The Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians have a national anthem. Actually, their current anthem is supposedly their second. The lyrics of the first were written in 1934 by Ibrahim Tuqan and expressed opposition to the British presence in the Ottoman Empire. Named “Mawtini”, meaning “Homeland”, it talks about gaining independence from the British and overcoming the humiliation of occupation (by the British) and fear of takeover by the Jews.
While some claim that this was a “Palestinian” anthem, it was, in fact, popular throughout the Arab world and there is nothing to suggest that it was specifically “Palestinian” except for the “Palestinian” who wrote the lyrics (an Egyptian wrote the tune). In 2004, it was adopted by Iraq as their national anthem.
You can hear the uplifting music of Mawtini, here:
Then Came Fida’i
There is confusion about the exact date, but sometime in the late 1980s to mid-1990s, the PLO adopted Fida’i as the “Palestinian” anthem. I am sure that you, like me, naturally assume that this new anthem speaks of love for the land, love for Jerusalem, the Palestinian soul’s longing for peace and equality.
The Lyrics to Fida’i:
Click on the video to hear the anthem playing in the background as you read the translated lyrics below it. It has a good beat, I promise.
CHORUS: Revolutionary*, revolutionary
Revolutionary, my land, land of my ancestors
Revolutionary, my people, people of perpetuity
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
With the resolve of the winds and the fire of the guns
And the determination of my nation in the land of struggle
Palestine is my home, Palestine is my fire,
Palestine is my revenge and the land of endurance
By the oath under the shade of the flag
By my land and nation, and the fire of pain
I will live as a revolutionary, I will remain a revolutionary,
I will die as a revolutionary – until my country returns
*Fida’i (plural: Fida’in) is alternatively translated as: revolutionary, warrior, freedom fighters, militants, etc.
Brief Analysis of Fida’i
I don’t know what mountains they think they climbed, but perhaps it is metaphoric and so let’s just chalk that one up to poetic license. In any case, this anthem talks about volcanoes, revenge, blood, fire, guns, struggle, fire again, revenge again, fire again. So – Falistine is their home and they will die until their country returns. It is legitimate to sing about fighting for the independence of your land. However, in most anthems there is some reference to love of the land, yet here Palestine is not only defined as “my home”, but also as “my fire”(can be understood as fires of love if I want to be generous, but also as fires of war), and “my revenge” (not too many ways to understand this one).
Try to put yourself into the mind-set of one who sings of his or her so-called homeland as a land of “revenge”. Then, think about how it would be for Jews if, by any chance, a peace treaty with the “Palestinians” allows Jews to live in that new state (and if not, then where is apartheid really?).
Fida’i and HaTikva
Arab MKs, and probably the rest of the Arab population in Israel, surely know Fida’i. For those in the Arab dominated political parties to complain about HaTikva when they know that the “Palestinian” anthem describes the land as “my revenge”, is cynical at best.
Many Israelis, Jews as well as Arabs, think it undemocratic of us to have a national anthem that talks about the Jewish soul yearning for Zion and Jerusalem. This is evidence of our lack of empathy toward the minorities within our population, they claim, even though one can easily see how singing about Jews being free in our own country does not mean that the non-Jews are not free or that the Jews regard ridding the region of non-Jews as a national quest.
Fida’i and the Jews
While I would like to think that Jews would be welcome to live in Palestine, if such a state comes into being (probably our money at the markets would be welcome in any case), I wonder how it would be to stand up for a national anthem like Fida’i that has implications of revenge against the Jews. Or would they consider modifying the anthem out of sensitivity toward their Jewish citizens? Would the issue even come up for debate?
This post originally appeared on Israel Diaries.