Palestinian rappers rage over use of song in Likud ad

Amman-based hip-hop band Torabyeh say ruling party put their lives at risk by linking them to Islamic State

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Members of the Amman-based alternative hip-hop group Torabyeh accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday of putting their lives at serious risk by linking them with terrorism and associating them with Islamic State fighters, following the apparently illegal use of a rap song performed by the band in a controversial campaign ad posted online by the Likud party Saturday night.

“In the last propaganda video released by the Israeli Likud Party which is headed by the criminal Benjamin Netanyahu (Zionist right-wing), the song called ‘Ghorbah’ by Torabyeh has been used,” a statement posted on the band’s Facebook page read.

“The use of the song in the particular context cannot be considered anything but deliberate propaganda of the Zionist right for the purpose of electoral propaganda and attacking the so-called Zionist ‘left wing.’ Furthermore, it implicates the Torabyeh group by containing serious accusations of terrorism and association with ISIS which is consequently putting the group members’ lives at risk,” the group added, using an older acronym for the Islamic State.

In the Likud ad, several jihadists in a pickup truck flying the IS flag stop to ask an Israeli driver for directions to Jerusalem. The Israeli replies: “Take a left,” followed by the flash of one of the Likud’s campaign slogans, “The left will surrender to terror.”

Still from Torabyeh's music video Ghorbah (photo credit: YouTube screen grab)
Still from Torabyeh’s music video ‘Ghorbah’ (photo credit: YouTube: screenshot)

Torabyeh went on to criticize Netanyahu for his “ruthless infringement of intellectual property rights and the distortion of the reputation of Torabyeh,” adding that the group will “take all necessary legal action against those responsible.”

The hip-hop ensemble noted that in general, it rejected “all forms of cooperation with the Zionist enemy (right and left) and the fascist expansionist colonial entity,” concluding their message with a call for “victory for the Palestinian people and the Arab [sic] against colonialism.”

The songs performed by Torabyeh, whose members are all descendants of Palestinian refugees, often convey rage at the fate of Palestinians following the establishment of the state of Israel. The lyrics in “Ghorbah” (“Homesickness,” in Arabic), deal, among other things, with the Jordan-based band members’ yearning to return to the homes of their grandparents across the Jordan River.

I just want a place where I can secure my son’s rights
I am not a killer but I can commit a crime to protect my rights
For my country my pen is writing for me
I don’t want an Israeli soldier to stop me from being buried in my country,
I want to be buried in the same graveyard my grandfather is in,
” the performer raps in the song’s first verse.

The song is also highly critical of the Palestinian groups that drive Palestinian politics.

Ever since I was young I dreamed of being a soldier
With time I discovered whom I belong to
Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah, Hamas or Jabha
Let me be free because they are all mercenaries
I can no longer deal with these people living a lie
The picture is nice but the background is destroyed
Now we need a visa to enter our own country?

The song also touches on social issues such as employer-employee relations and criticizes the leaders of the Arab world for failing to properly address and resolve the Palestinian issue.

More notably, however, Ghorbah’s lyrics also make reference and pay tribute to Ziad Rahbani, a highly influential Lebanese artist and political commentator famous for his biting satire and critique of the country’s internal politics. Over the years, Rahbani, 59, a self-declared communist and atheist, has been repeatedly criticized by religious authorities of all stripes for his controversial views.

Could it be that we have reached to this point?
Our country needs her men, she has become a widower
It’s time to stand up
Ziad Rahbani tell them who’s the non-believer!
” Torabyeh sing in the chorus.

The Likud did not respond to The Times of Israel’s request for comment regarding the apparent infringement of Torabyeh’s intellectual property rights.

But the party’s warning that Israeli left-wing parties would “surrender to terror” drew criticism from the left Sunday. Former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin and the center-left Zionist Union slate sharply criticized Netanyahu, noting that the second longest-serving PM in Israel’s history had released more convicted Palestinian terrorists from Israel’s jails than any other premier.

Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin speaks at the 'Suckers' movement demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday (photo credit: Tali Mayer/Flash90)
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin speaks in Tel Aviv in 2012. (photo credit: Tali Mayer/Flash90)

Diskin wrote on his Facebook page Sunday: “The left will allow the Islamic State into Israel, Netanyahu says. The man who released Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1997 and rebuilt Hamas; the man who released over 1,000 terrorists, some of whom have already returned to carry out terror attacks during his term as prime minister; the man who released terrorists in order not to freeze settlements, in an arrangement with the Jewish Home party; the man who was dragged into the longest war since the War of Independence against a terror group; the man who threatened Iran but cannot topple a terror group in Gaza; [Netanyahu has] lost his sense of shame,” Diskin charged.

A Zionist Union statement similarly focused on Netanyahu’s alleged “colossal failure in the area of security.”

The release of Palestinian security prisoners, most of them convicted murderers, became one of the most divisive issues within Netanyahu’s ruling coalition in 2014 after he agreed to release over 100 such prisoners at the outset of the most recent round of peace talks with the Palestinians. The talks collapsed in the spring, in part because of a dispute over the fourth and final batch of prisoner releases, with the Palestinians demanding the release of Israeli Arab inmates, something Netanyahu said he had never agreed to do.

In November, the Knesset gave final approval to a contentious law to prevent Palestinian prisoner releases for those serving life sentences, effectively removing the option of freeing prisoners guilty of the most egregious terror attacks from being used as a bargaining chip with the Palestinians.

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