Hip Hop for Peace

Amman, Jordan

Unfortunately, I only saw the last half of this film I’ve been waiting with such anticipation to see, “Slingshot Hip Hop,” but the half I saw was both very hopeful and absolutely heart-wrenching.

Heartwrenching because of what they show of the destruction of the Palestinian environment. They showed pictures of an apartment building in Gaza they had filmed at the beginning of the process, and it was beautiful, like the newly redone 30s Bauhaus communities in Berlin where my cousin Gwen lived, with verandas and crisp whitewash and bright blue trim. Then they showed the same buildings recently, after the Israelis had come through, and they were untenable, despite the fact that there were kids playing in some of the upper floors. I was struck, too, but the pictures of the refugee camp in Khan Younis in Gaza, with six and seven story cinderblock buildings, unfinished as they are in many Palestinian refugee camps here in Jordan, just overflowing with people. (Khan Younis is one of the most densely populated places on earth.)

Most heartwrenching of all, tho, was when they showed film footage from the last year in Gaza of Israelis bulldozing whole orchards of olive trees that had to have been at least fifty years old. An olive tree is like one’s child, they say in the Arab world. It requires attention for 7 to 10 years before it bears its first fruit, and longer until it’s really productive, but then an olive tree will provide olives and olive oil for the family, the pruned branches help feed the goats in the fall and heat in the winter, and the leavings from the olive pressing can be made into balls called “jiffet” that can also be burned for heat in the winter. And that olive tree can continue to provide for the family for literally a millenium. Every time I see Israelis bulldozing olive trees, it makes me cry.

But it was hopeful to hear the artists talk about why hip hop is so important to them. I think it was Ibrahim from Gaza who talked about how impossible it is to feel anything when you’ve lived your whole life in Gaza, and hip hop helps him to feel again. Others talked about how constricted their lives were, and how hip hop helped them to expand their horizons, to reach out to other artists, Palestinian and otherwise, and feel like they’re connected to a larger world. Others talked about how hip hop was bridging a gap between ’48 and ’67 Palestinians; for some, the first time they’d ever heard anyone admit that both groups suffer equally was through hip hop. And in the Q&A afterwards (though I think this comes up in the part of the film I didn’t see), the artists from DAM talked about being interviewed on Israeli television and asked if they thought the political agenda in their music was divisive and problematic. We don’t have a political agenda, said DAM. We don’t care about independence or any of that. We just want peace, and then we can work out the rest.

If you get a chance to see this film, in my opinion, it’s a must-see!

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