Arab Singer Joins Israeli In Song Contest For 53 years, musicians have vied to win the Eurovision song contest, granted to the best performing act around Europe. Mira Awad, an Arab-Israeli singer, is representing Israel with Noa, a Jewish-Israeli artist. Award tells guest host Guy Raz that their song, "There Must Be Another Way," is not a song of peace, but a simple call to respect the humanity of others.
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Arab Singer Joins Israeli In Song Contest

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Arab Singer Joins Israeli In Song Contest

Arab Singer Joins Israeli In Song Contest

Arab Singer Joins Israeli In Song Contest

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For 53 years, musicians have vied to win the Eurovision song contest, granted to the best performing act around Europe. Mira Awad, an Arab-Israeli singer, is representing Israel with Noa, a Jewish-Israeli artist. Award tells guest host Guy Raz that their song, "There Must Be Another Way," is not a song of peace, but a simple call to respect the humanity of others.

GUY RAZ, Host:

For 53 years, some of Europe's kitchiest and tackiest performers have vied to win the Eurovision song contest. The song we're playing under my voice, "Waterloo" by the Swedish band ABBA, won in 1974.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WATERLOO")

ABBA: (Singing) Waterloo, I was defeated, you won the war.

RAZ: But this year, among the saccharine pop and glitter costumes is one very controversial entry, and that entry comes from Israel. One half of the duo representing Israel at Eurovision happens to be an Arab citizen of that country. Her name is Mira Awad. And Tuesday night in Moscow, she'll join Israeli-Jewish singer Noa to perform their song, "There Must Be Another Way."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THERE MUST BE ANOTHER WAY")

MIRA AWAD: (Singing) There must be another, must be another way.

RAZ: The tune is sung in English, Hebrew and Arabic. And when Mira Awad took a break from rehearsing this past week to speak with us, I asked her to explain what the song's about.

AWAD: As the title says, we believe that our region and our two nations have been going in one road that we think is leading us to destruction rather than life and prosperity, and we would like to think that we still have the chance to choose differently.

AWAD: When I cry, I cry for both of us. My pain has no name.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THERE MUST BE ANOTHER WAY")

AWAD: (Singing) No name, and when I cry to the merciless sky and say there must be another way.

AWAD: It just basically talks about empathy that we believe we should have for each other.

RAZ: Now, Ms. Awad, you're of course an Israeli citizen but also ethnically Palestinian. And you've caught a lot of heat from the Arab minority in Israel for doing this. Some accuse you of presenting a false image of coexistence.

AWAD: Look, I understand where all this criticism came from. And then, the announcement about us going to the Eurovision really came at a very, very sad time for all of us, a very painful time.

RAZ: It came in the middle of the three-week Gaza War.

AWAD: Exactly, in the middle of the Gaza War. And lives were just being lost as we were watching TV, and it was horrible. I can tell you that neither I, neither Noa, could think about going to a pop contest at that time.

I understand the concern of my fellow colleagues from the left wing in Israel that me and Noa would represent a false picture of our reality because we're not naive enough to think that we're representing any existing situation. We are trying to show a possible situation that we believe is possible if we just make the necessary efforts.

Unfortunately, I think in our region, we are going more and more into the extreme, and therefore, I feel the personal responsibility of stepping out of the bunker, stepping out of my own camp and saying, hey, I'm here. I'm in the middle. I am reaching out. So, either you reach out back or you can shoot me. Choose.

RAZ: But what do you say to critics in Israel and abroad, in the Middle East, who say, you know, your lyrics, lyrics like a day will come and fear will disappear, are simply overly optimistic?

AWAD: Well, they might be optimistic, but I defend my right to be optimistic. I mean, what's the other choice? What's the other choice, to be pessimistic and to give up and just stop trying? I mean, that would just lead us to annihilation. That's it. And I refuse. I refuse to be the one who gives up and just takes that as a fact.

So, and let them call me naïve, let them call me overoptimistic. I don't care. If that's the risk, I'll take it.

RAZ: I mean, one of the objectives, as you say, is to kind of spread an optimistic message, a song of peace. But I mean, in a sense...

AWAD: It's not even a song of peace, you know. I want to correct that. It is a not a song of peace. I am not singing, oh, hello, shalom, salaam, peace, please let's love each other, peace shall conquer, no. I'm just saying look at your fellow human being and remember that he's a fellow human being. That's all. That's all. You do not need to be in love with that fellow human being. You d not need to make him your partner nor your friend, nor nothing. Just respect his right for life. That's it.

RAZ: Mira Awad is a Palestinian-Israeli singer, and she's representing Israel at this year's Eurovision song contest with fellow singer, Noa. Mira Awad, good luck next week.

AWAD: Thank you very much, Guy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THERE MUST BE ANOTHER WAY")

AWAD: (Singing) There must be another, must be another way.

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