THE SINGING TERRORIST
By Micah Halpern
Tuesday December 23, 2008
His stage name is Massive. He is a rapper. And he is a singing sensation in certain parts of the Middle East. Courtesy of the Goethe Institut, a German based cultural agency, Massive just concluded a tour of the West Bank. His Palestinian audiences were enthralled.
I, on the contrary, am appalled.
This is a verse from one of Massive's most popular numbers: "I'm planning a terrible suicide attack. I'll storm you with a 100 year old beard and we'll blow you up like the Twin Towers." Other lyrics speak of terrorists as freedom fighters and glorify "their fight against the Israelis the Americans and the West."
Massive's parents call him Wassim Taha. He is the son of Lebanese parents who arrived in Germany by way of a United Nations refugee camp set up for Palestinians. Wassim Taha was born in Germany, but his heart and soul and music are pure Palestinian.
The Goethe people claim that they were duped. They say they had no idea of the message Massive spreads through his music. They say that they relied on the good judgment of their satellite office in Ramallah. Truth is, you do not have to go far to uncover the imagery invoked by the Palestinian rapper. Massive is not into subtlety. His songs, his posters, his album covers, all scream hatred.
Middle East diplomacy and culture are rife with complexities that Westerners cannot understand. What Middle Easterners interpret as nuance, Westerners call duplicity and lies. The basic rule of thumb for dealing with Arab Middle East entities is to verify, to check and to confirm through outside sources. Never believe what was promised. That truth holds for politics, for aid packages and for business. It holds for cultural exchanges even for concerts.
The Goethe Institut did not do their due diligence. When the agency discovered that their money was sponsoring an individual who fomented hatred and embraced suicide attacks they expressed embarrassment. German politicians and German newspapers raised serious questions about how this debacle happened.
Politics is not a part of the Goethe Institut. They are a state sponsored educational center that brings German culture and language to the world. Their mandate is to highlight the beauty of Germany. The budget comes directly from the German foreign ministry and the government press office.
The head of The Goethe Institute in Germany issued an important, albeit weak, statement. Klaus-Dieter Lehmann said: "Some of Massive's texts are not free of violence. In the future we should be more careful with whom we invite."
I say, in the future you should be more careful about whom you hire.
The local Ramallah Goethe people should be fired. They knew what they were doing and why they had to hide it. It was no accident that they invited Massive with his lyrics to tour the Palestinian Authority. They sold the home office a carefully crafted lie. And those in charge in Germany simply believed what they were told.
Saying I'm sorry is not enough. The damage has been done.
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