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Notes from the West Bank: an interview with M1 of dead prez

February 25, 2011

JR: You are listening to another edition of POCC Block Report Radio with the Minister of Information JR. Our guest is Mutulu Olugbala of dead prez, who recently visited the West Bank.

M1 of the rap group dead prez, Hajj Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik Shabazz), film director Samm Styles, and the host, The Minister of Information JR, sat on a panel at the People’s Human Rights and Hip Hop Film Fest in San Francisco on Feb. 12. The film fest was a huge success, and the organizers are looking to take it to other cities. – Photo: Minister of Information JR
Mutulu, this is your second time in occupied Palestine, I should say. Can you inform the people why did you go this time and what is your interest in the area?

M1: For those who followed our last “Ghetto 2 Gaza” series, where we came and had communications in communities about my trip to Gaza, this continues where that left off. There were so many organizations and so many unreached goals even though the solidarity question was clearly stated – solidarity being the main reason why I am there in the first place; the same reason why African people have to be able to stand up and be counted and vocal about their opposition to Barack Hussein Obama’s imperialist war against the rest of the world right now.

So, it was in the same stand of solidarity with the Palestinian people that I went to Gaza, continued and went back. This time, like you stated, I went to the West Bank, which was a totally different experience but once again a show of solidarity.

The history of that place is that the people in Gaza who live less than 15 miles from the West Bank, from their cousins and their sisters and brothers, some of them have not been able to see each other since 1967 or around that time. That is only because of imperialist imposed blockades and unsanctioned settlements that have been thieved under the hands of the Israel military state. So that’s the reason why I went there last time and that’s the reason why I found myself going with an organization in specific called Existence is Resistance this time, instead of a huge kind of convoy of different organizations – because we were able to be more specific about what we would be able to do there.

JR: For the unseasoned ear, what is solidarity and what is its importance – not just in this case but in general?

M1: Well solidarity, to be quite clear, is a tactic to bridge liberation strategies. Solidarity in this particular case, especially when we are talking about how it relates to our movement, in general African liberation movements, in Palestinian liberation movements and in the movement to end imperialism around the world by any oppressed subject.

Fellow rapper Boots of the Coup (right) interviewed M1 of dead prez on M1’s Ghetto 2 Gaza Bay Area tour. This event, held Sept. 28, 2009, at Barrios Unidos in Santa Cruz, drew a standing room only crowd. – Photo: Sandino
When we are talking about solidarity, it is the bridge that builds in principle and unity across the board to be able to make links and to be able to support the struggles in the most genuine kind of way. This is not uniting for uniting’s sake. I just got to say that because everywhere there is a fight going on doesn’t mean that it’s something that I got to get involved with. But when we do have an alignment and unity around the similar question, the similar defeat of the same enemy will bring the same end for both of us then this is where we have to talk about solidarity.

For Palestinian people as it relates to the people of the United States, over $6 billion of tax payers’ money goes towards Israel every year. This is more assistance that the government of United States gives to any other country in the World and including any and all countries in the African continent all put together – they don’t receive as much as Israel receives. So this stand in solidarity is to be able to weaken that.

JR: What exactly did you experience in the West Bank that may have been different, as well as similar, to what you experienced in Gaza?

M1: In the West Bank, in Ramallah and Nablus, which was a place I was able to stay, I stayed in a refugee camp near Nablus, but we visited Ramallah three times or more and went to other camps like Jenin. I wasn’t able to get to Jerusalem but I can tell you that places like Hebron are the front line battles of where the borders are being fought for the existence of Palestine. Now the difference in the West Bank and in Gaza is that because of the differently elected government in Gaza called Hamas, which is altogether different than Fatah, which you have in the West Bank. They have a different relationship to the oppressor.

Hamas has an elected, an all out military approach towards Palestine, has been greeted with bombs and is now under military blockade – they would say for striking against the soil of what used to be called Palestine but is now Israel.

I got to say, if we are going to talk about the attacks that have happened from Palestine’s side as it relates to the attacks that is coming from Israel, there is really no question about whether this is a war or a massacre. Now if you count the bombs that may have come from Hamas side, it would equal how many people die from peanut butter allergies in Israel every year. That’s how many deaths you would have on Israel’s side.

I’m not advocating death; I just want to get it clear for the listener that also if you want to count the death that it brings on the Palestinian side, I would just want you to know, it would be insurmountable numbers. I mean thousands of dead children. I don’t even mean the men and women, I mean children dead – thousands!

And on top of that, they hitting them with this U.S. military assault with depleted uranium, which makes sure that the generations of Palestinians to follow will not be able to live real lives because they would have to live through deformity and almost irreparable land destruction. This is the reality and aftermath of an assault by Israel onto Palestine.

So the difference in the sides is that one side is being warred upon in another kind of way. Although the war that is happening on the side of the West Bank too is one that is brutal. It is just not one that consists of embargo. It consist of political sell-outism, resistance that goes very deep, one that still feeds from the Israel economy because it has to buy chiefly all of its resources from Israel itself. That makes it a totally dependent economy.

M1 photographs a bombed out Gaza school during his brief visit on July 15, 2009. This school, like other places where the Israelis knew civilians would be killed, was destroyed during their genocidal assault on Gaza the previous winter.
Crossing into Palestine is like crossing from San Diego into Tijuana. It becomes immediately evident that you are dealing with a different set of economies. One that is totally dependent versus one that is the oppressor’s economy.

JR: How did the people respond to you?

M1: Interestingly, because with Existence for Resistance, we were able to provide workshops. I was speaking in Nablus, in a refugee camp where there were many displaced Palestinians whose land used to be what is now Israel and are now displaced into these camps that are ghettos in the West Bank.

Accompanying me were about five other emcees – two from London, Aarkee Banks and MC LowKey, and one that was a Palestinian who lived in the U.K. Her name is Shadia Mansour. A North American or white young emcee who lives now in New York named Marcel Cartier but who represents anti- imperial struggle, of course, because that is the only reason why we would be there together. Myself and a film crew.

There was also some b-boys from Chicago – one named Trinidad and one named Brandon. And there was also a b-boy and graffiti artist named Lateef, who is from Chicago as well, who came as part of the resistance. They were all Africans.

And so there were about six of us or seven Africans out of the group. Then there were some Arabs, of course, like I was saying, and one or two white people. In that, we were greeted as kind of a motley crew, like OK what are y’all doing here in our land, you know what I mean. As we exposed that we were using hip-hop as a form of resistance and I was particularly intent upon showing African solidarity from the African liberation movement, people began to accept us in all kind of ways. I had a genuinely great experience with the people of Palestine.

I wish I was able to speak Arabic, but nonetheless we spoke the international language of revolution and solidarity. I mean, some people were amazed just to see a Black man. I know that sounds crazy in 2010, but many people touched my skin, treating me as if I was the first Black person that they had ever touched. And it’s cool because that is what it’s about.

It’s about understanding that in this human experience, all humans deserve freedom including them and including me. So that’s what’s good and that’s what it felt like.

JR: Describe for us what that part of the world looks like, smells like, tastes like, all of that.

M1: Well, I got to say that driving down the highways in Palestine you see olive trees everywhere. I mean literally. The olive tree is the main thing. Now you see it amongst the red dirt, brown dirt and the hills. So the Jewish settlements that they take over in Palestinian land and sprinkle in the Palestinian land are on top of the hilltops and they have red roofs on their settlements. That’s how you can distinguish their housing from the different places that the Palestinians live in the communities and more so, the Palestinian people live in the valleys.

Now I saw every kind of vegetation that you can name. We ate from the cactus fruit. You know I am a vegetarian so I ate a lot of falafel. But they have in general – even with a poverty of resources you wouldn’t have an open pizzeria – but you can get a pizza. But generally, every morning I shared breakfast that was hummus with pita bread covered with sesame seeds and olive oil. We ate with our hands. The nights were very warm with the heat of summer. It was much hotter than it was in the United States. I sweated every second.

People always live in constant fear of being raided by the Jewish military settlers. The brothers and sisters who I was able to greet on the street had nothing but love in their hearts. You could literally see the wounds on the young men. Someone who could be 20 years old, in Palestinian years, looked 40 because he had been aged by the resistance to imperialism.

Though he and others in the Viva Palestina delegation were allowed to stay in Gaza for only 24 hours, on July 15, 2009, M1 took time to make friends with children he met there.
It was bullet ridden. I heard many war stories, very morbid war stories, of families that had lost eight family members or more. But nonetheless it was still very warm, children were running around and love was in the air.

I don’t know. Once again, you are talking to somebody who has only been able to visit there for maybe nine days. So, I have much to learn, which is the reason why me even talking about Gaza last time, having only been in there for 24 hours, is laughable. So my experience, I wanted to make it real and I also wanted to be able to show truly how we can really stand with one another and call this solidarity real. So that, to me, is what it’s like, but I have whole lot more to learn, man. I’m just beginning.

JR: For those people who are just listening to this, what would be some references if they would like to learn about the area? What are some things that you learned from some movies, some documentaries or a book or two, where people can sit down and orient themselves with the information and the resistance in that area?

M1: I would say to definitely go to the word questions at existenceisresistance.org and I think you will be able to see this experience that I’ve had very clearly from their explanation of it and the outcomes of it. If anybody that is listening to this program, if you haven’t seen some of the basic information that is out here, like a documentary film called “Slingshot Hip Hop,” get up on that.

I think you can study this particular argument, this thing going on in the world. Because, you see, what will happen is Barack Obama will say that he is doing something about it or having a peace talk, but it’s not including people who are really involved. We are not knowing. These talks are happening around us. They are not happening including us.

So in order to be informed, when you look at the paper and see, in Palestine, 174 people were murdered by Israeli bombers and what that means and how you get to the bottom of this conclusion, you just have to study this history of this particular attack on Palestine by the Israeli government.

So just go and study that exact history. You just study the leadership afterwards. I study people like Leila Khaled, and she is a revolutionary from that area who is able to make great strides in Palestinian liberation and able to put a legitimate resistance out there for us to follow. At least an African, like me, from the hood, who ain’t know nothing about Palestine and who wasn’t born there and don’t know nothing about it, is able to kind of get up on it.

So those are some of the things I would say. And also if you want to figure out how to do something, there are organizations that are boycotting, divesting and sanctioning, so go to bds-palestine.net. I think that will help you understand what you can do with your money even though you don’t live in Palestine.

JR: M, if people want to keep up with you and what you got going on, dealing with this Ghetto 2 Gaza Part 2 tour, as well as what you got going on with dead prez and anything else, because I know you have a world wind of stuff going on all the time, how can people do that?

M1: Keep your ear to the ground. I work for the people. The streets is my office. Minister of Information JR knows that in this world wind you go to be ready, especially in this day and age, for whatever might come. You can check the next dead prez concert at deadprez.com and that’s for sure.

As far as day to day, I’m out here serving the people, in any city, in any state, at any time. Primarily, the campaign is to assist our movement in being more efficient and proficient and getting us to the goal line, which is liberation, in my lifetime. So with that you can continue to use the tool and weapon of these albums, which we got one coming out very soon, which is called “Information Age.” You will find more out about that if you hit up deadprez.com. But just more so towards our organizations, you know where to find me. Find me on the front of the working class struggle for liberation. Let’s get it there!

JR: That’s what it is. No doubt. Definitely one of my mentors, one my teachers, my comrade, M-1, with whom I’ve shared so much. Right on, bruh. I appreciate you so much.

M1: All right, you too, brother. And I hope this goes far. I hope people are able to chime in. I’ll see y’all again on this. I’m going to call it “West Bank to the West Coast.” We going to do that.

JR: Ha ha, yeah. That’s what it is. No doubt. Coming soon.

M1: All right. Uhuru.

JR: Uhuru. Free ‘em all.

M1: Free ‘em all.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com.

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