Lyrical resistance: Rappers address Palestinian struggle from behind the mic

Palestinian rapper Asifeh’s music video. (YouTube)
Updated 02 November 2017
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Lyrical resistance: Rappers address Palestinian struggle from behind the mic

LONDON: Palestinian rapper Asifeh’s music video, filmed in a city known to Arabs as Al-Khalil and to Israelis as Hebron, opens with a scene of shuttered shops and cinder block buildings.
“Imagine a whole nation on your land, fully armed and wanting you to leave… and you’re just sitting on the couch, your only hope is your bank account,” he said, staring unblinking into the camera.
Comments on the music video, which has more than 20,000 views, reveal the global reach of Palestinian hip hop. “Peace from Egypt,” reads a note from one fan. “Respect from Turkey,” said another.
Spitting bars of lyrics into microphones across the West Bank, Gaza and beyond, rappers are using their art to highlight the effects of the Israeli occupation and convey the Palestinian struggle to the world.
“It’s like a soundtrack to the struggle, to revolution,” said Asifeh, who prefers to use his rap name. “It’s also a way for people to assert their freedom by saying what’s on their mind.”
His first song, written while he was a housebound youth during the second intifada (uprising), was named after the Israeli flares that lit up the night sky. With tanks rolling through the streets, Asifeh spent most of his time indoors and began writing rap.
For a rapper whose lyrics address colonization, migration and inequality, it is only natural that he should be reflecting these days upon the Balfour Declaration, the letter written 100 years ago by Britain’s then- foreign secretary, which paved the way for the creation of Israel.
“There is a sense of urgency. It’s been 100 years already and you know, look at what is still happening as a result of that,” Asifeh, who is based between Ramallah and Vienna, told Arab News.
“The fact that you have Prime Minister Theresa May and the British government wanting to celebrate, saying they’re proud of this — it’s very shameful, and it also shows that on that level nothing has changed.”
Spoken-word artist and rapper Mohammad Jamil, based in Ramallah, said the suffering he sees every day, from arrests to killings, serves as an inspiration for his work.
“It makes us flow from pen to paper to describe the situation and to express our feelings and create a dialogue with our audience around the world to be aware of our cause and our rights,” he said.
But Rafiq Hamawi, a beat-maker, activist and rapper based in Nablus, said that occupation is just one of a host of social issues local rappers should bring to the fore.
“I see rap as more effective in fighting internal oppression,” he said. “Using rap in Palestine would be more successful in fighting the tyranny from the Palestinian officials or the corruption that we see,” he said.
Away from the heat of the conflict, Arab rappers in the diaspora negotiate how to address the Palestinian struggle without overpowering local voices or capitalizing upon their suffering.
“I would say the dream of justice for (the) Palestinian people and land is inspiration for my work, (but) their struggle is not to be appropriated,” said Yassin Al-Salman, a Montreal-based rapper better known by his stage name, Narcy.
Al-Salman, whose political commentary extends beyond the microphone to op-ed pages and university lecterns, said the Palestinian struggle has helped unite Arabs.
“Palestine is an important part of Arab identity,” he told Arab News. “I see the nation as our challenge to stand together, to put aside our differences and difficulties in unifying, for humankind.”


Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

Syrian pro-government forces hold a position near the village of al-Malihah, in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, on September 9, 2017, during the ongoing battle against Daesh group. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

  • The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel

DAMASCUS: Syrian state media said Sunday that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm.
“Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency said, without providing more details.
But the report was later withdrawn by both SANA and state television without explanation.
SANA then quoted sources at the airport as saying that “there was no aggression” and that “traffic was normal.”
A well-informed source told AFP that “there was evidently a false alarm.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the sound of explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard.
The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital.
The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.
Iran and Russia are the government’s key allies in the civil war that has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow’s intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.
The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel.
Moscow pinned responsibility for the downing on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.
Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus insisted would make Israel “think carefully” before carrying out further air raids.
The move raised fears in Israel that its ability to rein in its arch foe Iran’s military presence in Syria would be sharply reduced.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia that Israel would continue to hit hostile targets, while also maintaining “security coordination” with Moscow.