Palestine’s ‘Amandla!’ Moment: Music and Palestine

By Doc Jazz

I don’t have a dream. It would perhaps be great if I did, but I don’t. Dreams, to me, are a distortion of reality, a way for your emotions to deal with realities that your conscious mind finds too hard to digest. They are, by default, irrational responses that serve to maintain an emotional balance, but have no problem-solving capabilities.

As a Palestinian, I don’t like today’s realities, and I find them utterly indigestible. I therefore firmly believe that they should be changed. I view things from my own background, like everyone else, and the reality of Palestine is a grim one, an ugly one, a desperate one, and a violent one.

The reason for this is a racist ideology that defines certain people as inherently ‘superior’, and others as naturally ‘inferior’. Its proponents take enormous pride in this deluded view of the world, commonly known as Zionism, and they employ every thinkable means available to them to put it into practice. The result of this warped and unjust system is the artificial and militaristic state they named ‘Israel’, which encroaches upon every inch of Palestinian land, aiming to take it over completely, and to establish itself as a regional and global superpower.

This unacceptable reality cannot be changed by dreams. What it requires is a vision, with clear aims and with a defined mechanism of putting it into practice, aiming to dis-empower racism and render it ineffective, until it succumbs under the unbearable weight of its own sins.

Untenable Racism

Like every struggle in the human experience, this is a struggle of minds more than it is a struggle of economic or military power. In fact, the racist system of Zionism would not exist today if it were not based on its access to economic and military superiority, which enabled it to partly subjugate and partly expel an entire nation of people.

However, this blatant show of force happens to be also its weakness: there is no moral or rational superiority in its ideology, since it embraces archaic tribalism as its very core, and adheres to the illogical presumption that subjugating a people is a tenable and viable means of running a country. The primitiveness of this concept defies the realities of human existence, which have proven over time that there is no such thing as eternal slavery, and that its time frame is limited.

A vision of coexistence and equality is one giant step ahead of the tribalist ‘Uebermensch’ ideology of Zionism, and can therefore be seen as an inevitable endpoint of this struggle. However, moving from an institutionalized racist system towards a system of citizenship based on equality will not happen spontaneously, especially when this system maintains itself through its economic and military superiority.

Music and the Struggle

This illustrates the need for struggle; struggle against such a system is not really a choice, but a healthy and necessary response, in the same way that a body’s immune system will automatically engage an invading entity that aims to deregulate its natural state of homeostasis. As my song ‘Free Palestine’ says: we resist, therefore we exist.

Now that I have mentioned one of my songs, it is time to explain my view on the role of music in this struggle. Like I said before, this is a struggle of minds more than it is a struggle of material power, and I believe that music can play a crucial role in this, since it engages mind and heart simultaneously, and in some cases even moves the body.

For over a decade I have been composing and releasing songs in the English language, that cover practically all aspects of the Palestinian struggle in their themes. It has been at times quite difficult to maintain this Musical Intifada, which I started in the year 2000, but it has survived the times through its ups and downs, just as the Palestinian struggle itself, which has had its moments of glory and its moments of chaos and despair, but never came to a halt.

Now, after a decade of truckloads of energy and resources spent on something that may have seemed improbable to ever yield any results, I look around me and say: yes, the viability of this concept has been proven. Perhaps my own music has not played any role in what is happening today, but can we deny that something is going on with regard to music, and the Palestinian struggle?

The South African Model

I envisaged that music had the power to mobilize people for a cause, and I drew the inspiration for this thought from the way that the struggle against South African apartheid reached the hearts of citizens all over the world through music during the eighties. Songs against Apartheid were being composed and played even by people who lived so far away from the region that one might expect them to be completely uninvolved, yet they put out their songs, and they were heard and embraced by the crowds.

Now, this vision is slowly but surely turning into a reality for the Palestinian people. We, the musicians for Palestine, may have been working in the margin for a long time; me (Doc Jazz), David Rovics, Iron Sheikh, the Savage Rose, Jim Page, and a handful of other artists around the globe who stubbornly conveyed the message of justice for Palestine through their music. But nowadays, slowly but surely, music for Palestine is making its way to center stage.

The popularity of Lowkey, DAM, Shadia Mansour and many other Hip-Hop artists made sure that the message reached out to younger generations, and the beat of Palestine raised its volume year after year. In 2010, international artists who had no explicit political involvement in the Palestinian cause made powerful statements by refusing to play in Tel Aviv, causing shock and disbelief in the ranks of zionists who never expected BDS to be embraced by the artist world. And now we have entered 2011, and a new milestone has been reached with the powerful release of OneWorld’s catchy and intense song ‘Freedom for Palestine’, which came about as a collaboration between various UK artists, enriched by the warm vocals of the Durban Gospel Choir.

Coldplay’s endorsement of the song also is extremely helpful and courageous, and signifies an important broadening of the audience when it comes to opposing Israeli Apartheid and racism. Their support for the song is invaluable, and throws it into the middle of the arena. I can’t even begin to tell how wonderful that is. We are finally getting somewhere!

Don’t worry, I am very well aware that this whole process is much bigger than me, and that all this would have come about just the same without my existence. I am not beating my drums, but I am clapping my hands in applause for these artists, their courage, their musicality, and the fact that they have proven that the vision that I had when I started the Musical Intifada was not a dream, but indeed a vision. And I feel encouraged and rewarded in believing that what music did for South Africa, it can also do for Palestine. Thank you Dave Randall, for composing this wonderful song; you made my day, and if we all keep pushing this way, we, the Palestinians, will someday soon have our own ‘Amandla!’ moment.

– Doc Jazz is a Palestinian artist. He contributed this article to Visit the Musical Intifada at:

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