Prominent Palestinian musicians say recruiting minority ethnic and religious Arab groups into the army is part of Israel’s divide-and-conquer tactics, pushing young Palestinians to ‘side with the occupation’ and shrug off their national and historical identity.
Two prominent Palestinian musicians released a hip-hop music video this week lambasting efforts to recruit young Palestinian citizens of Israel into the country’s army.
The video, by musicians Tamer Nafar and Jowan Safadi and released by the Baladna Association for Arab Youth and Hamleh (The Palestinian Social Media Center), features a group of Israeli scientists sitting in a lab and trying to create a new kind of Arab.
The chorus of the song bemoans how Israel “stripped us of our land, stripped us of our identity, dressed us in boots and military suits.”
“We are struggling not only against Israelization,” says Safadi, who worked on the song with Nafar, a member of famed Palestinian hip-hop group DAM. “We are fighting the ethnic divisions the Israeli establishment is leveraging against us, which has been more prevalent over the past year or two.”
(Click the “CC” button if subtitles don’t appear. A full English translation of the lyrics can be found here.)
Safadi is referring to certain members of the Arab community in Israel, such as Father Gabriel Nadaf, who the government supports as part of its divide-and-rule tactics pushing young people — in this case Christians — into the arms of the Israeli army.
“When Tamer and I wrote this song, we wanted to emphasize two main topics — Israelization and ethnic division,” Safadi continues. “We tried to do it using irony. For example, we wanted to show how in exchange for having our land and rights taken away, we have been compensated with boots and military uniforms.”
“We are speaking directly to ‘Israeli Arabs’ — those same Palestinians who are willing to be ‘Israelis’ even at the cost of shrugging off their national, historical identity and siding with the occupation,” Safadi says.
Nadim Nashif, founder and director of Baladna, says that the song is primarily intended to dissuade Palestinian citizens from joining the army, “as well as against doing national service — we do not distinguish between the two.”
“Army service and national service come from the same place,” Nashif continues. “The fact that the state tries to condition rights on a certain obligation is wrong. One can’t say ‘first serve, then you’ll get your [rights].’ Everybody knows that Druze who serve in the army get nothing, whereas ultra-Orthodox who don’t serve get more (state services and support). We are against this stipulation, and are aware of the fact that we’re up against the establishment.”
“In our estimate, the state invests between NIS 40-50 million ($10-13 million) a year to enlist Arabs into the army,” Nashif adds. “If the state was really interested in equality, it would invest those same sums in young Arabs — in community centers, in youth centers, etc. The state is only interesting in dividing us, and its means for doing so is the army or national service.”
The number of Arabs citizens who enlist in the army is still pretty low, Nashif believes. “The statistics the state publishes are problematic because the army is not a reliable source. We know from several sources that there are roughly 150 Christian recruits every year. There are 1,000 Bedouin, whereas among the Druze they claim there is an 80 percent enlistment rate.”
However, ‘Urfud,’ a movement of youngsters against the draft of Druze citizens of Israel, points out that there has been a noticeable rise in the number of Druze refuseniks. “The numbers still aren’t worrying, but we are fighting with very meager tools — with Tamer and Jowan’s song, with creative means — against the massive, well-oiled propaganda machine,” Nashif adds.
“The song is catchy and poppy because we’re talking with the youth,” Jowan Safadi said of the motivation to write the song and produce the video. “We hope our message gets through.”
The video was produced by Eli Rezik and filmed by Suhel Nafar. Full disclosure: I play the Israeli scientist in the video. The things we do for our homeland…
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.