update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli rappers claim US visas withheld over song lyrics

The lyrics of the Hebrew drill rap hit "Harbu Darbu" were alleged to be at the root of the decision to refuse four Israeli artists a visa.

The cover art for Ness and Stilla's drill rap hit "Harbu Darbu." Credit: Screenshot.
The cover art for Ness and Stilla's drill rap hit "Harbu Darbu." Credit: Screenshot.

Four Israeli artists were forced to cancel a concert in the United States this week after they were declined visas because of objections to one of their hit songs, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported over the weekend.

The alleged visa ban was said to have targeted rap duo Ness and Stilla, popular singer Lior Narkis and Chaim Osadon, star of the kid’s show “The crazy world of Dod Chaim,” which airs on the Hop! channel.

The four were scheduled to appear on Sunday at a concert in Florida sponsored by the Consulate-General of Israel in Miami.

Ness and Stilla reached number one on the Israeli charts last year with their drill rap “Harbu Darbu,” which went viral in the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre and the ensuing war against the terror group.

The lyrics, which call for revenge against the terrorists who slaughtered 1,200 people on Oct. 7, were denounced by Al Jazeera as “genocidal,” and the rap duo told Channel 12 that the visa refusal was likely related to their top hit.

According to sources around Ness and Stilla, “official bodies” in the United States created the impression that the lyrics were at the root of the decision.

Narkis confirmed the reports, telling his Instagram followers that “even though I’m already here [in the United States], I am being prevented from holding the performances that were planned due to bureaucratic reasons.”

“We were promised we would receive an artist visa to perform legally; until now, the approval has not been received. Unfortunately, we are forced to postpone all performances in the United States,” he added.

A State Department spokesperson told JNS that “all visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act and other applicable laws.”

“Visa records are confidential under U.S. law. We do not discuss the details of individual visa cases,” the official added. The U.S. Embassy in Israel did not immediately respond to JNS regarding the incident.

Last year, Israel joined the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows Israeli citizens to travel to America for 90 days without a visa. However, performers require a separate visa, and the U.S. government can arbitrarily refuse to grant authorization for these artists to perform.

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