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Radical talent Jowan Safadi’s new song – ‘To be an Arab’

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This wicked new song, “To be an Arab”, from Palestinian musician Jowan Safadi, with a video superbly directed by Nayef Hammoud, socks an addicting melodic and lyrical punch. It hurts with critical skill, ease and musicality that I can’t resist listening just one more time. I love it. (lyrics below)

Hardcore homophobes
Are the most gay on the inside
Mizrachi Arabophobes
Are Arabs themselves
Who are just afraid
And prefer to stay in the closet
Because they know, they know the best
That to be an Arab is not that great

It’s hard to be an Arab
It’s really hard, ask me
It’s hard to be an Arab
How much can one be black
Under the rule of the rich and white
In the racist state

Sephardics or Mizrachis
Once they too were Arabs
They changed their names
To change their destiny
Because they know, they know best
They know better than anyone
They know, they know best
They paid the bloody price
They learned it on their skin

It’s hard to be an Arab
It’s really hard, ask me
It’s hard to be an Arab
How much can one be black
Under the rule of the rich and white
In the racist state

Listen to me, dude
You need to know where you came from
And where you’re going to
And what you’re gonna find
Standing in the streets and chanting death to Arabs and such shit
You’re an Arab man more fucked than I am

Hey you imported Arab,
Take it from a local Arab
You were dragged here
To take my place

It’s hard to be an Arab
It’s really hard, ask me
It’s hard to be an Arab
How much can one be black
Under the rule of the rich and white
In the land of Palestine


Born in Nazareth (the son of a carpenter) and a resident of Haifa, Jowan Safadi is well known for controversy and his daring, occasionally eviscerating, emotional lyrics (which have gotten him into trouble a few times ). Last year TRIPLEW, cited him as “one of the strongest newcomers in the region’s independent scene.”

An upcoming Austrian documentary, In the Arms of Occupation, directed by Fernando Romero-Forsthuber, risks thrusting Safadi into the International arena.

You can read a little about the creative and political trajectory of Safadi’s life here and here. The following video, recorded with his Arabic grunge band Fish Samak is also titled In the Arms of Occupation and was directed by Romero-Forsthuber as well.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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50 Responses

  1. Linda J
    August 13, 2015, 3:16 pm

    I love this guy!

    • Annie Robbins
      August 13, 2015, 7:31 pm

      me too! thank you so much for commenting linda. i think no one is paying any attention given the other conversations going on here today in comments. but it’s looks like it’s gotten some shares so someone is watching it. thanks so much for commenting , i love it too!

      • gamal
        August 13, 2015, 7:39 pm

        “i think no one is paying any attention given the other conversations going on”

        no, its because that is one bad bad boy and we are all a bit afraid, Arab taxis are the best, girls and a nargile, being of the despised renders one total freedom, trust me its sweet.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 13, 2015, 7:59 pm

        that is one bad bad boy

        maybe that is why i like him

      • RoHa
        August 14, 2015, 7:50 am

        And good-looking girls they are, too, in this DOM’s opinion.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 15, 2015, 6:08 am

        did anyone open the embeds? safadi is for real. check out these lyrics:

        After two years of fighting charges of incitement to violence and support for a terror organization in songs they performed in 2010, two Arab rap singers from Haifa finally won their case.
        The prosecution originally agreed to drop the charges for lack of evidence but the rappers, Wala Sabit and Jowan Safadi, who were charged over songs they performed at a coexistence festival in Haifa, fought until the court declared them not guilty.
        In July 2010, the pair, accompanied by dj Bruno Sabag, performed a song in Arabic and English called “Search Me” and containing the lyrics

        “I’m a terrorist, but I have no explosive belt around by waist

        I have no bomb under my arm, no machine gun on my shoulder

        I’m a soldier in the army of conscience

        I’ll shoot you with bullets of poetry

        I’ll assassinate you with a monologue

        I’ll commit suicide with the bomb of a dance troupe and I’ll torture you with the beat of drums”

        Reports on the songs appeared in the local media, claiming that the words were actually: “I’m a proud Arab/a suicide bomber/I will murder your mother and your sister too.” A few days later, then-National Union MK Aryeh Eldad asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to launch an investigation against the two singers on suspicion of incitement……

        read more:

      • gamal
        August 16, 2015, 2:14 pm

        I’ll assassinate you with a monologue

        I’ll commit suicide with the bomb of a dance troupe and I’ll torture you with the beat of drums”

        wow, they deserve real respect for their uncompromising attitude to the Court that takes real guts, but do you think they may have violated some immutable laws of civility? Do they tweet?

        Sadly I will not be able to participate further in this thread because of the rampant anti-emoticonism of some posters here, while i dont use them myself i will defend to the end your right to do so, I also notice that no one has challenged this repellent prejudice which alerts me to your collective turpitude, Unity, unity ..let us Liberate the emoticons from the Special Characters ghetto into the Alphabet.

        Now that I have denounced you I am free to lament your schismaticism, i guess.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 16, 2015, 2:27 pm

        he does have a twitter feed and i followed him as i recall the other day. but i don’t think he uses it a lot — as i recall. i’d go look for it but i can’t get distracted at the moment. the day i wrote this, i got distracted for about 8 hours. there are some other incredible lyrics with his electronic band (a duo w/another guy, i can’t remember their name off the top of my head) this song i played over and over on soundcloud. something about one state two state and F*** all the state or something. really out there. i loved it. anyway gotta go.


  2. edwardm
    August 13, 2015, 10:58 pm


    • Annie Robbins
      August 14, 2015, 1:03 am

      totally edward!

    • bintbiba
      August 14, 2015, 9:16 am

      oh oh RoHa !!

      A DOM as well as being our esteemed ‘ Vigilante of the Renegade Comma ‘ !!
      Have yourself a great time over here,…. while we keep on watching out for the punctuation !

      • Mooser
        August 16, 2015, 11:44 am

        You will notice, if you will, and you may, notice that RoHa has absolutely nothing to say about that plague on English orthography, that pornography of punctuation, the gawd-awful typographical emoticon.
        They are an abomination.

      • RoHa
        August 16, 2015, 12:45 pm

        Emoticons are one abomination among many, and not the most serious one. Saving civilization is a time consuming and enervating task, so I reserve my energies in order to deal with the grossest solecisms.

        But if you wish to take up arms against the emoticon, do so with my blessing. :-)

      • Mooser
        August 16, 2015, 2:48 pm

        “Emoticons are one abomination among many,”

        Not “emoticons”, RoHa. I have no objection to a supply of various emoticons to augment our comments. Smiley- and frowny-faces are fine with me.

        It’s typographical emoticons I object to. I am shocked you don’t see the danger. Typographical emoticons have numerous sharp edges, and may punctuate your commastomy bag. They’ve been known to semi colons, too.
        And there are all the many challenges of single-parenthesishood.

      • RoHa
        August 16, 2015, 3:37 pm

        Sorry. My mistake. :-p

  3. ziusudra
    August 14, 2015, 12:01 am

    How terms change:
    Once upon a time Semite Canaanites living in Towns, Villages & Cities, as the Sumerians did lambasted all other Semites including the 12 Shem Semites Tribes for living in the Desert calling them Arabs, Desert Dwellers!
    PS My Trivia of de day is also important.

  4. Marnie
    August 14, 2015, 12:12 am

    From Lisa Goldman on twitter “Video song “To Be an Arab” turns identities upside down. Good stuff.…” – See more at:

    This is the song! The only time I was ever able to post a video was by accident. Browsing +972 a couple days back I noticed Lisa Goldman’s remarks above and have been watching this gem ever since.

    • Annie Robbins
      August 14, 2015, 12:58 am

      hey thank you marnie! i didn’t see your comment. i actually wrote this yesterday after ofer neiman sent me the link which i woke up to early in the morning. (i forget to thank him at the base). hence, i was not reading comments yesterday. it got published toda tho as happens sometimes. i got completely lost in reading about him yesterday.

      i see your comment here:

      note how your video didn’t show up? for next time go to the youtube page. take the url off the very top of the page and place it in the comment directly. yours won’t work because it’s got the little … (dot dot dot) at the end of it instead of the url. so no one can open it in your comment.

      also, in the future click the time stamp on the tweet you are observing so it pops up. and then copy the url on the top of the page and place it in the comment like this:

      the way you get any tweet to expand it to click on the time stamp. thank you! and here is the tweet in full:

      i love this video!

      • Marnie
        August 14, 2015, 1:28 am

        Annie – thank you for taking the time (and I know it’s the wee hours in SF, USA) to explain that to me. In view of everything that you do, I really count this as a blessing. Maybe this ol’ dog can learn a new trick or two after all. Have a good night!

      • Annie Robbins
        August 14, 2015, 1:57 am

        try it! you can use this thread. try finding a video from this page here:

        click on it, find a good video. click on that video and copy the url at the top of the page and place it in a comment.

        it’s not the wee hours, it’s only 11 pm. wee hours are after midnight ;)

  5. michelle
    August 14, 2015, 2:13 am

    one again on the outside looking in
    dial up internet and flip phone
    no videos pictures or posts (w/over 100 comments on one page)
    what fun
    he looks like a free spirit totally cool
    esp. when so many try to hang their hang ups on ‘him’
    is there a cd or are they outdated too
    G-d Bless

  6. Marnie
    August 14, 2015, 3:41 am
    • Annie Robbins
      August 14, 2015, 3:47 am

      LOL! ok, now you know how to do it!

      too sweet.

      • Marnie
        August 14, 2015, 5:48 am

        The guy with the long beard puts on a t-shirt that says Lehava.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 15, 2015, 5:42 am

        yes he does. there is a back story i am sure. i wonder if a few of the women in the car are jewish. it is haifa after all.

  7. RoHa
    August 14, 2015, 7:46 am

    Off topic, but

    “Hardcore homophobes are the most gay on the inside”

    is a fashionable claim. However, I’ve never seen a scrap of empirical evidence for it. Is there any?

    • edwardm
      August 14, 2015, 6:19 pm

      • RoHa
        August 15, 2015, 3:38 am

        Thanks. So we know there is at least one case of anti-gay gay. That supports a claim of “some hardcore anti-gays are gay”. Is there any reason to extend that to the popular claim “most/all hardcore anti-gays are gay”?

      • Annie Robbins
        August 15, 2015, 4:15 am

        have you been living under a rock RoHa? edward’s video skips one of the most notorious cases, that anti gay right wing senator iowa or nebraska – i can’t recall, soliciting in a bathroom at the airport! that was a big scandal. but there have been lots of these in the US. . it is way too common.

      • RoHa
        August 15, 2015, 5:09 am

        Annie, you know I live under the the third rock from the sun. It is a place where the peccadilloes of American senators are not considered matters of great importance.

        You examples support “some anti-gays are gay”. They do not give a reason to believe “most/all anti-gays are gay”. I want comparative data, telling me how many anti-gays are gay and how many are not gay.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 15, 2015, 5:27 am

        sorry RoHa, they are in the closet so they don’t get outed til they are busted. iow no statistics.

      • RoHa
        August 15, 2015, 5:58 am

        So far, then, there is no reason to believe “most/all hardcore homophobes are themselves gay” is anything other than a popular superstition.

        And I think that’s enough diversion from the main business of drooling over the girls in the taxi.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 15, 2015, 6:16 am

        who are tou quoting and why are you moving the goal posts?

        Hardcore homophobes Are the most gay on the inside

        and no, it is not just popular suspicion.

      • RoHa
        August 15, 2015, 6:34 am

        I’m not moving the goalposts. The claim is that most/all hardcore homophobes are gay. If there is no evidence for that (and you claim there isn’t) how can it be anything but a popular superstition?

      • Mooser
        August 16, 2015, 3:02 pm

        “It is a place where the peccadilloes of American senators are not considered matters of great importance”

        Oh, really? Well, RoHa, we Americans don’t care if Australian representative keep tarantulas as pets, either.

      • RoHa
        August 16, 2015, 3:23 pm

        “we Americans don’t care if Australian representative keep tarantulas as pets, either. ”

        That’s O.K. The tarantulas will get you anyway.

    • michelle
      August 15, 2015, 5:21 am

      might not want to box any group in
      for better or for worse
      there will always be those who ‘think’ outside the box
      it is sad that when people need a target for their ‘anger/unhappiness’
      logic reason & common sense are nowhere around
      G-d Bless

    • Mooser
      August 16, 2015, 2:52 pm

      “Hardcore homophobes are the most gay on the inside”
      is a fashionable claim. However, I’ve never seen a scrap of empirical evidence for it. Is there any?”

      Only one way to find out. I bet if I put on a dress and fixed my hair they would go for me!

      • Keith
        August 16, 2015, 3:51 pm

        MOOSER- “Only one way to find out. I bet if I put on a dress and fixed my hair they would go for me!”

        Ah, the intrepid researcher prepares to gather empirical data! Good on you, Moose!

  8. Boo
    August 14, 2015, 11:02 am

    Well now, this excellent song deserves to be bookended with another “oldie but goodie” from ten long years ago.

    Hdag Nahash (The Sticker Song)

    And the song history and a translation here, for those interested.

    אין לנו ילדים למלחמות מיותרות

  9. Mayhem
    August 14, 2015, 8:32 pm

    All this fawning on Arab performers. Seems like if you are a Jewish Israeli artist you don’t ever get a guernsey on Mondoweiss. For those who would like to hear something that resonated across the Arab world earlier this year:

  10. Mayhem
    August 14, 2015, 8:35 pm

    “Under the rule of the rich and white”
    This is inverted racism.

    • Marnie
      August 15, 2015, 1:02 pm

      Look, if it’s attention you want, MW is chock full of articles about Israel and oddly enough, zionists. Article after article is concerning zionists, which you say you are. Of course, you probably aren’t too crazy about the content maybe? It’s definitely a problem you zionists have with the rest of the world, work on that, would you? But you could always just get lost.

      “Inverted racism”. No “Mayhem”, that’s the truth.

    • a blah chick
      August 16, 2015, 3:39 pm

      “This is inverted racism.”

      Uppityness is a bitch.

    • diasp0ra
      August 16, 2015, 3:55 pm

      Ah yes, the poor rich white people. The downtrodden Arabs are truly oppressing them with that sentence. Wait, what?

      Racism is not saying nasty words. Racism is a system of institutional and societal discrimination.

      Meaning, without the POWER to erect a system of discrimination, it’s not racism, it’s just hurting your feelings. The slurs are racist because they have a history of being used to enforce racism.

      When a white person in Jim Crow USA uses a racial slur, it’s racist, because it’s backed by the whole system and it reinforces and strengthens the system. It is inescapable and is a major threat to the person receiving it.

      If a black person used a “racial slur” against a white person (lol) in the same setting, it’s just that. A slur. it has no effects past hurt feelings, which is not exactly comparable.

      It’s not backed up by centuries of oppression and it can be safely ignored because unlike racism against, say black people, it won’t lead to white people being lynched in the street for being white, while the opposite was true.

      Furthermore, anger directed against your oppressors is not racism.


      • lysias
        August 16, 2015, 4:30 pm

        Mi dispiace, ma non capisco.

        If I were to call a black here in the U.S. a racial slur, I don’t think it has any effect on him at all. My insult is backed up by no law. It may hurt his feelings, but that’s all. On the other hand, if I were to be called by a black a “cracker” (as I have been, for defending the quality of Clarence Thomas’s legal opinions about 10 years ago), nothing may have happened to me, but it could have, given the legal backing now given to people objecting to things, however defensible, that white people like me say.

      • diasp0ra
        August 16, 2015, 4:42 pm


        I said in the context of the Jim Crow USA in my upper statement. In such a context looking at a white woman the “wrong way” would get you lynched if you are black.

        And with your example, even though it’s backed up by no law, it’s backed up by historical context and covert societal norms that contribute to this day to the dehumanization of black bodies.

        This dehumanization as we learned, is instrumental in legitimizing police violence against the black community specifically and normalizes it. It’s all tied together. This all contributes to society giving less importance to black lives.

        The understanding of racism non academically is very superficial and people tend to think it’s about name calling and direct consequence to such a name calling. But this fails to take into account the broader image of what the normalization of racism is and how it indirectly leads to the suffering of the targeted group.

        So long story short, in the above example, one is legitimate anger directed against people who treat you like dirt, and the other is a manifestation of racial superiority that wants to keep other people down in the dirt. They are in no way equal, is my point.

        Here talking about broad groups and not individuals, of course.

      • lysias
        August 16, 2015, 5:57 pm

        I should perhaps mention that some 10 or 11 years ago I was attacked by a black gang wielding baseball bats just outside a station of the D.C. Metro system. They might have killed me, but for some reason they suddenly stopped. I suspect they saw someone approaching who would witness what they were doing.

        The police couldn’t help me, because I couldn’t give a description of the gang members. (I was listening to a Walkman, and so paid no attention to the gang until they attacked.) What was frustrating was that I couldn’t get any of the local newspapers, either metropolitan or local, to report the attack.

        But I later learned that such attacks were common on that particular Metro line, with no publicity being given to the attacks. Which is why I did not expect it.

      • lysias
        August 18, 2015, 10:14 am

        Correction: I made a subtraction mistake, in my haste to post. The gang attack on me happened 20 or 21 years ago.

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