Friday, March 9, 2012

A National Anthem for Two Nations

Al eyes were on the lips of the Supreme Court justice. What would he say?
He kept his lips sealed and said nothing. This set off a media firestorm  in Israel that made it to the New York Times.
Salim Joubran's silence was not on judicial matters but on a matter of national identity. Justice Joubran did not sing the national anthem along with his eight fellow justices, the Israeli President and Prime Minister.
Here's why:

As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart,
With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,
Then our hope - the two-thousand-year-old hope - will not be lost:
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Not much to celebrate here for a Palestinian Christian from Haifa.

All Palestinian Israelis who achieve national and international prominence face this problem. There are periodic discussions in Israel about non-Jewish athletes and their response to Israel's national anthem at international sporting events.

BDS and the debate over a one state solution has brought greater media focus to this issue. BDS is gaining increased credibility even in the Jewish community. Today, the center-right Jewish newspaper The Forward, published a mostly favorable article on Ali Abunima and his BDS campaign.

Back to the question of a national anthem - what would the anthem of one-state Israel/Palestine be?

Uzi Arnon has come up with a proposal which you can hear on You Tube. Here is my rough translation:

A Song for the Motherland

Text: Uzi Arnon
Melody: Yaron Livneh

Let us rise, children of our native country
Every religion and ethnicity together we stand ready
O Land - native land - how beautiful you are
You, the land, are our mother, our nationality, all are equal before you.

Children of the Motherland, let us rise together to you we swear allegiance
Men and women together we are called
See the whispering yearning of peace descend upon us -
Extend a hand of respect to each other

We are all citizens – we reap the benefits and share the burden
Respect and equality for all, we hold dear in our hearts
Just and robust laws for each citizen
This is our truth, supreme over all religions!

My brothers in destiny, be ready at all times
To confront the appearance of evil and wrath
Our covenant is stronger than any threat
This is our oath of fealty to our common Motherland

Children of the Motherland, raise up your eyes
On the horizon do you see the blue-hued hills?
The sun bursting through with golden rays
To light up the sky with royal purple

We are citizens – we share in good times and in our duties
Respect and equality for all we hold dear in our hearts
Just and robust laws for each citizen
This is our truth, supreme over all religions!

The anthem has some significant issues. For instance, "motherland" is bad enough in fascist anthems. IMHO, a progressive anthem should just drop the concept.
Also, proclaiming a "truth supreme over all religions!" is bound to get any number of Jews, Christians and Muslims mad.

Monarchies don't have this problem. The people just sing an anthem in praise of the sovereign wishing him good health (the Austro-Hungarian Kaiser for example) or long life (Queen Elizabeth II). In multi-ethnic empires you can sing the same words and same melody in whatever language you please. That's the beauty of not having nationalism. The Austro-Hungarian anthem was sung in 12 languages.

But I don't see that working for Israel/Palestine. Better to have two versions of the anthem. Some general sentiments along the lines of Uzi Arnon's. Cut "the Motherland", instead each side could insert some favorite heroes and themes. Both sides will set their text to the same melody. If, on the one hand, the Jordanian anthem can use bagpipes and, on the other, the Israelis love Middle Eastern music, then there must be some middle musical ground that could work for both Jews and Palestinians.  Perhaps some Paul Ben-Haim Mitteleuropa take on a Middle Eastern maqam. The same melody for both sides will solve lots of problems because the anthem is often played as an instrumental piece.

No comments:

Post a Comment