VIDEOS: 'I will refuse death' songs go out to Palestine on YouTube

Ati Metwaly, Tuesday 22 Jul 2014

With the Israeli forces' ongoing attacks on Gaza, YouTube users upload countless songs dedicated to Palestine: older gems - from Marcel Khalife to Roger Waters – and new original music statements

Palestine will be free
Still from Maher Zain's video clip 'Palestine Will Be Free'

As the Israeli assault on Gaza intensifies, and the Palestinian death toll approaches 600, many people across the world find it hard to remain silent.

While pro-Palestinian protests are being organised globally, to millions of other people music is yet another way to express support. As they wish to see the massacre of innocent civilians end, they infuse the virtual space with powerful statements of humanity along with words of encouragement for the Palestinian people.

Naturally, YouTube has become one of the outlets where songs for Palestine are uploaded, old and new, covers and originals. The users bring back many familiar compositions, reminding us of the feelings that the well-known musicians hold for Palestine.

A user calling himself "meats" uploaded a few songs from the 1976 album Promises of the Storm by Lebanon’s renowned Marcel Khalife. As if trying to ease the pain, Khalife's tender voice -- and the sound of oud -- walks us through the touching poetry of celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008) revalidating the song and its lyrics once and again as "the storm [sweeps] away the sound of idle sparrows."

So be it

I can assure you that I will refuse death
And burn the tears of the bleeding songs

And strip the olive trees

Of all their counterfeit branches
If I have been serenading happiness
Somewhere beyond the eyelids of frightened eyes
That is because the storm
Promised me wine and new toasts

And rainbows

Because the storm
Swept away the voices of idiotic, obedient birds

And swept away the counterfeit branches

From the trunks of standing trees
So be it
 I must be proud of you

Oh wounded city


Listening to this touching song -- Khalife's timeless testimony to the Palestinian nation -- moved by the music and lyrics, one finds it difficult to shift forward to the many other interesting artistic memories and new compositions that appeared on YouTube over the past few days.

Yet, as we try to take a deep breath, even more posts addressing the bleeding Palestine reveal themselves, as powerful today as when they were originally released.

User Osvaldo Santos reposts the rendition by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters of the well-known protest song We Shall Overcome.

While the original song references the unofficial 1960s anthem of the African-American population standing against all forms of oppression exercised against them, its origins go back to an early 20th century African-American song adopted in the 1940s by tobacco workers in Charleston opposing repression and abuse based on their ethnicity.

In 1963, We Shall Overcome was popularised by Pete Seeger and years later, in 2010, Roger Waters, an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian cause, used the song to accompany the protests addressing the "blockade of Gaza" and "terror attack by Israeli armed forces", as Waters explained it in the notes to the song.

We shall overcome...
Deep in my heart I do believe
That we shall overcome...
And we’ll break down the prison walls...
The truth will set us free


Another returning song reposted a few days ago by Word Music is Maher Zain's 2009 Palestine Will Be Free.

The video clip, in which Zain sings to a backdrop of animated images from Palestine, was first posted on YouTube back in 2009 by Awakening Records and scored over seven million views.

Born in 1981 in Lebanon, Zain is a Sweden-based Muslim R&B singer, composer and producer with over 890, 000 Twitter followers. He uses his social media account to shed light on the endless atrocities that the Palestinian population experiences, both today and across the country's history.

No mother no father to wipe away my tears
That’s why I won’t cry
I feel scared but I won’t show my fears
I keep my head high


In his turn, Ayman Akhtar posted Humans of Palestine. "I made this video not to incite anger or pity but because we need to create and spread as many reminders as possible that Palestinians are human beings. Humans that are suffering at the hands of an oppressive and dangerous political ideology," he writes in the comment.

Humans of Palestine is set to the title song You've Got Time by Regina Spektor. "The song resonated with me, for the similar themes of struggle, oppression, circumstance and being a prisoner," Akhtar explains.

The voices supporting the Palestinian people emerge from across the continents. Aside from the known songs that have found their way back to YouTube, we also find musicians who have stepped in with original compositions inspired by the current events.

Iwan Fals, a celebrated Indonesian singer and songwriter -- named by Time magazine the Great Asian Hero -- posted his new original composition For Gaza Palestine 2014 in which he sings, accompanied by guitar, "Palestine is not about religions, it’s only a matter of territory. Who doesn’t want freedom?"

From Palestine itself, we find Mohammed Assaf's Raise Your Head High, a song which reached over half a million views on YouTube days after its release on 17 July. The same song has been reposted dozens of times by other YouTube users.

Born in Beit Darras village, 32 kilometres northeast of Gaza, Assaf, who has been singing since childhood, is known to stand for Palestine in his songs. His final number in the 2013 Arab Idol competition was his rendition of Alli Al-Keffiyeh (Raise Your Keffiyeh), a signature anthem of Palestine's nationalism.

Lift your head up high... It's your weapon
The origin of dignity is humanity
The son of the free land of sun
Your son Gaza will not be disgraced


While Assaf's popularity is backed by his strong positioning in the field, it seems there are also less familiar – and even completely obscure – musicians who hope to add their share to the solidarity with Palestine wave. Some sing, others recite their frustration about the situation, mostly screening the hundreds of painful images reaching us from Gaza, Beit Hanun, Rafah, Shejaiya and other Palestinian cities under attack.

Along those lines, user Julia Steuer has posted more than one entry in solidarity with Palestine, among them Free Palestine, a German rap song and Freiheit für Palästina 2014.

Among dozens of posts from across the world, one particularly stands out due to the sincerity of its lyrics. Sitting with her guitar, a young lady sings "Oh Palestine, when will our freedom come," in a clip posted by "Dania I," apparently the singer herself.

She writes that her song From Fear to Hope is "an original song dedicated to the children suffering in Palestine". The simple music gives space to the strong images and messages to come through while powerfully moving lyrics sung by this young musician deserve more interest than the 500 Likes that the song has received so far.

Try and raise my head a little bit higher now
Try and look away as they burn my home
But even in my eyes there's fire now
Oh Palestine, when will our freedom come 

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