I’ve recently become infatuated with Netta Barzilai, the Israeli singer who won the Eurovision competition, held last week in Portugal, with her #Metoo inspired song “Toy.” It was the first time in 20 years that Israel had taken the top prize in the global contest, after dominating in the final years of the 1970s.
Of course, celebrating that winning moment back then, like now, comes with its own challenges. Namely, the seemingly unsolvable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As an Israeli-American hip-hop artist, analyzing, debating and thinking about it is a constant, and nowhere more confrontational than on social media.
Earlier this week, I clicked on DJ Khaled’s Instagram and noticed a post which included the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim holy site in Jerusalem. The missive, which read: “praying for my people x praying for peace x praying for all my families, praying for everyone #world peace,” had much more interaction and engagement than his other posts. Last I checked, it was approaching 7,000 comments. I then hopped over to Netta’s Instagram, where she had amassed nearly 6,000 comments responding to her post-win show of gratitude, in which she wrote, “My beloved Israel, this victory is yours. … Do not forget that thought creates reality, and do not stop rejoicing and demonstrating strength and unity to each other and to the world.”
Both posts offered gratitude and prayer, and both comments sections turned into an instant war zone. Wrote one commenter to Khaled: “It’s ok to say the word Palestine… We’ll respect you more.”
The current protests on Israel’s border with Gaza, in which more than 60 people have died, including 50 noted Hamas terrorists, are the impetus for the online clash. Watching the news reports, the coverage seems lopsided, but also familiar: the world is yet again turning a microscope onto a tiny corner of the Middle East.
As an Israeli, I’m frustrated; as an artist, I’m hopeful. I pose a possible solution: That DJ Khaled, who’s arguably one of the most successful hitmakers, of Muslim descent or otherwise, to emerge in recent years, and Netta Barzilai, who’s riding a crest of good will and positive vibes, combine their powers and collaborate. Maybe a remix of “Toy” or a brand new track?
Easier asked than done, and no doubt both artists wouldn’t want to risk “alienating their fanbase,” a favorite phrase of anyone with a following.
As artists, we like to believe that music heals. So could we work together and respect one another for the greater good of humanity? As fellow rapper Matisyahu, who has himself reflected deeply on the Jewish religion and the state of Israel, led us in song to believe: maybe “One Day” there will be “no more war and our children will play.”
Instead of arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong, we need to offer tangible solutions from the music community. Organizations like Tune in TLV and Ramallah Music Export which are trying to helping local Israeli and Palestinian artists take their art beyond their physical borders, are a good start. Now let’s do the same and get beyond the comments section to something that’s constructive, and maybe even inspiring.
Rami Even-Esh performs under the stage name Kosha Dillz. He has created songs like “No More War” and Dodging bullets with Matisyahu and is also performing on the final Vans Warped Tour this summer. His most recent song, “What I do All Day,” has absolutely nothing to do with Middle Eastern politics.