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Hip Hop Artist Michael Franti Reports From Rafah

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Franti continues his fact-finding trip through the Middle East. We last spoke with him in Baghdad, he is now in Rafah where Israel recently demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes.[includes transcript]

  • Michael Franti, hip hop artist speaking from Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

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

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up this segment with hip-hop artist Michael Franti who was in Gaza a few days ago when we spoke with him. Last week, we talked to him in Baghdad as he tours through the Middle East.

MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, I see just buildings that have just been destroyed either by, you know, literally destroyed by small arms fire. Buildings that have been riddled with so many bullets, they’re just falling down just from bullet holes. I’ve seen buildings that have been crumbled by what looks to be Tomahawk missile fire from Apache helicopters where a giant hole ripped through the side of a building or several ripped through the side of a building. Whole blocks jus destroyed. You know, we saw a block today. I spoke to a woman who came in and Israeli soldiers rounded up all people and brought them into one room of the house and tore down about eight buildings of homes with bulldozers. And it’s just — it’s just destroyed. I mean, I’m looking around right now and I’m driving and you see a wall with a hole blown through it, a brick wall and buildings that have just been knocked down and kids in the street and every kid is grabbing on me and pulling and wanting to play the guitar and I sing them songs for a while and then we have to move on and then the kids were told in one neighborhood you can’t walk into the next neighborhood because there’s so much tension just between neighborhoods because people are so desperate and poor that there’s fighting in between the neighborhoods. And there’s just — it’s just really a horrible, horrible scene here. Just this morning, we had left Bethlehem and gone to Jerusalem and on the way here, you see beautiful settlements in a nice Mediterranean-style brand new homes, you can see swimming pools and places where Israelis have taken over and then you enter into Gaza and it’s like entering into a giant prison.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the home demolitions?

MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, the home demolition is the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen. And I just — I hope that people in America really begin to recognize that — just as we began to internationally speak out about what went on in South Africa, people begin to speak out internationally against this military control of Apartheid state, which comes in the neighborhood and tells people you have to leave and pack up everything you can in 10 minutes and then comes in a giant, you know, bulldozer and plows down homes. It plows down orchards and olive trees that have been there for 700 years, that the community has used for their own food as well as their source of income. And the walls that are being built, the Apartheid walls that’s being built around the cities are not just walls that separate people from one another, but there are also walls that are there to shut down the economics of the community. So people in the community live at each other in a degraded way that eventually they feel like they just want to leave the country, which is really the kind of goal of the occupation. And so people who maybe grow something inside of their refugee camp and then try to bring it through the gate to get out, but the Israeli soldiers will tell them that you have to arrange for another vehicle on the other side of the gate and then in the hot sun you have to lift all these crates, one by one on to another vehicle waiting on the other side of the checkpoint to take it to market. And it is just destroying the community. People are separated that from their farm lands. Maybe they’ve lived somewhere for generations and just across the other side of the fence, their land has been seized and a wall put up so they can’t even get to where they would normally farm. They’re told that, well, you can apply for kind of a visa pass to get out. It takes many months to get these passes and in no one ever gets them. In the end, it is just kind of charade. And it only lasts for six months and then you have to renew it and go through the whole process again and wait another year for one. Yesterday we visited the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and I was struck by the similarities. The checkpoints, the walls, the soldiers, the ghetto. And all of the things that in the first five years of the holocaust. And when I left the Holocaust Museum, I just really fell like, man, this shouldn’t happen to anybody ever again anywhere. And I really felt a sense of, you know, sorrow and empathy and then I went back to the village and saw the same thing over again and it just made me say that this occupation has to end now.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Franti, hip-hop artist, speaking to us from Rafah Refugee Camp in Gaza in the Occupied Territories. He had just come from Baghdad as he traveled from a delegation of peace workers, musicians, artists and film makers to see firsthand the effects of war and occupation. This is Democracy Now!

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