The State of Palestine was declared independent in 1988 by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and has since been recognized by approximately 100 countries. Geographically, it extends across what is today known as the State of Israel, including the West Bank area and the Gaza Strip in Sinai. After 4 centuries of Ottoman rule, the British seized control over the region after World War I, and then, in 1947, the UN proposed a partitioning of the territory into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Only the Jewish leaders accepted and, in 1948, formed the State of Israel. That same year, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria attacked the newly declared Jewish state in the first of what would become a seemingly endless series of wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In 1967, Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza strip during the Six-Day War and occupied both territories until 1993, when the Oslo Accords transferred authority of certain parts to the Palestinian Authority. In 1997, the paramilitary resistance party, Hamas, seized control over the Gaza Strip, effectively splitting the Palestinian Territories. The US-backed rival party, Fatah, continues to control the West Bank, while Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip since 2007, preventing food, fuel, supplies, and people from crossing the border.

Palestinian Hip Hop emerged onto the international scene in 1998 with the group DAM (Da Arabian MCs), a trio of rappers from the slums of Lod, a mixed Arab and Israeli city 20km outside of Jerusalem. The group’s lyrics expressed many of the frustrations felt by young Arabs growing up in Israel and established DAM as the voice of their generation. DAM’s 2001 song, “Meen Irhabi/Who’s the Terrorist?” was downloaded over 1 million times. Other groups, including Ramallah Underground in the West Bank and Palestinian Rapperz in Gaza, have since emerged and were featured in the 2008 documentary film, “Slingshot Hip Hop“. The film also highlights a number of female Palestinian Hip Hop artists, including Arapeyat and Abeer, aka. Sabreena da Witch. While all of these artists in some way address the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict in their homeland, they also deal with subjects ranging from drug abuse to education to women’s rights.

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