The 23-year-old wedding singer from Gaza was the ultimate underdog, but on Saturday, Mohammed Assaf became a Palestinian hero when he was crowned winner of this year's Arab Idol contest.
We needed that portion of joy that he was able to deliver; we needed also a face of unity, somebody capable of unifying us around his voice, and hope that this will be the prelude towards unifying our own voice in the future, and achieving Palestinian unity.
"A revolution is not just the one carrying the rifle, a revolution is the paintbrush of an artist, the scalpel of a surgeon, the axe of the farmer ... this is something I consider to be logical. Everyone struggles for their cause in the way they see fit, today I represent Palestine and today I am fighting for a cause also through the art that I am performing and the message that I am sending out," Assaf, who was brought up in a refugee camp, said.
There have been celebrations across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and at a time when Palestinians have little to celebrate, Assaf has - for now at least - united a divided people.
The Hamas government in Gaza generally disapproves of the 'Arab Idol' contest. But it did not try to stop people from watching the show, and after Mohammed Assaf won the competition, one Hamas MP, Yahya Mousa referred to him as "the ambassador for Palestinian art."
And Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, wrote on his Facebook page:
'In the end, Mohammed Assaf is a Palestinian youth from Gaza who suffered like us and lived under blockade for many years.'
Immediately after he won, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees named Assaf a goodwill ambassador for peace. Spokesman Filippo Grandi said:
"Mohammed’s music is a universal language and speaks to all of us. How fantastic that a Palestine refugee from Gaza should bring us all together in this way."
So is Mohammed Assaf a Palestinian hero? And is he a symbol of hope and unity for Palestine?
To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Shiulie Ghosh, is joined by guests: Majed Bamya, a Palestinian diplomat, who is also active in several youth movements; Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel; and Rana Baker, a blogger and social commentator.
"He did not win because of sympathy, he won because of solidarity, because of support, and because of amazement by many people across the Arab world by his talent; and I think another aspect of Mohammed Assaf that stands out is that he transcended being a victim. Yes he is a victim, like most of our people; 69 percent of the Palestinian people are refugees … but he transcended that, reminding the world that we are not mere victims, we are actors, we resist colonisation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing … Mohammed Assaf is a new face of Palestinian cultural resistance, and I would dare say he is a kind of a new Palestinian phoenix rising from the ashes of the Nakba of 1948."
- Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel