past Saturday, June 22, right after he won the final round in Beirut. Hundreds of thousands of people sang and danced in the streets, while Assaf’s songs blared from cars stuck in vast traffic jams.
In some sense, it was reminiscent of the spontaneous celebrations that broke out in Israel when the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team (a small team with mostly Israeli players) won the Eurocup basketball championship in 1977. But the latest celebrations were more than that — even bigger than those that erupted when former Palestinian Authority chief Yasser Arafat returned to Gaza in July 1994.