January 5, East Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp. Mohammed Ali al-Miqdad, who was shot dead as he stabbed and injured three members of the Israeli security forces at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate in October, is being laid to rest, his corpse having finally been returned to his family by the Israeli authorities. As the mourners, waving machetes and Hamas banners, carry his body, wrapped in a Hamas flag, through the winding streets of the camp, they sing one of the most popular songs among Palestinians these days.
“Lovers of Stabbing,” by Gaza based band “Al-Gorbaa, was written after the October attack, and contains a shout-out to Miqdad among a long list of “martyrs” — Palestinians killed in the act of killing or attempting to kill Israelis.
“O Mohammed Ali al-Miqdad, commando of the knives,” run the lyrics, which hail his attack in rhyming Arabic. “The sounds of the YASAM [Israeli security personnel], going around Jerusalem like crazy people,” the song continues.
The mother of the “martyr,” Umm Mohammed, standing on top of a car in the funeral procession, sings along, thoroughly familiar with the words.
Spend any length of time walking in the main streets of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and you’ll hear “Lovers of Stabbing” — by far the most popular of a series of such hits — as well as similar songs calling for the killing of Israelis, blaring from cars, stores, and restaurants. Publicly, and without any embarrassment, individuals and businesses are playing songs whose lyrics blatantly call for the murder of Israelis via stabbing, vehicular attacks and other brutal means.
These “nationalistic and fiery” songs motivate youths to action, an article last month by the independent Palestinian Ma’an news website noted. Titled “Melodies of the revolution – inspiring boys and igniting the field,” the piece alleged that the songs “inspire the public toward resisting the occupation and standing in its face until achieving independence and freedom.” The catchy songs, it noted, “are characterized by mentioning the names of martyrs, praising their deeds, and challenging others to follow in the footsteps to be the next martyrs.”
On October 26, Raed Jaradat, a 22-year-old Palestinian, stabbed an Israeli soldier in the neck near the West Bank village of Beit Anun, leaving the soldier in serious condition. Jaradat, who was killed mid-attack, posted on Facebook just prior to the incident a clip of “Lovers of Stabbing.”
“Raed Jaradat was listening to the song… and then one of our sisters was killed in the West Bank. He saw her picture while listening to the song… then he picked up a knife and went out into the field. This sums up the story,” Al-Gorbaa manager Hosam Mabid said in an interview to Hamas affiliated Al-Quds TV in November.
The inciting nature of the song and others like it was proudly touted by Mabid, who described how “inciteful art” is intentionally used by the band as a powerful weapon in the current spate of violence, and is instrumental in motivating attackers.
“Nationalistic songs are not the reason for the current uprising, but the use of songs in the media enhances public support,” Dr. Nashat al-Aqtash, media professor at Birzeit University, told The Times of Israel. “They tell you that if they go and commit an attack, you will be a hero and go to paradise… This is especially used by groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
Still, al-Aqtash asserted, the songs are not the main cause for the current wave of violence. That he attributed to “the failure of the peace process and the general feeling of hopelessness among Palestinians who are frequently subjected to assaults by settlers, notably the firebomb attack on the home of the Dawabsha family in July.”
(On July 31, a firebomb attack on the home of the Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma killed toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha. Parents Riham and Saad succumbed to their wounds in the hospital within weeks of the attack. Five-year-old Ahmed, Ali’s brother, remains hospitalized in Israel and faces a long rehabilitation. Two Jewish extremists were charged in the attack earlier this month — one with murder and the second, a minor, as an accomplice.)
These feelings of hopelessness, he said, “make some Palestinian youths seek martyrdom, with its promise of great heavenly rewards. These themes are used in nationalist songs which are effective at helping to mobilize these youths and promote the idea that they will be heroes.” Nonetheless, he said, “If the peace process was successful, you wouldn’t be hearing these songs.”
“Lovers of Stabbing” is by far the most famous of the songs associated with the current wave of violence — others have such titles as “Stab the Zionist,” “Fill the Bottle with Fire” and “Raise Your Weapons” — and in its many incarnations on YouTube has garnered over 5 million views. The tune was described by Ma’an as “encouraging Jerusalemites and revolutionaries in the West Bank to carry out stabbing operations and to kill settlers.”
The catchy song runs seven and a half minutes long and lists those killed carrying out out attacks on Israelis, praising them as heroes “defending Al-Aqsa with their blood.”
These “heroes” include Fadi Aloon, who stabbed an Israeli teen outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate; Amjad al-Jundi who stabbed a soldier and then stole his weapon in the southern city of Kiryat Gat; and Thaer Abu Ghazaleh, who stabbed five people with a screwdriver in Tel Aviv.
Praise is showered upon each terrorist along the lines of “your blade was poisoned by revenge of the religion of Allah,” and “how nice it is to strike the cowards with knives and bullets.”
Ibrahim Ahmed, who wrote and features as the main singer on the track, told Al-Quds TV that the group will soon release a sequel with an updated list of “martyrs.”
An accompanying video for the song is frequently broadcast on Hamas-affiliated TV stations Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds, showing pictures of the “heroic martyrs” interspersed with CCTV footage of many of the attacks themselves. One particularly graphic section shows the moment Alaa Abu Jamal, an employee of the Bezeq phone company, purposely crashed his car into pedestrians a bus stop, then got out and went on a stabbing rampage. The “Lovers of Stabbing” music video proudly shows the moment Abu Jamal stabbed 40-year-old Yeshayahu Kirshavski to death.
Harel Chorev of the Moshe Dayan Center, a think tank at Tel Aviv University, also acknowledged the role of this music in motivating attacks, saying that “songs and music as well as other popular culture products are playing a prominent role in the current escalation.”
He added: “We should also take into consideration the media’s contribution to the psychological preparation of attackers and future potential attackers, who through empowering music are getting the nonverbal message of the ‘heroism’ characterizing such attacks.”
One dissenting view came from leading Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh, who told The Times of Israel: “I happen to have watched on some TV (non-Palestinian Authority) stations such songs as you refer to, and these are unquestionably grotesque. But countless factors drive an individual to go out on a stabbing spree, and countless factors drive a soldier to shoot an innocent person suspected of being a potential aggressor.”
One of the recurring themes of the songs seeking to spur Palestinians into confrontation is that the Jewish state is conspiring to either take over or destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Dr. Al-Aqtash explained: “The Al-Aqsa mosque is a red line, and when the Israelis started invading it, Palestinians went crazy. The Israelis know that if they make any changes to Al-Aqsa it will increase tensions and the number of people willing to die for it. That is why (the ongoing wave of attacks) is called the ‘Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Intifada.'”
“Al-Aqsa is even a red line for irreligious Palestinians; it is a very sensitive issue,” he said. “Of course it is being mentioned in the songs.”
On Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV, where many of the violent songs are broadcast, a permanent animation in the bottom right hand corner features a hand lifting up the Dome of the Rock, whereupon a Jewish star rises in the background and the shrine suddenly explodes into a fireball. Under the animation are the words “#JerusalemIntifada.
Palestinian officials have repeatedly accused Israel of seeking to alter the status quo at the Temple Mount, where non-Muslims are allowed to visit but not worship. Israeli officials have categorically denied such claims and call the allegations incitement.
The power of threats to Al-Aqsa to inspire Palestinians to commit terror attacks is shown in the very words of many of the terrorists themselves. Muhannad Halabi, 19, who killed two Israelis in a Jerusalem stabbing attack on October 3, wrote on his Facebook page shortly beforehand that he was going out in response to Israel’s actions at the Al-Aqsa mosque and that the Palestinian people would not submit to “Israeli humiliation.”
Similarly, Bara’a Issa, who carried out a stabbing attack in early November, wrote on his Facebook page that he undertook the stabbing in order to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque, for the sake of the Palestinian people, and to defend the “occupied land of Palestine.”
Almost every one of the inciting songs released recently focuses on the theme of Al-Aqsa being in danger. One implores, “Where are the ‘real’ men to come and defend it?”
A particularly potent song is titled “Courageous Sister.” The song and its accompanying video are full of imagery focusing on the purportedly violated honor of Palestinian females in their defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The clip shows Israeli security forces acting violently toward members of the Murabitat, an all-female group known for opposing Jewish presence on the Temple Mount by shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) at visitors and sometimes resorting to physical assaults. The Prime Minister’s Office describes the group as a “salaried group of activists aimed at initiating provocations on the Temple Mount.”
Regarding the women, the song declares, “She is your blood, your flesh, your honor,” and it declares that it is your job “break the hand that touches her nails and her hair.”
The video proceeds to show Hamas fighters coming to the rescue of the mosque, along with Palestinian civilians armed with knives, guns, and Molotov cocktails.
Fatah’s own songs
Although most of the songs are performed by groups affiliated with Hamas and broadcast on the Gaza terror group’s own TV stations, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival political faction Fatah is releasing material of its own.
One such recent song is “Raise Your Weapon,” now being broadcast frequently on Fatah-affiliated Awdeh TV. During the song, Karin Al-Bash tells Palestinians, “Drown them [Israelis] in a sea of blood, kill them as you wish” while praising a list of martyrs as “lovers of stabbing.”
“Challenge death and resist, for victory is certainly coming to us” she sings.
Released in late October, the tune was described by one Palestinian writer as “a message to the residents of Jerusalem, and the martyrs who were killed in attacks in the holy city defending the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is being subjected to violations and raids by settlers.”
The accompanying music video shows footage of Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Bridges, alternating with images of recent “heroic” martyrs and the Dawabsha family.
Harnessing the power of incitement
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in October declared: “We are in the midst of a wave of terrorism with knives, firebombs, rocks and even live fire. While these acts are mostly unorganized, they are all the result of wild and mendacious incitement by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, several countries in the region and – no less and frequently much more – the Islamic Movement in Israel.”
While motivations for these attacks are indeed complex, and some experts argue that incitement was not the cause for the initial outbreak of violence, there is nevertheless agreement on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides that “inciting” media, in particularly songs, are playing a major role in motivating the killers and imbuing them with a sense of purpose.