Sunday May 19, 2013
Hip Hop, Olive Trees and PalestineTim King Salem-News.com
The group DAM's song 'Meen Erhabi' which means 'Who's the Terrorist' is extremely popular, in Israel.
(SALEM, Ore.) - If there is one section of the world that seems fitting for the hard thumping raw sounds of hip hop music, it is the Mideast. American rap and hip hop has touched on human issues here and there, and it serves as an escape route from normal society for today's young, but the political message is all too often lacking.
That is not the case with Palestinian rap group DAM Da Arab MC's or "forever" in Arabic. The word means 'blood' in Hebrew. They sing about life and death and the pain of a life of prejudice, where everywhere you go you are a lesser person than the next, because you aren't the "right" religion.
From the way it appears, this Arab/Israeli band might have gained more ground on the road toward peace than all of the politicians and generals put together in recent years. Reminiscent of rock music's role in the 1960's in America, DAM is at the head of an extremely important Israeli counter culture movement that is bringing people together in ways that are unrivaled, and permanent.
Many in the U.S. lament the lack of cultural understanding among young American Jews; surveys reveal that they don't think about Israel very often, and many have poor opinions, especially since the operation against Gaza in 2008/2009, then again recently when several peace activists aboard a Gaza Freedom Flotilla vessel, the Mavi Marmara, were attacked and murdered by Israeli forces committing an act of high seas piracy, according to international law.
In Israel, the same thing is taking place, though on a smaller level. The younger generation doesn't have the same level of animosity toward non-Jews and many are really pissed about the way their own nation regards Palestinians. If a generation grows up thinking this way, there is hope for a different future. There are also many young Israelis refusing service in the military, even going to prison over it.
Of course it would be hard to fight for Israel. Like the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel doesn't follow international law. Yet they stand in judgment of legitimately elected political groups like Hamas, that gave up suicide bombing for good in 2005, when at the time it was one of the few ways people here could take a toll on Israel in retaliation for so many legitimate grievances.
Suicide bombing is a terrible business and Hamas deserves credit for halting that activity and later even admitting it was wrong. Contrary to what most believe and are told, the "72 virgins" line about Islamic jihadists appears to be little more than western propaganda.
But the music cuts through the complicated politics and clears the haze of so many false words, as it always has.
The Israelis read frequently how Gaza is much better off than it really is. More than one recently sent stories and images from local media to Salem-News.com over a particular report, that contradicted what I had written and published. The YouTube video I produced which tells the story of Gaza, is "not available" in Israel. The images were as fictitious as they get; they were not of Gaza today. The Israeli news story made the deadly place sound like paradise.
So we start getting to the bottom of what is going on; not only is most Israeli media mostly an extension of the government, but they block images and even video reports on YouTube that tell the true story. It is a game that can only last so long.
The Palestinian rappers like DAM aren't anything new; they, along with other hip hop and rap groups have been around for many years. But now the message is getting out like never before and that is happening in part because of a new documentary called "Slingshot Hip Hop" which chronicles the story of this music in Palestine and Israel and throughout the world.
The Rabbi Report wrote:
I think the group is inspiring, incredible and fantastic, even if I have a self-professed weakness already for Arab rap.
Liron Te'eny, a top Israeli DJ, says the number one song in 2003 in Israel was performed by two Palestinian teenage rappers.
Te'eny said, "This music breaks barriers, some people who live ignorant, Israelis... have no idea, about how they live and how they feel, when they listen to the songs they relate, they understand, they can understand the pressure."
It is a sign of the times and an emerging consciousness in Israel that many older residents would like to ignore.
In Israel, as in the U.S., there is a great deal of ignorance perpetuated by right leaning media. This stems from media reports distorting facts and skewing the details with paranoid perceptions and reactions. It is about fearmongering, and then feeding the created fear.
People in this world really want to live in peace and they care more about that than ideology if given a chance. Neither religion or greed over resources like oil, should lead to the loss of human life.
But religion and Islam in general, fundamentalism in particular, only surged after Afghanistan had been repressed from religion for about three decades by the Soviets. Then there is the western dominance over Iran that spanned from 1953 to 1979, the year of the launch of the Islamic Revolution.
These rappers aren't making a point about picking up chicks, cruising a 5.0 Mustang, degrading women, living extravagantly, or anything.
You will see by watching the videos below that these guys are talking about the essential ability to live as a free human being; something that they aren't allowed to do under Israel's current politics and leadership.
When it comes to the Israeli people who support their PM, you can't say that their direct and indirect role in oppressing Palestinians is always their fault.
Many Israelis were killed over the years; a degree of the fear and paranoia is warranted, though very over the top. Suicide bombings used to happen frequently, but they don't anymore.
These days they happen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Also, Israelis may have their hearts telling them one thing, but then they are fed information constantly by media like the Jerusalem Post that causes Israeli citizens to see things a certain way, and everything is underscored with the notion of "security" being the prime importance, which results in the lack of humanity toward their fellow human beings who they share land with, who are so often and increasingly associated with "terrorists".
DAM in Israel
These newer generation Israelis are crowding DAM shows in places like Tel Aviv, listening to these songs that are all performed in Arabic, not Hebrew. Many of the young fans are nearing the time when they will have to perform their mandatory military service, an obligation of Israeli; a policy getting very old very fast among Israel's young.
The Gaza Strip, West Bank and Golan Heights are the only remaining vestiges of Palestine, everything else is now part of Israel. The Palestinian areas are surrounded by huge walls West Bank and Golan Heights are both occupied by Israeli forces. New laws in place force all people entering the West Bank today to specifically attain papers from Israel in order to do so. The only part of Palestine that truly remains under the control of its own military is Gaza, where Hamas maintains control.
The rest of the land is no longer Palestine and as a result, Arab Israelis make up about 20% of the population in Israel. There are apartheid laws, separate criminal justice systems for Jews and non-Jews. Arabs are by and large, are treated like second class citizens by the government, though not all Israelis.
Jobs for Arabs are few in Israel and poverty is rampant, but that isn't the story for most Jews. Interestingly, one of the suffering classes of Jewish Israeli residents are Holocaust survivors, who exist on meager incomes and often fail to meet their basic needs, living in poverty oftentimes like the Arabs. Interestingly, these Holocaust survivors know better than anyone what it is like to be singled out for your race and religion; most are against the oppression of Palestine. It is the next generation down, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhyahu, who keep pushing policies that force Israel to lose support and popularity in the world.
Democracy Now Interview
Palestinian Rap Group DAM Use Hip-Hop to Convey the Frustrations, Hopes of a Dispossessed People.
W"e turn now to three young Palestinians who use hip-hop to tell their story of the Nakba and what it means to be a Palestinian growing up inside Israel. DAM, or Da Arabian MCs, is the first group of Palestinian rappers and was formed in the late 1990s. All three members were born and grew up in the slums of Lod or Al-Lyd, a mixed town of Arabs and Jews twelve miles from Jerusalem."
I also find it interesting that women in Palestine, do not appear oppressed by their own. They frequently show up in video recorded in Gaza and West Bank, not even slightly covered, even wearing western clothing. I haven't been to Palestine, but I've been to the Mideast and I know it is hard to ever spot a woman in Afghanistan who isn't burqa-clad; in Iraq I saw women range in dress from black full burqas, to modern western fashion.
My point is that western people need to keep grasping the idea that the Palestinians are absolutely cool and interesting by nature like Israelis, and thanks to groups like DAM and others, these two cultures are finding absolute common ground in this new music.
DAM is from Lod, a town between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They usually rap in Arabic, but they made a Hebrew version of this song with a music video to get their message out to the majority of Israelis who don't speak Arabic.
You can find out more about them at dampalestine.com/main.html.
Visit moomtastic.com/born-here.html to see extended comments on the video "Born Here" and its chorus.
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
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