Young Palestinian dancers tell stories of resistance

A group of young dancers and rappers from the Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank are on tour, bringing original music, hip-hop and dabke folk dance to audiences across the US.

The stories communicated through dance “talk about our daily life in the refugee camp, especially [during] the first intifada,” the Palestinian popular uprising in the late 1980s, Razan Shaheen, 16, told The Electronic Intifada during an interview in Berkeley, California.

The youth are members of Shoruq, a local initiative that serves children, youth and women in the Bethlehem-area camp, home to approximately 15,000 residents.

The performances incorporate stories about the Nakba, the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland by Zionist forces in 1947-1948, as well as resistance to Israeli occupation and settler-colonialism. Palestinian refugees’ right to return is a central theme.

Shoruq’s dabke and hip-hop songs also highlight the role of women and girls in the Palestinian liberation struggle.

A video produced by Shoruq shows the youth performing and explaining the significance of their dances:

Israeli violence

Israeli forces raided Dheisheh camp in the predawn hours of Wednesday last week. Five were injured as Israeli soldiers used live fire during ensuing confrontations between camp residents and occupation forces.

Camp resident Iyad Ibrahim Ramadan, 40, was shot in the leg. As the man’s brothers attempted to evacuate him to a hospital, Israeli soldiers “showered their vehicle with gunshots,” family members who witnessed the incident told the Ma’an News Agency. One of the brothers was reported to have been hit in the head with shrapnel.

A camp resident, a former prisoner, was detained, according to Ma’an.

Dheisheh camp is frequently subjected to violent raids by the Israeli army.

Last year, soldiers shot dozens of Dheisheh residents, mostly youths, with live ammunition, targeting their legs and knees.

Camp residents said that an Arabic-speaking Israeli intelligence officer who goes by the alias Captain Nidal has been provoking youths during confrontations and threatening them with physical harm.

According to Badil, a human rights group based in Bethlehem, that same officer has threatened youth “before, during and after the raids, and during interrogations and arrests.”

“Hearts are back home”

For the young camp residents now touring the US, hearing about the news from Dheisheh causes concern and worry.

Tamer Ramadan, 14, told The Electronic Intifada that they “are watching the news every day and it’s hard to be away from home. [We] are here, but [our] hearts are back home.”

Information about Shoruq’s US tour through can be found on the the Middle East Children’s Alliance website.

Listen to the interview with several of the Shoruq dancers and hip-hop emcees via the media player above.

Image by Brooke Anderson, Oakland, 19 March

Theme music by Sharif Zakout

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).