In the song Tikva which means hope in Hebrew, Israeli rapper Subliminal sings, “The hope is locked in the heart; our strong nation will not fold over, because the son of a bitch that can stop Israel has not been born.”
Subliminal, Israel’s most popular musical artist and an international star calls to his audience at every concert, “Who is proud to be a Zionist in the state of Israel, put your hands in the air! Hell yeah!” and is usually seen wearing a large Star of David chain necklace. His group and himself have proclaimed to instilling a new sense of Zionism in teenagers living in the twenty-first century.
It should be noted that his rap is very different from American rap. He sings about hope, patriotism, strength, unity, order, faith, and peace. Everything a parent wants their children to be listening to, he’s a good guy and honestly I enjoy his music.
However, despite these well intentioned lyrics his extremely right wing Zionist position has not only caused social conflict among liberal Israelis, but also Palestinians. In his song “Biladi” which means “My Land” in Arabic, which was named to reach the Palestinian audience, he sings, “We’re here and we’ll never leave.”
His story is a perfect example to illustrate the social conflict that is brewing on a cultural level in Israel at this very moment. We hear frequently of conflict concerning weapons like guns and rockets, but Subliminal has said he is using hip hop itself as a weapon.
You may ask how a rapper can have an influence on a conflict as large as the Palestinian-Israeli one, but Subliminal has taken Israel by storm and his music is listened to by citizens of all ages, for example he was recently asked to cover Israel’s official national anthem to celebrate its 60th anniversary of existence with the legendary kibbutz chorus Gevatron, whose average age is 65. He was also named goodwill ambassador by the Israeli Ministry of Education and has been honored by the Prime Minister’s office. His music has no barrier when concerning age and his influence in Israel is obvious. If I had more time I would go into more detail on the legitimacy of his influence, but I’m going to assume you are convinced of his impact and will continue with why this is important.
In various interviews with Israeli youth, they state that Subliminal has given them hope for Israel and its future and motivates them to vote and do whatever it takes protect it. Young men in the IDF say that Subliminal inspires them to fight for their country and that they are proud to defend Israel’s honor and existence. It has been stated that Subliminal is a hero for IDF soldiers and his songs have become anthems among them.
Haaretz has found that the most dramatic characteristic of the current Knesset is that it is more right-wing and younger than it has ever been. This rapid change in the past 10 years in what Subliminal has referred to as his own “mass movement” is fascinating and troubling at the same time.
The major conflict within Subliminal’s life that may explain his fervent Zionist and rightwing beliefs and a conflict that only encourages anti-Palestinian sentiment occurred with the outbreak of the second intifada when Subliminal severed ties with his Arab Israeli friend Tamer Nafar in a bitter and highly publicized breakup that is seen in the documentary, “Channels of Rage.” From this point on Subliminal has stated, “that being anti-Israeli is something against which I am willing to fight until my last drop of blood.”
While Subliminal never states Palestine as the enemy he sings about in his lyrics, the social conflict he has created is evident in the overwhelmingly Zionist and right-wing movement among Israeli youth and especially IDF soldiers, violent protests outside of his concerts, and repeated criticism among liberal journalists. Subliminal is fighting a war with words, and while his words may be subliminal, the youth of Israel are reading between the lines and the social conflict and tension between Israeli and Palestinian youth remains strong with every lyric.