Saturday, September 17, 2005

Rally to celebrate Israeli pullout from Gaza breaks up over objections to rappers

On Wednesday September 14, a rally organized by the Palestinian Authority to celebrate the Israeli withdrawal was disrupted when members of the crowd reacted against a performance by Palestinian rappers. I’ve found three different versions of the story. According to Reuters, “devout Muslims” in the crowd threw stones at a Palestinian rap group who failed to stick to nationalist songs. The rappers were then escorted away by police, who fired in the air, dispersing the crowd. A report in Ha’aretz states that the police intervened after a “militant” grabbed the microphone away from a Palestinian rapper. An AFP report is the only one I’ve found that tells us the name of the group, PR. PR were performing a song called “al-Hurriya” when some “angry Islamists” fired off their Klashnikovs. Someone screamed a Hamas chant about resistance and the crowd roared “Allahu Akbar.” People started to storm the stage, the police fired into the air and got PR into a taxi, and Hamas supporters wielding sticks ran after the band.

Ha’aretz also reports that although PM Mahmoud Abbas had invited all factions to attend the celebration, Hamas decided to organize its own rally on Friday, and so the crowd was disappointingly (for the PA) small, only about 2500.

PR (Palestinian Rappers) are Gaza’s best known rap group. According to an article by Peter Schäffer on, PR performed five concerts in Gaza City in 2004. Reaction was enthusiastic, although a grenade was thrown at one concert (but hurt no one). But according to Schäffer, a prevailing “culture of death” in Gaza discourages any kind of public manifestation of exuberance or joy when people are being martyred, and so such rap performances are generally frowned upon. Perhaps this, too, was a factor in the disaffection shown to PR at the celebration rally on Wednesday. (Rebecca Stein and I also discuss the ways in which a Palestinian culture of struggle has weighed upon expressions of popular culture in the introduction to Palestine, Israel and the Politics of Popular Culture.)

Here’s another article on PR, from al-Jazeera.

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