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2008-05-15

Palestinian Rap Group DAM Use Hip-Hop to Convey the Frustrations, Hopes of a Dispossessed People

Guests

Tamer Nafar, Member of DAM, or Da Arabian MCs, the first Palestinian rap group. They are from Lod or Al-Lyd, a mixed town of Arabs and Jews inside Israel.

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We turn now to three young Palestinians who use hip-hop to tell their story of the Nakba and what it means to be a Palestinian growing up inside Israel. DAM, or Da Arabian MCs, is the first group of Palestinian rappers and was formed in the late 1990s. All three members were born and grew up in the slums of Lod or Al-Lyd, a mixed town of Arabs and Jews twelve miles from Jerusalem. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

Right now, we turn to the Palestinian group DAM, which uses hip-hop to tell the story of what they call the Nakba, or the catastrophe, what it means to be a Palestinian growing up in Israel.

DAM is the first group of Palestinian rappers, was formed in the late 1990s. All three members were born and grew up in the slums of Lod or Al-Lyd, a mixed town of Arabs and Jews twelve miles from Jerusalem. They’re featured in Slingshot Hip Hop, the new documentary about Palestinian hip-hop that premiered at Sundance this year.

DAM, which is Arabic for “blood” and Hebrew for “eternity,” is on tour across North America right now. Their latest album is called Ihda, or Dedication. Tamer Nafar is one of the members of DAM. He joins us now from Toronto, Canada, where the group will be performing tonight.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!

TAMER NAFAR:

Hello. Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN:

It’s good to have you with us.

TAMER NAFAR:

Thanks for having us.

AMY GOODMAN:

Can you talk about how you formed DAM and why — what does Palestinian hip-hop mean?

TAMER NAFAR:

I’ll just correct you. Actually, “dam” is "eternity" in Arabic and “blood” in Hebrew. So it’s eternal blood, like we will stay here forever.

Well, I started doing rap around 1998, and my brother Suhell joined me. And on the late 2000, Mahmud joined us, and we formed DAM, Palestinian hip-hop.

AMY GOODMAN:

And talk about your growing up. Where did you grow up, Tamer?

TAMER NAFAR:

We grew up in a city called Al-Lyd. It’s in the center of Palestine. And we grew up in — it’s one of the six mixed cities in Israel, which is Arabs — which is Palestinians and Jews. And we grew up in our Arabic neighborhood, Arabic ghettos, because you don’t have much — you have a few, but most of the cities that’s mixed, you have separate neighborhoods. And actually, to show you how separate it is, you have a separate wall between both neighborhoods, between the Arabic poverty neighborhoods and the Jewish rich kibbutz.

AMY GOODMAN:

For people who aren’t familiar with what it means to be a Palestinian within Israel, to be an Israeli Arab versus a Palestinian in the Occupied Territories, could you explain the difference?

TAMER NAFAR:

I’d say for the Palestinians it means like the first step of return, because we still are a signature, Palestinian signature, you know, as a culture, still inside of Palestine. For the Israelis — and I’m quoting the Parliament of Israel, the government of Israel — we are considered a “cancer.” This is how they call us, a cancer, because we are a demographic bomb for them, like we are Arabs inside of Israel, and we are a threat, us being natural and having babies. Small, cute babies are called demographic bomb and demographic threat for the majority of having — for the Jewish majority.

AMY GOODMAN:

How do the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories view you, Tamer?

TAMER NAFAR:

They love it. We have a lot of shows over there. We have a big fan base.

AMY GOODMAN:

I actually mean view Israeli Arabs, Arabs within Israel.

TAMER NAFAR:

As I mean, yes, yes, the same. We have families over there. It’s not like they think we are — I know what you’re getting to, but it’s not like they feel we are traitors or something. It’s our family, and we’re all in the same struggle. Yes, in the daily life, it is hard. They are in much more pain in that distance than we are. But still, it doesn’t separate us from being on the same boat.

AMY GOODMAN:

And how does the Israeli government view Israeli Arabs versus the Palestinians, and the difference in treatment?

TAMER NAFAR:

I’d say it’s the same, more or less, because — but instead of army, you have police inside. And they already killed more than thirteen — thirteen only in one year, the year 2000, thirteen Arab Israelis, Palestinians who are carrying an Israeli ID, those who vote and pay taxes to Israel. They already killed them and let go of the murderers. I’d say they demolish houses. They still demolish houses. They don’t give you permission to build. And as soon as you build without asking, because you have no other choice, then they demolish the house. And they still have us inside of prisons. They still — I’d say the same, more or less. As I said, they see us as a threat. And as I said, they see us as a threat.

AMY GOODMAN:

Are there other Palestinian hip-hop groups?

TAMER NAFAR:

Yeah, yeah. People can go to dampalestine.com, and you can see DAM’s album over there, and then you can go to slingshothiphop.com and see the trailer of the documentary, which is documenting at least five, six groups. You have girls’ groups, you have people from Gaza, you have people from Al-Lyd. You have — it’s getting much, much, much developed.

AMY GOODMAN:

And what has it been like for you to travel, as you go on this tour through Canada and the United States with DAM?

TAMER NAFAR:

What’s the question?

AMY GOODMAN:

To travel, for you to get out and travel, what is the message you bring with you?

TAMER NAFAR:

Message of justice, I’d say, message of demanding my right, message of speaking on behalf of people without houses, people with houses but denied to get back to their houses. We deliver social messages, as well, as women’s rights, as initiation in our own society, as — we talk about many things. People can get the album, as I said, from the e-store of dampalestine.com, and you have that multiple message.

AMY GOODMAN:

Can you talk about women’s rights? What is it that you are concerned about? What are you singing about? What are you rapping about?

TAMER NAFAR:

To be like — to the whole world, to be a better world by being equal, by any means necessary, just being equal, like to let the women be independent financially, spiritually, just to be independent, because I think they can shape the world into a better place.

AMY GOODMAN:

I want to play a clip of “Who’s the Terrorist?” again for our listeners and viewers. But could you introduce this? Explain what you’re singing here.

TAMER NAFAR:

If that clip is “Who’s the Terrorist?,” I believe Jackie Salloum made that clip. It’s the same director of Slingshot Hip Hop. And actually, we saw the clip a year after it was made. She just took the music. She heard the music, and she decided to collect and edit all kind of footages from Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN:

Actually, this is just the video of you guys singing the other night in Brooklyn.

TAMER NAFAR:

Ah, OK, OK, sorry, my bad. So this is our show in Brooklyn, and you chose the song “Who’s the Terrorist?” And that’s — I’m going to tell you the story of that song. Back in the year 2000, Israelis’ police and army murdered more than a thousand Palestinians. And the world stood still, didn’t do nothing. And a few weeks, I think, in the year 2000, a Palestinian guy got into Tel Aviv, and he committed a suicide bombing, which led to twenty-one also victims, young kids, to get killed. Twenty-one versus thousands of Palestinians, and suddenly the world stands still and says, “Let’s stop the war, and let’s stop the murder. Let’s stop the terror.” And we saw that as an unfair thing, like to shut down one eye and to open the other one, and like to give — to legitimize the killing of the Palestinians, but to fight their reaction.

AMY GOODMAN:

Tamer Nafar, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

TAMER NAFAR:

Thank you for having us.

AMY GOODMAN:

A member of DAM, the first Palestinian rap group, as we go out with “Who’s the Terrorist?”

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