Colonizing the Hearts of Israeli Arabs With the National Anthem

The message of 'Hatikva' is no less extreme and nationalist than the Palestinian chant 'In spirit and blood we shall redeem Al Aqsa.'

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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An Arab woman watching a match between Bnei Sakhnin and Beitar Jerusalem, January 2016.
An Arab woman watching a match between Bnei Sakhnin and Beitar Jerusalem, January 2016.Credit: Nir Keidar
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

“As long as the Jewish spirit yearns deep in the heart,” the Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans sing. “In spirit, in blood, we shall redeem you, Al Aqsa,” the Bnei Sakhnin team chants in response. TV journalist Rafi Reshef decided to look into the matter. He says that when the Arabs chant, “in spirit, in blood, we shall redeem Al Aqsa,” it scares him, white, leftist Jew that he is.

Reshef spoke with Bnei Sakhnin chairman Mohammed Abu Yunis on his Channel 10 news program last week, with the chanting fans in the background. “I can assume that you didn’t sing ‘Hatikva’ either,” Reshef began. “I’ll tell you the truth, Abu Yunis answered. “If you ask me right now to sing ‘Hatikva’ I wouldn’t know how.”

And why should he know how to sing “to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem?” What does that have to do with him? Had he allowed himself to be more sincere with the interviewer, he might have explained that when Jews sing “our hope has not been lost, the two-thousand-year-old-hope,” it scares him.

Beitar fans, all of them members of the Jewish nation, sang the Jewish anthem, while Bnei Sakhnin fans, all members of the Palestinian nation, responded with the Palestinian anthem. The headline on the screen was “No respect.” The Arabs did not give respect to the Jews. Obviously, “Hatikva” is a song that doesn’t give respect to Arabs. We may assume that when a Palestinian hears “Hatikva” he feels like the state is slapping him in the face.

According to the caption on the TV, “Bnei Sakhnin fans yell extreme nationalist calls during the anthem.” And what is this anthem? “Hatikva” is, after all, an extreme nationalist call. No less and no more than “In spirit and blood we shall redeem Al Aqsa.”

But Reshef, leftist, white Jew that he is, doesn’t get it. “But do you know the words to ‘Hatikva’?” he asks Mohammed. Reshef has gone into missionary mode. Too bad Abu Yunis didn’t answer: “No, Rafi, I tried to learn it and wasn’t able to. Teach me. please, teach me now, teach me and I’ll sing with all my heart.”

How distorted, what a perversion that is, the deep need of Jews to see and hear Arabs singing “Hatikva.” They don’t make do with settling the land. They want to settle the hearts. The ultimate colonialism, the final humiliation. Sing “Hatikva,” Mohammed. We want to see you sing it. Go on, sing.

“No, no,” Abu Yunis mumbled. “No, no.” He doesn’t know the words to “Hatikva.”

“And the tune, more or less?” Reshef presses him. He wants to say, OK, forget the words, we can understand that they don’t speak to Mohammed, but the tune? What crime did the tune commit? Why, at least, can’t he hum along a little, hum the general melody as a gesture of good will? Hum for us, Mohammed. You don’t need to sing the words “The Jewish spirit longs.” Just hum; is that so much to ask?

“No,” Mohammed replied. “Well, if you had wanted you could have learned, I can imagine that you just don’t want to,” Reshef said, using the Israel Defense Forces distinction between “don’t want” and “can’t.” What we’ve got here is a thing with some Mohammed, who really doesn’t want. “It says nothing to me,” Mohammed replied with hutzpah. To tell you the truth, Mohammed, not to me either. My spirit yearns for other things.

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