O dear! O dearie, dearie me!
"A song broadcast on ABC Classic FM has drawn the ire of the B'nai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) for content it says endorses genocide and the destruction of the State of Israel. Hosted by Margaret Throsby, Midday offers guests the opportunity to share their stories and request musical pieces that are significant to them. On Monday, February 25, Egyptian writer and political and cultural commentator Ahdaf Soueif was Midday's guest, and selected Jerusalem, Flower of Cities by Lebanese singer Fairuz as the final song to be played. The Arabic lyrics, in part, go as follows: 'The striking fury is on its way, and I am full of faith! The striking fury is on its way, and I will overcome the sadness.' ADC chairman Dr Dvir Abramovich told The Australian Jewish News that the song 'denies the Jewish relationship with Jerusalem... [and] speaks of 'striking' the Jews, which is a poetic synonym for killing them.' Abramovich has since written to Throsby stating that Jerusalem, Flower of Cities 'anticipates and prays for the destruction of the State of Israel.' 'It gives credibility to all those who deny any Jewish right to the land of Israel,' he said. 'While I understand that the ABC seeks to respect the choices made by its guests for musical items, I must assume that it has guidelines in this regard. I am sure, for example, that it would not play a song calling for the destruction of Australia's indigenous people.'" (The ADC vs the ABC, The AJN, 8/3/13)
*Sigh* Where to begin?
In the scholarly tradition of 'context is everything', let's start with the complete lyrics of Fairuz' beautiful song of loss and resistance, written in the wake of the Israeli seizure and occupation of Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967.
The translation is my own:
For you, city of prayer,
For you, beautiful city, flower of cities,
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, city of prayer,
Our eyes travel to you every day,
Roaming the porticoes of the temples,
Embracing the old churches,
Sweeping away the sadness from the mosques.
Night of the Isra',
Path of he who ascended to the heavens,
Our eyes travel to you every day.
The child and his mother Mary in the grotto,
Two crying faces,
Crying for the refugees,
For the children without homes,
For those who defended you, martyred at your gates.
Peace itself was martyred in the nation of peace,
And justice too died at your gates.
When Jerusalem fell,
And war took root in the hearts of the world.
The child in the grotto and his mother Mary,
Two crying faces.
That's the first, more lyrical part of the song. The lyricism then gives way to martial strains, heralding the theme of resistance to the occupiers and usurpers, and it is here that Abramovich's translation above comes unstuck. In true MEMRI fashion, he mistranslates the Arabic adjective saati' (which qualifies the noun 'anger') as 'striking' when it in fact means 'radiant, brilliant, shining'. It is perhaps best translated here as 'blinding':
A blinding anger is coming -
This I believe.
A blinding anger is coming,
Transcending the sadness.
On every road it is coming.
The steeds of fear and terror are coming,
Like the overpowering face of God.
Coming, coming, coming.
The door to our city shall not be closed.
For I am coming to pray.
I'll be knocking on all the doors,
Opening all the doors.
O River Jordan cleanse my face with your sacred waters,
Wipe out all traces of barbarian footprints.
A blinding anger is coming,
Riding on steeds of fear and terror,
Overcoming the occupying power.
Jerusalem is ours, it belongs to us.
We will celebrate its splendor.
We will bring it peace.
The wholly natural and completely legitimate tendency of dispossessed Palestinians to remember and yearn for what has been lost, and to strive to recover, by force if necessary, that which has been taken from them by force, is reduced by Abramovich to nothing more than an expression of genocidal intent.
That he lives in an ideological fantasy world where colonizers and colonized have swapped places is all too evident in his absurd assertion that the song is akin to "a song calling for the destruction of Australia's indigenous people."
Clearly, neither Fairuz, Soueif, Throsby, nor the ABC's Classic FM have a case to answer here.
But there's more! Back on April 3, Throsby aired another song about Jerusalem, chosen by her then guest, Professor Jack Rakove, a professor of history at Stanford University. The song was Jerusalem of Gold by Israeli singer Naomi Shemer. I ignored it at the time - one does have a life - but if Abramovich insists on doing a song and dance over Fairuz's song now, why not put on a show over Shemer's?
Jerusalem of Gold is mostly just padding, but the following lyrics are a real worry:
(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs translation):
The wells ran dry of all their water,
Forlorn the market square,
The Temple Mount dark and deserted,
In the Old City there...
And in the caverns in the mountain,
The winds howl to and fro,
And no one takes the Dead Sea highway,
That leads through Jericho...
The wells are filled again with water,
The square with joyous crowds,
On the Temple Mount within the City,
The shofar rings out loud...
Now if that little comprehensive erasure of Palestine's indigenous Arab population doesn't smack of the genocidal (Aboriginal? What aboriginal?) colonial doctrine of terra nullius (empty land), I don't know what does. Can't have Ms Throsby getting away with that now, can we?