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DAM Responds: On Tradition and the Anti-Politics of the Machine

[Still of Mahmood Jrery of DAM from the video for [Still of Mahmood Jrery of DAM from the video for "If I Could Go Back in Time". Video below.]

We were happy to find on the pages of Jadaliyya supporters and friends who understand our work and respect what we have been doing as artists and members of our community for many years. 

We also feel an urgency to respond to the analysis that Lila Abu-Lughod and Maya Mikdashi offered of our work. We take the issue and the critique seriously. Normally we don’t feel the urge to reply to a review but we felt that this specific review crossed a few lines, especially with its title!

Tradition and the Anti-Politics Machine: DAM Seduced by the “Honor Crime.” The title, like the article’s content, implies that DAM (and Jackie and the other artists who created the song and the video) are politically and intellectually naïve. This approach is a top-heavy one and stops short of a serious engagement of our work.

When we write songs, we do not sit and think, "what would America or Israel think of this?" We open the window and document what we see. We document the struggles of our generation in the service of our communities. We are confident that our artistic and political work is one that engages its context. Our view is, if nothing else, a close and engaged one.  



“If I Could Go Back in Time” is a testimony to the women whose families murdered them over the last few years in Lyd, where we live. These deaths do not include the countless women who are subject to abuse and oppression in their homes. This issue is not confined to Israeli occupation. We see Arab women being killed over the so-called "honor of the family" in Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, and many other places. There are no Israeli tanks over there. Domestic violence against women happens in all societies and we, as Arab men and women, are fighting against it in our own.

The authors claim that we ignored “the committed Palestinian feminist activists who have been working for decades on the various forms of violence Palestinian women suffer.” But the authors themselves ignore the Palestinian women who worked on the song and video. Amal Murkus, a known activist for Palestine and women's rights, sings the chorus of the song. The authors overlook her political work and choose to focus instead on her appearance and how she did not provide a solution in her twenty-second chorus. And by the way, she is not just knitting a sweater, she is knitting the words “al hurriya unsa.

The article claims that DAM wrote "If I Could Go Back in Time” without providing any context. This song, however, is one chapter of many in a compilation. Each piece offers a portion of what DAM addresses. We should not have to mention the Occupation in every song to prove our political legitimacy. 

There is nothing politically problematic with a three and a half minute track that focuses on violence against women in our community. In fact we believe this focus to be a crucial part of our broader political project. Fighting the Occupation and fighting sexism and patriarchy is, for DAM, one fight. In mentioning “Born Here” and “Who Is the Terrorist,Abu-Lughod and Mikdashi themselves point to our politics and our history of political work.

To claim that we were seduced by Western propaganda is a cheap shot. DAM’s song was written in Arabic, for an Arab audience, followed by workshops in the same areas in which these murders occurred. We have a strategy that we are implementing. We see the risks in singing about Arab social and political issues. Opportunistic actors can co-opt and manipulate these messages. But this is not the case for us. DAM is addressing an Arab audience in Arabic. We can speak to our own communities without being worried about how others will abuse it. 

It is not clear why the authors found the UN funding problematic. Did they think that UN funding influenced our music or our lyrics or our message? Or did they think that the UN used us for its purposes? We deserve more credit here. First, there is our commitment to principled politics. Second, there is our context at work here—we are politicized artists living as an indigenous population in the country, which we are boycotting in line with a global movement. We have little to no funding sources from "our" state institutions and even if we did, we would boycott them according to the academic and cultural boycott. We are boycotting Israeli companies and are boycotted by the international Arab countries such as the music company “Rotana.” Were we more foolish or less principled, we would be producing an album every year as opposed to one album every five years. 

Last time we checked, we don’t recall seeing the UN on the boycott list.  

For the last two years, we have witnessed political revolution and upheaval in the Arab world. It is for many of us perhaps the greatest historical moment we have ever experienced. This is precisely the moment when we should dispense with concerns over how we may be read (particularly by the West). Propaganda will exploit any issue it deems fit, this does not mean we should turn a blind eye. Arabs are standing up and demanding a change from within. We see “If I Could Go Back in Time,” as one effort of many in these momentous times. 

We are part of a new artistic movement in Palestine that is secure enough to take on occupation and domestic violence, racism and sexism. We will not shy away from engaging our society's taboos. We believe we can, and we must, tackle these issues with openness, bravery, and honesty.

DAM’s new album “Dabke on the Moon” is being sold on our website, www.damrap.com. We invite you to listen to it. Some tracks address our society from within. Others address the occupation of Palestine. We see all the tracks as part of one political battle. 

________________________

See Also: 

Tradition and the Anti-Politics Machine: DAM Seduced by the “Honor Crime”, Lila Abu Lughod and Maya Mikdashi

 

The Politics of Killing Women in Colonized Contexts, Nader Shalhoub-Kevorkian and Suhad Daher-Nashif

 

Honoring Solidarity During Contentious Debates. . . A Letter to DAM From Lila Abu-Lughod and Maya Mikdashi, Lila Abu Lughod and Maya Mikdashi

If you prefer, email your comments to info@jadaliyya.com.

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