Freedom Rappers

Palestinians embrace Hip Hop as a form of political activism

“BANG! BANG! BANG!” That’s the sound that is all too common for people living under the Israeli-occupied territories known as Palestine.

The young stone-throwing Hamas supporters scramble daily in a political struggle for freedom from what they define as Israeli occupation and oppression.

However, some Palestinians are embracing a new medium towards political expression: Hip Hop.

Hip Hop in the Middle East, particularly Palestine, has become an avenue of choice for those wishing to educate the masses about the suffering Palestinians experience under Israeli rule.

The first known attempt at producing Arabic rap music began in 1998 with a Palestinian named Tamer Nafar and his group known as DAM – the Arabic word for blood. In 2001 DAM’s single “Meen Irhabi?” – Who’s the Terrorist?” – was downloaded over one million times, according to their website.

Palestinian Hip Hop is in its infancy, mimicking mainstream Western politically-conscious artists like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”. In fact, DAM is also known to have become motivated initially by the works of rap artist Tupac Shakur – all of which is aimed at provoking not only Israeli military and social policy in the region, but sending a message to the rest of the world who may know very little about the purpose of the Palestinian resistance other than stones being thrown at Israeli military tanks.

Lately, another emerging Palestinian Hip Hop group called R.F.M. has become perhaps the most controversial with lyrics from its song “Watch Your Back, Arabs” – directed at rousing both the Jewish and Arab masses:

“Where are the Arab people?

Where is the Arab blood?

Where is the Arab anger?

Where, where and where....

Driving the coupe car

Smoking the cigar

Voting for the super star ‘American Idol’

And forgetting about our martyrs, wounded, prisoners…

Have you heard the latest news!?”

 

Some of the central themes in Palestinian rap target issues such as terrorism, drugs and women’s rights. Its hopes are to bring peace to the region through non-violence and essentially making true the dream of a Palestinian state. DAM has become more internationally recognized with its first officially released album in 2006 called ‘Dedication.’

But, although it seems apparent that music has the power to influence and unite people, it comes with heated criticism from Hamas – the political body currently in power within the Palestinian-controlled territories.

Islam is a foundation for many Palestinian families in the Gaza strip and West Bank where these rap artists perform publicly, gathering crowds of supporters. According to Hamas views, singing rap music goes against the Quran – the Holy Book.

However, for these Palestinian rap artists, the realization is that they do not have a chance facing Israeli occupation through the use of violence, as this has proved to be a bloody losing battle against a military force better equipped.

Be that as it may, Hip Hop is a growing presence in the Middle East region and is drawing in larger crowds. Only time will tell how much change they can effect – with the ultimate dream of establishing a Palestinian state.

Written By: Yaseen Hemeda