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Cities of refuge
5 min read

“I can still hear the bombs that fell in the background”

Sweden got its first refuge musician in 2013 – the controversial rapper Khaled Harara from Gaza. In his lyrics, he discusses the political situation in Palestine from a social and humanitarian perspective. Among other things, he criticizes the Hamas government and the lack of freedom of expression. He has also arranged lyrics workshops for young people in Gaza, and has been imprisoned, beaten and subjected to severe interrogations. From Gothenburg, he continues to create music with his band Palestinian Unit. The music video “We teach life, sir” is an example of this.

Text: Khaled Harara March 10 2016

During the summer of 2014 Israel waged a war on Gaza and many people were killed during this war. During this time, I lived in Sweden – far away from my family, my friends and everyone I know in the Gaza Strip.

The only way for me to deal with this fact was to write and record a song.

I contacted my old band in Gaza, Palestinian Unit, and suggested that we would do a song together. We decided to set to music a poem by Rafeef Ziadah – a Palestinian poet who wrote the poem that bears the same name as the song “We teach life, sir”.

It was a more complicated process than I thought. It was difficult for us to keep in touch, difficult for the band to get to the studio every day, difficult to play without being disturbed by the sound of the bombs in the background. We worked hard to get a good sound. It was frustrating, but we felt it was the only way for us to defend ourselves. And it was the only way to ensure that our voice would reach out to the people.

Despite all the obstacles, we finally managed to record the song. And every time I hear “We teach life, sir”, I get the same feeling I had during the war – I can still hear the bombs that fell in the background while I was talking to my band members over Skype.

I wish with all my heart that I never again have to write a songs about the war in my country or anywhere else.

Original poem by rafeef ziadah – we teach life sir
The song by the Palestinian unit – we teach life sir

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.
Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits.
Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits filled enough
with statistics to counter measured response.
And I perfected my English and I learned my UN resolutions.
But still, he asked me, Ms. Ziadah, don’t you think that everything would be resolved if you would
just stop teaching so much hatred to your children?
I look inside of me for strength to be patient but patience is not at the tip of my tongue as the bombs
drop over Gaza.
Patience has just escaped me.
Pause. Smile.
We teach life, sir.
Rafeef, remember to smile.
We teach life, sir.
We Palestinians teach life after they have occupied the last sky.
We teach life after they have built their settlements and apartheid walls, after the last skies.
We teach life, sir.
But today, my body was a TV’d massacre made to fit into sound-bites and word limits.
And just give us a story, a human story.
You see, this is not political.
We just want to tell people about you and your people so give us a human story.
Don’t mention that word “apartheid” and “occupation”.
This is not political.
You have to help me as a journalist to help you tell your story which is not a political story.
Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.
How about you give us a story of a woman in Gaza who needs medication?
How about you?
Do you have enough bone-broken limbs to cover the sun?
Hand me over your dead and give me the list of their names in one thousand two hundred word limits.
Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits and move those
that are desensitized to terrorist blood.
But they felt sorry.
They felt sorry for the cattle over Gaza.
So, I give them UN resolutions and statistics and we condemn and we deplore and we reject.
And these are not two equal sides: occupier and occupied.
And a hundred dead, two hundred dead, and a thousand dead.
And between that, war crime and massacre, I vent out words and smile “not exotic”, “not terrorist”.
And I recount, I recount a hundred dead, a thousand dead.
Is anyone out there?
Will anyone listen?
I wish I could wail over their bodies.
I wish I could just run barefoot in every refugee camp and hold every child, cover their ears so they
wouldn’t have to hear the sound of bombing for the rest of their life the way I do.
Today, my body was a TV’d massacre
And let me just tell you, there’s nothing your UN resolutions have ever done about this.
And no sound-bite, no sound-bite I come up with, no matter how good my English gets, no sound-bite,
no sound-bite, no sound-bite, no sound-bite will bring them back to life.
No sound-bite will fix this.
We teach life, sir.
We teach life, sir.
We Palestinians wake up every morning to teach the rest of the world life, sir.

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