Palestine

Sound System: The Political Power of Music
Dave Randall
Pluto Press Left Book Club, 2017
210 pp, $38.99

As a teenager, British writer and musician Dave Randall unwittingly attended a music festival in his home town where he heard the Special AKA sing “Free Nelson Mandela”. He experienced an epiphany.

“I had no idea who Nelson Mandela was,” he writes, “but I knew by the end of the first chorus I wanted him to be free.”

Australian surf life savers once used the beach in Gaza to put on an impressive display of their skills for soldiers serving in Palestine. Surviving British footage from about 75 years ago shows a pristine and spectacular setting which could be any beach, anywhere in the world.

But now Gaza, subjected to a near-total blockade by Israel since 2007, is best described as the world’s largest, open air prison.

The decade-old Israeli blockade on Gaza has dramatically undermined the coastal strip’s agriculture sector.

The electricity crisis has exacerbated this problem. With electricity available for only three to four hours a day, most productive sectors in Gaza are debilitated to the point of paralysis.

Israel’s “security measures”, including installing metal detectors at Haram Al Sharif — which contains the Al Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites — were finally rescinded on July 27 amid growing protests. But Palestinians continue to face unprecedented levels of surveillance and harassment.

On the night of July 27, Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians who returned to the site to pray for the first time in nearly two weeks since Israel shut down the mosque.

When I first went to Palestine as a young reporter in the 1960s, I stayed on a kibbutz. The people I met were hard-working, spirited and called themselves socialists.

I liked them. One evening at dinner, I asked about the silhouettes of people in the far distance, beyond our perimeter.

“Arabs", they said, “nomads”. The words were almost spat out.

FIFA, the governing body of world football (soccer), has capitulated once more to intense pressure from the Israeli government. It has removed from the agenda of its upcoming congress the issue of teams from Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land playing in Israel’s national league.

Fans of Glasgow’s Celtic football club showed their support for more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, with large banners and Palestinian flags at Celtic’s May 6 football (soccer) match against fellow Scottish side St Johnstone FC.

Members of Celtic’s “ultras” fan group, the Green Brigade, along with Celtic Fans for Palestine, lifted a huge Palestinian flag, as well as large banners with the slogans “Freedom and Dignity” and “Hungering for Justice”.

Leaders of Palestinian political party Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, released a document outlining their guiding principles at a press conference in the Qatari capital Doha on May 1.

Much coverage focused on the document’s acceptance of Israel’s 1967 boundary as the basis for establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The document also includes pronouncements on how Hamas views the roots of the conflict, the role of Palestinian resistance and its position towards Jewish people.

The demands of the hunger strikers are for basic civil rights. There are 6500 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including 300 children. About 500 are being held under “administrative detention” — meaning they are held without trial by court orders that can be renewed indefinitely.

Despite the scale of the hunger strike and huge popular support enjoyed by the prisoners and their campaign for “freedom and dignity”, Israel shows no signs of acceding to any of the prisoners’ demands to end their ill-treatment.

Support for the more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, which began on April 16, continues to grow across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, despite the more than 1500 prisoners on hunger strike getting almost no reaction from mainstream media.

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