Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Forward seeks to politicise Yemenite band

 Should Mizrahi Jews, like Israel's  highly-successful A-wa Yemenite music trio, become cultural ambassadors to the Arab world? Maybe not, says Leeron Houry in The Forward - but they should become more politically-engaged if they want a real 'Mizrahi revival'. Begging the question whether Mizrahi culture in Israel needs a revival, this is another article trying to portray Mizrahim as a bridge to the Arab world, without regard for their painful history there.

(...) The recent international attention directed at these bands raises new questions. Media coverage outside Israel tends to envision these Arabic-singing Israeli musicians as a potential bridge between Israeli Jews and the Arab world.

(One article highlighted how “Habibi Galbi” was widely popular in Yemen, a political paradox.) At first, this conclusion seems logical: If more Israelis can appreciate the fact that their heritage is rooted in the Middle East, maybe this can serve as a bridge to understanding how “the Arab is the enemy” has been used not only against Mizrahim, but also against Palestinians.

But what does it really mean to be a singer in Arabic today? Do these musicians have any political responsibility based on the language they choose to sing in? Or is it possible for them to make music in Arabic and then remain relatively separate from the larger conversation about Israel/Palestine?

These questions are complicated because Mizrahi musicians sing in Arabic mostly as a way to return to their heritage. This does not automatically make them cultural ambassadors between Israel and the Arab world — and that seems to be how the media wants to portray them.

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