All rise for the Palestinian anthem

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Last week, Hamas and Fatah were on the verge of an agreement to end more than two years of civil strife. Then Hamas tore it up, and both sides went back to tearing apart Palestinian politics.

The two main political factions, which respectively rule the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, have tortured and even killed each other’s members. Their dispute has also held up peace talks with Israel. That, you might think is nothing to sing about.

Unless you’re preparing a YouTube parody of a nationalistic Palestinian anthem with the intention of skewering leaders of the two sides as undemocratic schemers.

The parody, which was aired this week on the Arab satellite news channel Al Jazeera, bridged the otherwise intractable differences between Hamas and Fatah, uniting them in upright self-righteousness.

The clip takes the 75-year-old song “Mawteni” (My Homeland) and reworks some of the lines.

The first verse ought to go like this:

“My homeland, My homeland

Glory and beauty, Sublimity and splendor

Are in your hills, Are in your hills

Life and deliverance, Pleasure and hope

Are in your air, Are in your Air

Will I see you? Will I see you?”

Nothing there beyond the idealized boosterism of the average national anthem, as heard all over the world.

But here’s the Youtube/Al Jazeera version:

“My homeland, My homeland

Curse and perversity, Plague and hypocrisy

Are in your hills, Are in your hills

Tyrants and oppressors, Cunning not fidelity

Are in your sanctuary, Are in your sanctuary”

Against a backdrop of images of Fatah and Hamas leaders, the spoof goes on to state that political chiefs “want/to live like slaves/which is certain shame for us.”

The clip, which has been posted in two versions on YouTube, has been viewed by more than 120,000 people online in the last month. Al Jazeera aired it in the middle of a talk show debate between a Fatah leader and a Hamas official.

Both men responded with shock.

Nasser al-Qudwa, a senior Fatah official and Yasser Arafat’s nephew, told the Al Jazeera presenter that broadcasting the song was “an unprecedented regression.”

A Palestinian student journalist in Nablus on Tuesday announced his intention to sue Al Jazeera for broadcasting the clip, which he characterized as a slur on Palestinian nationhood. Ghaith Ghazi, who works at the An-Najjah University radio station, told a Palestinian news site that the anthem has a “psychological and emotional impact on the Arab peoples, especially the Palestinians.”

Perhaps Ghazi is particularly sensitive about “Mawteni,” because its lyrics were written in 1934 by another Nablus resident, Ibrahim Touqan. A Lebanese composer added the music and for many years it was seen as the anthem of the Palestinians.

It was taken up by other Arab countries too and was for a time the anthem of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. It’s also an official anthem in Syria and Algeria, which use it to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

It’s not to be confused with the official Palestinian national anthem “Biladi” (My Country).

"Biladi" was made the anthem in 1996, when it was adopted by the Palestinian National Council, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s main legislative body.

Here’s the first verse of "Biladi":

"With my determination, my fire and the volcano of my revenge

With the longing in my blood for my land and my home

I have climbed the mountains and fought the wars

I have conquered the impossible, and crossed the frontiers"

The current Palestinian leadership doesn’t exactly measure up to those lyrics, either. Watch out for a cruel internet spoof to the tune of “Biladi,” no doubt.

Meanwhile, Hamas rejected a deal brokered by Egypt to end the long civil conflict with Fatah, though Fatah had signed on to the agreement last week.

Officials from both sides said they expected soon to be called to Cairo for further negotiations. No doubt, they’ll both continue singing the same song.