Resistance in Gaza

Young Palestinians Find Their Voice Through Hip-Hop

The Maqusi Towers in Gaza City look a bit like US housing projects. The neighborhood consists of several tall apartment buildings grouped together in the northern part of town. It is also ground zero for Gaza’s growing Hip-Hop community. On a recent evening in one small but well-decorated apartment, a dozen rappers and their friends and families relaxed, danced, smoked flavored tobacco, and rapped the lyrics to some of their songs.

The occasion was a post-show celebration of the taping of Hip Hop Kom, an American Idol-type talent competition for Palestinian rappers. Fifteen acts from across Palestine performed on Thursday night, and the show was broadcast simultaneously in Gaza City and the West Bank city of Ramallah. Through the use of video conferencing and projection, each city could see and hear the performances happening in the other. Five groups from Gaza participated, and Gazawians came in first, third, and fourth place.

The Gaza City show was held in a small theatre in the Palestine Red Crescent building. Although only publicized by word of mouth, nearly 200 young people filled the theatre, loudly cheering for the rappers and breakdance crew who took the stage.

One of the organizers of the contest, a charismatic literature major named Ayman Meghames, is a minor celebrity here. Part of Gaza’s first Hip-Hop group — named PR: Palestinian Rapperz — Ayman dedicates his time to supporting and publicizing Gaza’s young music scene.

Armed with a ready smile, Ayman was seemingly everywhere at once that night. He was on stage introducing the acts, helping with technical difficulties, greeting friends, and coordinating with the West Bank organizers.

For Ayman, making music is a form of resistance to war and occupation, and also a tool to communicate the reality of life in Palestine. “Most of our lyrics are about the occupation,” he tells me. “Lately we’ve also started singing about the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. Any problem, it needs to be written about.” Rapper Chuck D, from the group Public Enemy, once called rap music the CNN for Black America. For Ayman and his friends, music is their weapon to break media silence. “Most of the world believes we are the terrorists,” he says. “And the media is closed to us, so we get our message out through Hip-Hop.”

One of the first acts to take the stage was a duo called Black Unit Band. Mohammed Wafy, one of the two singers, displays the innocent charm of a teen pop star as he jumps from the stage and into the audience. Tall and skinny with a shock of black hair, Mohammed is 18 and looks younger. Khaled Harara, the other singer (and Mohammed’s next door neighbor) is a few years older and several pounds heavier, but no less energetic on stage.

As the evening progressed, the energy in the room continued to rise. The next act featured six members from two combined groups (DA MCs, and RG, for Revolutionary Guys) now collectively called DARG Team. The crowd was up on their feet, many of them singing along as the performers displayed a range of lyrical stylings.

In Mohammed Wafy’s apartment, the perfomers waited anxiously for the results of the contest. The call came in on Ayman’s cel phone. Putting it on speaker, everyone listened as the results were announced: DARG team had come in first place, and Black Unit had placed third. There were no hurt feelings apparent for those that didn’t win — for these young performers, every victory is a shared victory. DARG members will now go on to Denmark to produce an album (if they can get out of Gaza).

Fadi Bakhet, a studious and slightly preppy looking Afro-Palestinian in wire-rimmed glasses, is DARG’s manager, and also the brother of one of the members. As the night continued, the gathering moved to his apartment. They celebrated the successful show, which also fell on the last day of exams for many students, and the laughing and conversation continued late into the night. The next day was hot and sunny, and thousands of Gazawians gathered on the beach to swim and relax by the Mediterranean.

These stories may seem incongruent with much of the international reporting about Gaza and the Hamas government. But it is exactly for this reason that they should be told.

If you follow the reporting on Palestine in the US media, you may imagine a fundamentalist state. Hamas-stan, as at least one Israeli commentator has called it. You may imagine a nation of terrorists, where women are oppressed and men launch rockets. But perhaps when we learn that Palestinian families swim on Friday afternoons, that they study literature in the day and rap about imprisoned friends at night, we can rethink the US’ unquestioning support for Israeli aggression against this almost entirely defenseless population.

Yesterday, I visited a journalism class at the Islamic University, taught by Rami Almeghari. The students had many questions, but one young woman’s words in particular stayed with me. “What can we do to reach people in America and tell them how things really are here,” she asked. “How can we get them to listen, and to see?”

Jordan Flaherty is supervising producer of the Laura Flanders Show, and the author of the book Floodlines: Community and Resistance From Katrina to the Jena Six . He can be reached at: solidarity@gmail.com. Read other articles by Jordan, or visit Jordan's website.

18 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on June 6th, 2009 at 4:05pm #

    re the latest diktat to the palestina, I think that US/israel will offer pals an exchange of pop: all israeli palestinians egress from israel, while perhaps all ‘settlers’ leave w. bank.
    if palestinians wld agree, israel get’s a ‘jewish’ state and pals obtain second gaza or gaza2.
    which cld be threatened/invaded/blockaded just like gaza1. In any case, expect the worst diktat ever. Not, of course, that the best ‘offer’ wld be acceptable or much better that the worst! tnx

  2. mebosa ritchie said on June 7th, 2009 at 4:28am #

    excellent article jordan.
    it’s good you are telling everyone including bohz,mary and most DV posters what is really going on in gaza; all the crap about starvation,no normal life, no medical care etc is hamas propaganda swallowed avidly by the gullible left.
    well done for giving us the truth

    They celebrated the successful show, which also fell on the last day of exams for many students, and the laughing and conversation continued late into the night. The next day was hot and sunny, and thousands of Gazawians gathered on the beach to swim and relax by the Mediterranean.

    These stories may seem incongruent with much of the international reporting about Gaza and the Hamas government. But it is exactly for this reason that they should be told.

    If you follow the reporting on Palestine in the US media, you may imagine a fundamentalist state. Hamas-stan, as at least one Israeli commentator has called it. You may imagine a nation of terrorists, where women are oppressed and men launch rockets. But perhaps now we can learn that Palestinian families swim on Friday afternoons, that they study literature in the day and rap about imprisoned friends at night

  3. bozh said on June 7th, 2009 at 6:38am #

    mebosa,
    i know very little of gazans`li fe; so, i stay away from that subject. I do, tho, accept as true that gazans are under siege and as part of palestina it is also occupied.
    that is crime according to probably 5-6bn people. That is what i condemn.
    i also condemn balfour dclrtn, expulsion of pals, destruction of some 500 villages, stealing land, torture, imprisonment, abductions, maiming, destruction of homes and orchards, two-state nonsolution, torah, talmud, and killings.

    as a `jew` or christian you, seems to me, tacitly approve of these crimes or deny them.
    i believe in free speech. You can and are allowed to say whatever you like.
    just remember that namecalling and other ad hominem `talk` tells much more about you than the person under attack.
    in short, waste your time all you like! tnx

  4. Barry99 said on June 7th, 2009 at 11:51am #

    I suppose Mebosa would agree with the assessment that life in the Nazi death camps was not so bad because the Jews made collective efforts at times to entertain themselves. A celebration of life as it were – so why even call them death camps?

  5. RH2 said on June 7th, 2009 at 12:24pm #

    ritchie,

    I agree with you that Palestinians, like other Arabs, are capable of leisure activities, even capable of oppressing and killing their people. But do not be very much mistaken there. U.S. and European „Jews“ who were assembled in Palestine are colonists and criminals with an unprecedented licence to kill based on a successful marketing of the „uniqueness“ of the Holocaust.The wosrt thing that the „children of Yisrael“ can experience ist that the U.S. administration or some European cohort is somehow concerned about some Israeli disproportionate behavior. These „concerns“ have so far proven to be a scarecrow for the „world community“. And you enjoy that. We do not know how long. Do you know?

  6. RH2 said on June 7th, 2009 at 2:13pm #

    Barry99,

    “so why even call them death camps?”

    Yes they were death camps and not recreation areas. Do not lose your sense of history and justice. The point is, there is no moral or legal justification to grant “Jews” an unconditional licence to kill Palestinians. Palestinians are not responsible for the Nazi crimes.

  7. bozh said on June 7th, 2009 at 2:58pm #

    it is interesting that the euros with the judaic cult have convinced all of europe that these cultists were descendants of ancient judeans.

    it is been just a year or so when i first read s’mwhere that the cultists [all cultists being much perilous] were mostly khazarians a millenium ago, who latched onto judaism and zionism.

    it seems that historians agree that rome had defeated judeans. However, they do not agree [and neither do i] on khazar’s claim that they were en masse expelled or even slain.

    if most judeans have been killed and some expelled, how come judeans cld be found later in yemen, ethiopia, egypt, n. afrika, some asian lands, and throughout europe?

    it appears more likely that rabbis have converted berbers, arabs, iraqis, and euro-asians to judaism and that is the reason they were in large numbers just about everywhere.

    had a significant number of judeans left or fled judea, they wld have probably fled to nearby countries like jordan, syria, and lebanon and later returning to judea.
    which rome wld have welcomed having always need for more taxes!

    so, the modern ‘jews’ maybe persecuting the descendants of not only judeans but also descendants of the canaanites and arabs.

    i did not know that khazars spread west- and northward, converting along the people to judaism but i always thought that they are mostly a slavo-germanic folk.
    tnx

  8. mebosa ritchie said on June 7th, 2009 at 3:04pm #

    bohz,i’ve just realised everything you write is so true. i now realise all my views are wrong.
    you are indeed a very clever person to have worked all this out yourself.
    well done

  9. Barry99 said on June 7th, 2009 at 3:24pm #

    RH2 – My question: “so why even call them death camps?” was a facetious one. As was Dachau – so too Gaza.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain said on June 7th, 2009 at 5:05pm #

    Well said Barry-you beat me to it. The helminthine mebosa is trying to insinuate that things are not too bad inside the giant Gazan internment cum concentration camp. Everyones having fun, amongst the rubble. Next step will be the claim that it isIsrael that is somehow making Gazan life wonderful, out of that wonderfulness of soul that is such a sign of Israeli ‘moral purity’ and it’s only those evil Hamas causing trouble. You know, the Arabs are simple, inferior people, compared to the Judaic Herrenvolk, who after all are just reclaiming their eternally God-ordained lebensraum, in the East, too, by some miraculous coincidence. The really amazing facet of this ongoing abomination is that these extraordinarily vicious racists, who see it as absolutely unremarkable that they are keeping an entire population in the millions imprisoned and brutalised, are so arrogant, so intoxicated with the poison of racialist supremacism, that they absolutely expect everyone else in the West to join them in their racialist crusade. And by dint of their money power and media and political control, they are simply shoving their racism and cruelty down all our throats. If you want an example of how it is in Australia, check out the letters page of Monday’s ‘The Australian’, and the lovely contributions of Freedman, Lewis and Birati. Friends of yours are they, mebosa?

  11. mary said on June 8th, 2009 at 12:16am #

    Trapped.

    Catch 22, Gaza Closure Style – Two American Boys Can’t Leave Gaza Because They Can’t Renew Passports; Can’t Renew Passports Because They Can’t Leave Gaza.

    The Israeli-imposed closure – and American bureaucratic requirements – have trapped the children and their parents in Gaza – indefinitely.

    Without passports for his children, their US-educated father cannot reach his studies at a university in Russia.

    The family’s plight exemplifies draconian restrictions on travel for Gaza residents – including hundreds of students pursuing higher education.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 – Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement today petitioned the Beer-Sheva District Court on behalf of the Elkafarna family, demanding that Israel allow its two children, U.S. citizens, to reach the U.S. consulate in east Jerusalem in order to renew their passports. Because the U.S. does not provide consular services in Gaza, Elias and Qasem, aged 5 and 6, together with their parents, residents of Gaza, need permits from the military to cross through Israel, in order to appear personally at the consulate.

    The children, who do not have Palestinian ID cards, need to renew their passports immediately in order to travel with their parents to Russia, where their father, Kamal, has been accepted for an advanced degree program in Engineering Management, not available in Gaza. The visas for Kamal and his wife will expire on June 16, but they can’t leave without their children.

    Israel has ignored requests to permit the family to leave Gaza via Erez Crossing, in order to reach the US consulate. The family can’t even try to leave Gaza during one of the rare openings of Rafah Crossing, because one of the child’s passports has already expired. The second child’s passport will expire next month.

    The children, American citizens, are caught in a Catch 22 that illustrates the draconian nature of the two-year long closure of Gaza. They cannot leave Gaza because they can’t renew their passports, and they can’t renew their passports because they can’t leave Gaza. The parents, of course, must accompany their children to east Jerusalem and wish to continue from there to Russia via Jordan.

    Kamal Elkafarna, a lecturer in systems engineering in the Palestine Technical College, holds a Master’s Degree in systems engineering from George Washington University in D.C., thanks to a prestigious scholarship from USAID.

    Kamal Elkafarna: “The field in which I wish to develop professionally will contribute to my community in Gaza. When a technology project is implemented in hospitals or schools, it is essential to have people with broad-based knowledge – managerial and technical – to supervise the project”.

    According to Tamar Feldman of Gisha, who wrote the court petition: “The Elkafarna family’s plight is just one example of how the closure of Gaza – led by Israel but with the tacit acceptance of the international community – is trapping 1.5 million people, including hundreds of students accepted for study abroad”.

    http://www.gisha.org/index.php?intLanguage=2&intItemId=1528&intSiteSN=113

  12. mary said on June 8th, 2009 at 12:33am #

    Ewa Jasiewich writes well on the actuality of conditions in Gaza. She is one of the International Solidarity Movement workers.

    http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m54935&hd=&size=1&l=e
    Divide and torture

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain said on June 8th, 2009 at 4:36am #

    mary, as Edward Said used to comment upon, one of the salient features of the Israeli brutalisation of the Palestinians is the depths of sadism the Israelis plumb, and the absolute lack of any human sympathy for their victims. There are a number of truly heart-rending stories, also, of families torn asunder when one member has visited relatives in the West Bank, from Gaza, only for the Israelis, totally arbitrarily and viciously, to refuse to allow them to return to Gaza, even in cases where the person in question is a young mother with infant children. In these type of actions the Israelis reveal themselves to be just as deliberately cruel as any other despotism one can bring to mind, but we know that merely expressing human sympathy for people whose lives have been needlessly ruptured in these circumstances will bring down howls of ‘anti-Semite’ .It appears that for the Judeofascists, a humane concern for those suffering the cruelest blows, is equivalent to hatred of the Jews. What a strange and wicked mentality is at work here. Believe me, if the victims of wanton cruelty were Jews and their oppressors Palestinians, my sympathies would be with the mistreated Jews.

  14. kalidas said on June 8th, 2009 at 11:27am #

    Wiesenthal Re-Confirms: ‘No Extermination Camps on German Soil’

    In a letter published in a January issue of The Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for US military service personnel, Simon Wiesenthal re-confirmed, in passing, that “there were no extermination camps on German soil” during the Second World War. He made the identical statement in a letter published in the April 1975 issue of the British periodical Books and Bookmen.

    Many of these ignorant comments not only show how rumors get started but also how rumors are kept alive. Incredibly destructive and coercive rumors.

    The quote above is from Mr. “Nazi Hunter” himself, Wiesenthal.
    So if you wish to shoot the messenger, it’s too late.

    Last time I checked, Dachau was in Germany.
    Not Poland, not Hungary, not Disneyland, but GERMANY.

  15. RH2 said on June 8th, 2009 at 12:18pm #

    kalidas,

    Yes, Dachau is located in Germany. On March 22nd, 1933 it was founded as a concentration camp for “political” prisoners, opponents of the Hitler regime. As to Jews, many of them were murdered by the Nazis. Whether they were murdered in Poland or Hungary is irrelevant. It does not free the Nazis of their crimes. The Zionist magic number of 6 million murdered Jews could be questionable, but you should not underestimate the brutality of the Nazis against the Jews. Geography and soil are no hindrance to committing crimes. U.S. Imperialists are murdering human beings abroad.

  16. Suthiano said on June 8th, 2009 at 12:27pm #

    Kalidas, many fictions pass as truths.

    Auschwitz: 800,000 – 1.1 million Jews killed (Davies, Europe a History)

    Buchenwald: 56,000 total dead.

    Belzec: 434,508 total dead

    Bergen-Belsen: 70,000 total dead

    Bogdanovka: 40,000 total dead

    Chelmno: 153,000 total dead

    Flossenburg: 30,000 total dead

    Gross-Rosen: 40,000 total dead

    Janowska: 40,000 total dead

    Jasenovac: 600,000 total dead

    Majdanek: 78,000 total dead

    Maly Trostenets: 65,000 total dead

    Mauthausen-Gusen: 95,000 total dead

    Neuengamme: 55,000 total dead

    Ravensbrück: 90,000 total dead

    Sachsenhausen: 100,000 total dead

    Sajmiste: 100,000 total dead

    Salaspils: 101,000 total dead

    Sobibór: 200,000 total dead

    Stutthof: 65,000 total dead

    Treblinka: 870,000 total dead

    Warsaw: 2oo,ooo total dead

    = 4,282,508 – 4,582,508 killed. This is a terrible terrible tragedy.

    6 million is a fiction, 2.25-3 million is a much better estimate.

  17. bozh said on June 8th, 2009 at 2:32pm #

    according to some historians jasenovac figures are about 120,000 of which 30,000 were croats.
    Tito’s gov’t estimated that, 1,700.000 yugoslavs perished in world war two.
    demogrphers later came to a figure of less than one mn perishing from all causes.
    nevertheless, these are huge numbers. It may be noted that serbs had at least three royalist armies fighting along germans and italians against serbo-croat partisan forces.
    thus, serbs who were for separation from croatia or as cetniks in bosnia/serbia, were not sitting ducks waiting for ustashe to kill them.
    nearly all men in the first yugoslavia joiened either partisans, croat’n ustashe, or serb three cetnik armies.
    partisans have not inflated partisan losses; however, serbs have vastly inflated their figures.
    tnx bozhidar balkas vancouver

  18. kalidas said on June 8th, 2009 at 6:05pm #

    Suthiano, your list is a good example of that.

    Treblinka has been proven a hoax. By science as well as suppressed evidence.