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Militarizing music: When Israelis turn Palestinian songs into anthems for genocide

Militarizing music: When Israelis turn Palestinian songs into anthems for genocide

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عسكرة الموسيقى... إسرائيليون يسرقون ألحان الفلسطينيين ويغنون لإبادتهم

“Autumn night descends over the coast of Gaza,

Planes are bombing, destruction, destruction...

Look, the IDF is crossing the line,

To annihilate the swastika-bearers.

In another year, there will be nothing there,

And we will safely return to our homes.

Within a year, we will annihilate everyone.”

These words, calling for the annihilation of Gazans, were not spoken by Israeli politicians, who have made similar genocidal statements about Gaza and its people. Instead, they are lyrics of a song performed by Israeli children and broadcast by the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation Kan on World Children's Day, just days after the war on Gaza began. The song was later deleted.

Music plays a vital role in war. It is an effective means of spreading propaganda, shaping collective consciousness and public opinion, emotionally and psychologically mobilizing societies, and boosting the morale of soldiers and civilians.

This is not the only song inciting violence. With the start of the bloody war on Gaza, many songs with violent content that dehumanize Gazans and Palestinians, belittle their human value, and call for their extermination have spread across social media platforms.

Whether these songs are new or re-releases, they all share a common theme of incitement to murder and destruction. They come in various musical styles such as rap and pop, with some even stealing Arabic songs and tunes and changing the lyrics to genocidal words in Hebrew. Palestinians and other observers worldwide have seen videos of performances and concerts by Israeli singers in front of occupation forces around the Gaza Strip or soldiers dancing to these songs during military operations in Gaza and posting their videos on social media.

"The theft of Arabic melodies and their transformation into Israeli songs calling for the killing of Palestinians, serves the Israeli narrative. In these songs, the conflict is portrayed as existential and urgent, presenting the war on Palestinians as part of the perpetual and historical threat faced by Jews, claiming that this conflict necessitates a violent military response."

Songs like "We Occupy Gaza," "You Will Not Defeat Me," "Returning to Gaza," and "Harbu Darbu" have become popular in Israeli society. "Harbu Darbu," which reached number 1 on streaming platforms in Israel in November and garnered 24 million views, includes lyrics such as:

"A bunch of vile rats, fuckers, coming out of their holes,

Pretending to be tough, you fools, take my word for it there won’t be forgiveness,

Do you think yelling 'Free Palestine' won't cost you? You will pay the price!

Tfii (spits)! You sons of Amalek!

Whoop! Destruction!

Left, right, left... See how the whole state is in (military) uniform

From Galilee to Eilat…"

In another verse, it says:

"Writing names on tank shells...

Wait till we drop it like rain on you, whores!

We brought the whole army upon you and swear there will be no forgiveness

All units are in the mode to bring war and pain,

1… 2... Shoot!

Prepare yourselves. You will leave. Here comes the air force."

How Palestinians Heard Them

Wissam Bukhari, 33, from Jerusalem, confirms to Raseef22 that the Israeli occupation feeds on this racism. "We feel it on the Israeli streets and in our daily lives. These songs may be one of its many forms and manifestations," he says. He notes that the level of racism directed at Palestinians has increased since October 7 and has become more evident in the lyrics of many popular Israeli songs. "Among these songs, I remember 'I am Crazy,' which Israelis use to boost morale. They refer to the madness of Israeli military units when they engage in killing and destruction," Wissam adds. He believes this form of racism is a natural outcome of the identity crisis that will continue to plague the Israeli mentality in the Arab land they occupy.

The lyrics of the song 'I am Crazy' say:

"It will be hard for you to see the images from Gaza,

There are no survivors left for you in Gaza,

You can no longer drink in Gaza,

You will not be able to bury the bodies in Gaza."

These songs are perhaps more visible and audible in a city like Jerusalem, which is the scene of parties, celebrations, flag marches, and settler marches and parades. Hijazi Al-Rashq, 67, from Jerusalem, tells Raseef22 that "the phenomenon of using inciting and violent songs is not new, especially to the residents of Jerusalem. Racist chants and provocative songs are often repeated at events and marches. In some cases, they even curse God and insult the Prophet."

A video shows occupation soldiers playing an Israeli children's song to bound Palestinian prisoners, while performing other “acts of humiliation such as being made to repeat the phrase 'Long live Israel' or carry the Israeli flag.” Palestinian prisoners are stripped of their humanity, with Israeli media describing the use of such music as 'Israel's secret weapon'.

Hijazi frequently encounters many inciting songs on social media, calling for killing, annihilation, and extermination while glorifying the murderers. "One feels provoked by the disgusting and shameful lyrics of these songs. Additionally, some Arabic songs have been stolen and their lyrics altered into racist Hebrew words," he adds. Hijazi believes this theft is part of the continuous and persistent Israeli effort to steal Palestinian heritage and space.

The Theft of Arabic Songs and Music

In a twist of irony, well-known Arabic songs and music are being used by Israelis. For example, the music and tune of the song "Ana Dammi Falastini" ("My Blood is Palestinian") by Gazan artist Mohammed Assaf were stolen and used in an Israeli song titled "Israel is My Land," released in November 2023. The song's lyrics include phrases like: "Israel is my land... God is always with me... the soldiers protect me... and my blood is Jewish."

Another example is the Palestinian song "Inn Ann" by Daboor and Shabjdeed, considered the anthem of the May 2021 uprising in occupied Palestine. Its music and melodies were also stolen for an Israeli song titled "It's All Good." The lyrics say:

"We speak to them in one language (of violence), they will surely understand

They will hear it from their shelters before they run and raise the white flag

Every dog has its day, what’s coming to him, today is the day of judgment, turn off the minarets and run

After what you have done to the people of Israel

Golani (a brigade in the army) is coming with gasoline."

Speaking to Raseef22, Jerusalemite artist Daboor commented on the theft of his song, saying, "I am not surprised that the song was stolen. These people have always been thieves. They have stolen the country and the land, so it is not surprising that they would steal the melody of a song." When asked about his feelings upon hearing his song's melody in an Israeli song inciting violence, he replied, "Hearing the song didn't shake me. I consider these people lowlifes, living at the bottom artistically. We are of higher value than them, so they steal from us."

"These songs celebrate soldiers, promote and encourage aggression as a means to achieve security and stability. There is also a mockery of Palestinian suffering and pain, which reinforces extreme nationalism that views violence as a legitimate means to resolve conflicts"

Additionally, an Israeli song performed by a singer in front of occupation soldiers has gone viral, using the melody of Ahmed Adaweya's song, "Ya Bent El Sultan". The lyrics say: "Oh Yahya Sinwar... I hope you die tomorrow, along with Nasrallah and everyone in Gaza."

Diana Abbany, a writer and researcher in music and entertainment in the Middle East with a Ph.D. in Arabic Studies from Sorbonne University, tells Raseef22, "The use of Arabic music or the theft of Arabic melodies and their transformation into inciting Israeli songs that call for killing and destruction contributes to the blatant seizure of Palestinian time and space to serve the Israeli narrative." She adds, "Through this strategy, there is an attempt to weaken Arab identity and replace it with a narrative that supports Israeli ideology and justifies violence against Arabs, especially Palestinians."

Military Entertainment, Distraction, and the Justification of Killing

Abbany explains that music and songs, in general, play a vital role in wars. They are an effective means of spreading propaganda, shaping collective consciousness and public opinion, emotionally and psychologically mobilizing societies, and boosting the morale of soldiers and civilians. She clarified the strategic exploitation of this role in the Israeli context to reinforce national consensus on the destruction of Gaza, systematic killing, ethnic cleansing, and support for military policies during the war on Gaza. "The conflict is portrayed as existential and urgent, presenting the war on Palestinians as part of the perpetual and historical threat faced by Jews. Hence, they claim that this conflict necessitates a violent military response," Abbany says.

She goes on to say, "This response clearly shapes the image of Palestinians as hostile, systematically dehumanizing them and depicting them as rats, human animals, terrorists, or the sons of the Amalekites (or Amalek, the Biblical enemies of the Israelites)." According to Abbany, this image instilled in the minds of Israelis justifies their violence and removes any moral barriers that might prevent support for the acts of killing.

Due to their widespread popularity among Israelis, these songs are part of their "military cabaret" that combines entertainment with military ideology. "These songs celebrate soldiers and military achievements, promote aggression, and encourage it as a means to achieve security and stability. There is also a mockery of Palestinian suffering and pain, which reinforces extreme nationalism that views violence as a legitimate means to resolve conflicts," adds Abbany. She also refers to the use of an Israeli children's song titled "Meni Mamtera" in a video showing Israeli soldiers during the early days of the war, playing the song to blindfolded and tied-up Palestinian prisoners over and over again as they were made to kneel on the floor for extended periods.


Abbany comments, "The continuous listening to this song, accompanied by other acts of humiliation, such as being made to repeat the phrase 'Long live Israel' or carry the Israeli flag, shows how prisoners are stripped of their humanity. Israeli media described the use of the song as 'Israel's secret weapon.'"

Regarding the reasons for resorting to such methods, Dr. Mohamad Farhat, a professor of sociology, tells Raseef22, "In moments of collective frenzy within societies, they revert to extremely negative and aggressive primal instincts. There is a kind of sweeping behavior that carries everything in its path, leading to instinctual outbursts that manifest in various forms, practices, expressions, attitudes, stances, and songs." He continues, "This is what is happening on a large scale in this occupying state. It should be noted that this frenzy has real and symbolic victims from the other groups it targets."

Exploiting and Militarizing Children

Regarding the exploitation of children by making them appear in these violent, inciting songs, Abbany comments, "Using children lends these songs greater emotional power and deeper impact on Israeli society. However, exploiting them in these videos and in this manner is a deliberate strategy to reinforce the national narrative from a young age, a narrative that aims to raise a new generation with the same extremist ideas and beliefs." Ayed Abu Qutaish, Director of the Accountability Program at the Defense for Children International - Palestine, believes that this militarization was previously evident through the use of children in songs and portraying them drawing and writing their names on rockets launched towards the Gaza Strip. "This is a violation by the Israeli occupation against Israeli children," he tells Raseef22.

Dr. Ali Shaar, a member of the executive committee of the ECD Arab Network (ECDAN - Early Childhood Development Action Network) and Director of the Palestinian Child Institute at An-Najah National University, sees that the culture of occupation, which dehumanizes Palestinians, is being instilled in children to make them believe that killing Palestinians is normal since they are not considered human. He adds that religious and ideological justifications support this, as the Israeli people are considered “God's chosen people.” Shaar informs Raseef22, "International law criminalizes the use of children during war, not only when they are used as soldiers or fighters in armed conflicts but also when they are used as provocateurs and instigators."

Dr. Shaar explains, "We see this through the boasting of filming children writing their names on rockets launched toward the Gaza Strip or through involving them in songs that spread and call for violence and celebrate destruction." Shaar believes that "using Israeli children in songs does not reveal and expose the brutality and crimes of the occupation, but rather watching tens of thousands of children who are killed, maimed, and displaced in Gaza does. Therefore, it is this human dimension that Israel and humanity as a whole have failed in and should be used to expose them and spread the word and image of the Palestinian child."

A Green Light from Digital Platforms

We also cannot overlook the role of digital platforms and social media, which publish these violent songs without imposing any censorship. The Sada Social Center, specializing in monitoring and documenting digital violations against Palestinian content, pointed out the issue of double standards in audio applications, stating: "Platforms like Spotify, SoundCloud, and YouTube have allowed the spread of an Israeli song that explicitly calls for burning Gaza to the ground and killing Palestinians and those who stand in solidarity without taking any measures to delete it, while Palestinian audio clips, videos, podcasts, and original media content produced by Palestinian news institutions were removed without any prior warning or appropriate justification."

The center expressed its concern about the impact of targeting the Palestinian digital narrative on the Palestinian audio archive as well as voice and image. It also called on the platforms to delete the offensive content, which it says tramples and violates all societal values on various digital platforms, while stressing the importance of fairness in treatment.

According to Sada Social Center, 55% of the inflammatory content it monitored during the first four months of the war was published on TikTok. The platform refused a request from the center to delete the Hebrew inciting song "Harbu Darbu," allowing a large influx of Israeli inciting clips, including many videos of Israeli soldiers carrying weapons and dancing in Gaza, without taking any measures to prevent their spread.

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