Palestinian Anger Gets a Violent Soundtrack


RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian teenagers who came one after another into the True Love gift and music shop on a recent afternoon all had the same request: nationalistic songs — the new ones.

The proprietor quickly handed over the CDs that he had just started keeping at the checkout counter, like “Jerusalem Is Bleeding,” featuring the track “It’an, It’an” — “Stab, stab” — with its ominous backbeat.

“When I listen to these songs it makes me boil inside,” said one customer, Khader Abu Leil, 15, explaining that the thrumming score has helped pump him up for near-daily demonstrations where he hurls stones at Israeli soldiers.

Inspired by this month’s wave of Palestinian attacks against Israeli Jews and deadly clashes with Israeli security forces, musicians in the occupied West Bank and beyond have produced scores of militaristic, often violent tunes. Published and shared on YouTube and Facebook, they form something of an intifada soundtrack, illustrated by videos that include gritty clips from fresh events.

“Stab the Zionist and say God is great,” declares one, a reference to the spate of knife attacks since Oct. 1. “Let the knives stab your enemy,” says another. A third is called “Continue the Intifada” and comes with a YouTube warning — the video shows the Palestinian woman who pulled a knife at an Afula bus station surrounded by Israeli soldiers pointing guns.

“Resist and carry your guns,” the song urges. “Say hello to being a martyr.”

Adnan Balaweneh, the singer-songwriter behind “Continue the Intifada” and four other songs uploaded in recent days, said that when he “saw the soldiers shoot at the girl in Afula” on television, “immediately I felt I needed to write something in order to charge up the Palestinian people.”

Palestinians have a tradition of protest music dating to their uprisings against the British in the 1930s. There are mournful poems about liberating the land, and booming anthems for political parties blared at rallies and funerals. During the war in 2014 between Israel and Gaza Strip militants, pulsing celebrations of rocket attacks on Tel Aviv poured from car radios across the coastal territory.

Several Palestinian musical experts said the scale and style of this newoeuvre were nonetheless unusual, fueled — as the uprising itself — by freewheeling social media. Some praised the songs as a constructive and creative form of resistance against Israel, while others said they were weak musically and only give the enemy more fodder for claims of incitement.

“For me, throwing stones in the first intifada was a way of expression,” said Ramzi Aburedwan, who was famously photographed as a boy throwing a rock in 1988, and now runs music schools in Palestinian refugee camps. “The tool was the stone in the first intifada, and today it’s music.”

“Sound and words reflect the situation,” Mr. Aburedwan added. “I can’t do a song talking about nature and beauty and peaceful things when I’m seeing every day more than 10 videos where some youths are executed.”

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