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Sunday May 16 2021
Web Desk

'A rock in one hand, a Palestinian flag in the other': 2011 poem on Israeli massacre remains relevant even today

Web Desk
Rafeef Ziadah recites the "Shades of Anger" in London a decade ago. Photo: YouTube screengrab

As Israel continues to rain death on innocent Palestinian men, women and children, a viral poem from 2011 remains hauntingly every bit as relevant as it was a decade ago. 

Rafeef Ziadah, a Palestinian human rights activist and spoken word artist based in the UK, went viral a decade ago for her passionate poem "Shades of Anger" depicting the apathy of Palestinian refugees. 

Her poem, recited in several countries around the world, broke the internet as soon as it was released in 2011. 

Ziadeh often takes to the stage, in various countries around the world, and has Australian guitarist and We Teach Life (poem) producer Phil Monsour strum a guitar to bring her poetry to life. 

In the video, she begins the poem by seeking permission to speak in her native language, fearing that the Israelis like the lands that belong to the Palestinians, will colonise them as well. 

"Allow me to speak my Arab tongue

before they occupy my language as well.

Allow me to speak my mother tongue

before they colonise her memory as well."

In another stanza, she highlights her ancestral roots and how her family belonged to a village located between Jaffa and Haifa, before they were forced to leave their home and the soil it was built upon, was no longer theirs to claim. 

"All my grandfather ever wanted to do

was wake up at dawn and watch my grandmother kneel and pray

in a village hidden between Jaffa and Haifa

my mother was born under an olive tree

on a soil they say is no longer mine."

In other verses, she goes to great length to describe the fear among Israelis of the next generation of Palestinians, whom they fear will once again fight for the right to live on the lands that were theirs by right. 

"And did you hear my sister screaming yesterday

as she gave birth at a check point

with Israeli soldiers looking between her legs

for their next demographic threat

called her baby girl “Janeen”.

And did you hear Amni Mona screaming

behind their prison bars as they teargassed her cell

“We’re returning to Palestine!”

I am an Arab woman of colour and we come in all shades of anger."

The poem takes aim at the apparent hypocrisy of the US and other foreign powers, who label the Palestinian freedom fighters as terrorists or militants, all the while committing mass murders and referring to those who die as "casualties of war". 

She, along with many others, blames the US for having a hand in the high-profile assassinations of slain Chilean President Salvador Guillermo Allende Gossens and the first democratically-elected prime minister of Congo, Patrice Lumumba. 

"But you tell me, this womb inside me

will only bring you your next terrorist

beard wearing, gun waving, towelhead, sand (expletive)

You tell me, I send my children out to die

but those are your copters, your F16′s in our sky

And let’s talk about this terrorism business for a second

Wasn’t it the CIA that killed Allende and Lumumba

and who trained Osama in the first place

My grandparents didn’t run around like clowns

with the white capes and the white hoods on their heads lynching black people

I am an Arab woman of colour and we come in all shades of anger."

She concludes the poem by promising the forces of imperialism that she will give birth to exactly what they fear; the next generation of "rebels" who right the wrongs done to the Palestinians. 

"So let me just tell you this womb inside me

will only bring you your next rebel

She will have a rock in one hand and a Palestinian flag in the other

I am an Arab woman of colour

Beware! Beware my anger…"

Ziadeh's powerful readings focus mostly on the contentious topics of war, exile, gender and racism. She has won a large number of fans around the globe and continues to perform for audiences across several countries, in a bid to highlight the plight of the people of Palestine. 

Her third album Three Generations is a selection of spoken word poems, with original music compositions. The sequence of linked poems is a deeply moving, powerful, personal remembrance of Palestine, Al-Nakba, exile, defiance, and survival.