Palestinians may have found a new way to challenge Israeli occupation: self-expression.

This summer, in the de-facto capital of Palestine, Ramallah, world renowned music platform Boiler Room hosted Boiler Room Palestine for the first time in its history. This was not only music history but political history too; it also was a strong political statement.

Boiler Room Palestine arranged for a line-up of local talent ranging from hip-hop to techno, the first time such a wide-spectrum of genres were included in a single performance. Artists included Muqata’a, Jazar Crew, Al Nather and Shab Jdeed, Julmud, Dakn, Makimakkuk and Muktafeen, DJ ODDZ, and SAMA’ – including both male and female artists.

People from around the world tuned in to see the show making music history and were able to see a different side of Palestine, one not tainted by media agendas. 

A Boiler Room Instagram post relating to the event highlighted on the artists and their circumstances, “Living in the Ramallah bubble with limited transportation outside of the city, due to military checkpoints, music is a way to escape...”

Boiler Room Palestine represented artists from Ramalah, as well as Palestinian artists in Haifa and Jerusalem. This link between artists is important. 

This bypasses the restrictions Israel puts on Palestinians, geographically separating them wherever possible. That the artists came from both Palestinian and Israeli territories is a form of resistance against the continued effort to separate and break the spirit of the Palestinian people.

The show of unity between Ramallah, Haifa, and Jerusalem reminds the international audience that Palestinians remain a united people. Muktafeen, also known as Zaghmouri remarked, “This marks the independence and the beginning of the peak of visual and acoustic spatial definition of Palestine, which uniquely has no borders between Palestinian artists within West Bank, Jerusalem, and Israel.”

SAMA’, Techno DJ also on the show’s roster, shares, “The Israeli narrative suggests their presence in Palestine thousands of years ago justifies their current occupation. In other words, they have constructed a false sense of legitimacy, built around a reconstructed, fantasised, and ancient past. By creating cultural events into Palestine, we participate in writing contemporary Palestinian history, making new memories, proving we are alive, active and that our culture is an ongoing, contemporary process.”

This action of recording and creating contemporary Palestinian art that will translate one day into our shared history will go a long way in settling the on-going battle of the “authenticity” of anything Palestinian.

In addition to the fact that the event itself was a powerful statement, which grabbed the attention of non-traditional audiences, the Boiler Room crew, having entered Palestine through Israel experienced the occupation first hand. 

Delays and invasive searches are the norm for Palestinians and Palestinian supporters attempting to access the territories. This experience also gives weight to the arguments that Palestinians make in terms of ease of movement. In Al Nather’s words, the Boiler Room crew “lived the occupation.”

They too experienced BDS first hand, with a number of local crew working on the film set refusing to receive payments through Israeli bank accounts. The team requested cash or cheque and did not wish for Israeli organisations to profit from this Palestinian cultural milestone.

It is interesting to see the development of music in the Palestinian territories since the early 2000’s. Many of the musicians emerging in the early noughts did so as an act of resistance against the Israeli occupation.

If music emerged as an act of resistance, the natural progression for the Palestinian underground is to act as a sharp attack on the injustice continuously faced in the occupied territories, to Palestinians in Gaza, and Palestinians in Israel.

By defying the physical and social restrictions the Israeli state attempts to impose on these artists, they provide hope and inspiration to their audiences. With lyrics attacking the occupiers, the occupying forces—and even the Palestinian Authority—it stirs the imagination of the audience to a possible alternative to their current station in life.

While there is no way to predict what comes next, it has long been accepted that music is one of the highest forms of expression and communication. `in addition to the upcoming artists who are themselves, by default, in politicised positions, this music can one day inspire, uplift, influence, and may be even mobilise the frustrated youth.

In order to help this movement of expression, it would be fascinating to see children in the Arab world—generally so fixated and consumed by Western media—to explore what local talent has to offer and how we can support them to bring to light their talent and the battles they face.

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