Inspired by Brisbane flash mob actions in support of the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” campaign against Israel, I hunted for songs to adapt and use here in Newcastle.
I came across flash mobs action around Australia, France and the US. And then I came across a song, that rocked me way back to the early '80s. “The” song in the era of action against South Africa’s apartheid was “Free Nelson Mandela” by English ska band The Specials.
“Freedom for Palestine” by British-based collective Oneworld is the equivalent for our era of action against Israel’s apartheid practices.
Oneworld is described on Wikipedia as “a collective of musicians, artists, campaign groups and charities working together to 'raise awareness of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the resulting poverty and other human rights abuses'.”
Funds raised by sales of the song, officially released on July 3, go to the charity War on Want's projects in Palestine.
It’s a terrific song, but especially interesting is the sensation its been causing on Facebook since the video debuted at the end of May.
English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg endorsed it, writing: “It would be a terrible shame if the great changes that are happening in the Arab world do not lead to some resolution of the plight of the Palestinians.”
But the next day, the link he posted to the song disappeared.
Bragg asked: “Are Facebook actively censoring the debate about peace in the Middle East? When I click on the link … this is the message I got: 'Sorry the link you are trying to visit has been reported as abusive by Facebook users'.”
OneWorld also reported: “Facebook has blocked our URL … because of a concerted campaign to report the URL as 'abusive'.”
Facebook must have seen the writing on the wall, because just a few hours later, OneWorld wrote: “What an amazing 48 hours since launch ― over 70K people have watched the music video, the biggest band in the world gave us a plug, we've fought off a Facebook censor campaign and now we've got an endorsement from top comedian Mark Thomas! Brilliant stuff. Keep pushing it out folks, the momentum is growing!”
The writing on the wall clearly alarmed absurd far right US TV host Glenn Beck.
Commenting on the YouTube video tagged “hilarious Glenn Beck meltdown about 'Freedom for Palestine single!'”, Bragg wrote: “Its hard to imagine a better piece of promotion for the 'Freedom for Palestine' song than the full blooded condemnation of Glenn Beck.”
And it’s the discomforting effect that is the key to this song.
US civil rights activist Alice Walker wrote before her departure in the Freedom Flotilla 2, that attempted to bust Israel's siege on Gaza in July, that the song “brought me to my feet to dance with everyone on earth who knows right from wrong and chooses, delightedly, to join the worldwide party of the just”.
British actor Julie Christie, Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, hip hop artist Lowkey and filmmaker Ken Loach were among those who added their endorsements.
British band Massive Attack endorsed the song as a project that engages with important issues, “while our elected leaders in the UK, EU and USA have chosen to do nothing or very little to end the disastrous political, economic and social isolation of the Palestinians ― which, in a year of revolutionary change in the Arab world, is truly disappointing and dangerous".
South African archbishop Desmond Tutu posted a speech on YouTube in which he said: “I am proud to support Freedom for Palestine by OneWorld … Let’s send a message to governments that a critical mass of people want to see an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the oppression of its people.”
In London, Rasta performance poet Benjamin Zephaniah wrote: “This is the anthem of our movement, buying this single is more than just buying a track of music, it is contributing to a struggle.
“The people of Palestine need us to lobby our MPs, take to the streets and even get into boats to bring them aid. But just like the people of South Africa, they need us to sing to them.
“Buy this single and sing along!”
So here in Newcastle, Australia, we’ll sing and dance that song and turn it into action promoting the boycott, divestment and sanctions initiative.
[You can buy “Freedom for Palestine” at www.waronwant.org/freedomoneworld .]