Palestinians ban 'Rivers of Babylon' song from West Bank international music fest

Palestinians are hosting an international arts festival this week -- with performances in Ramallah and other major West Bank cities.  Among the performing artists was the Boney M disco group, known for its world-famous "Rivers of Babylon" song.

But before the singers could mount the stage in Ramallah, they were told that "Rivers of Babylon" was out.  Why?  Because according to an Associated Press report, festival officials would not countenance lyrics about Jewish longing and ties to biblical Israel.

To be precise, these are the words that are verboten in Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank:

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

"Yeah, we wept, when we remembered Zion"

This censorship, mind you, did not occur under Hamas rule in Gaza, but in Ramallah, the "capital" of the Palestinian Authority, recognized as a trustworthy "moderate" peace partner by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.

Maizie Williams, the lead singer of the Boney M group, said the song was banned because organizers deemed it "inappropriate." 

"We were a bit disappointed that we could not do it, because we know that everybody loves the song no matter what," she said.

But it shouldn't come as a shock why such seemngly innocent lyrics couldn't be heard in Ramallah, why they're impermissible in Fatahland, where Palestinian leaders from Abbas on down stoutly deny historical Jewish ties to the Holy Land.  This, after all, is a song that evokes Jewish connections to the land dating back some 2,500 years.  And not only does it refer to the Jews' relatively brief exile in Babylon but also to their memories of hundreds of years of Jewish sovereignty in Zion before the Babylonian exile.

The Boney M song takes its words from Psalm 137, which is even more explicit about Jewish attachment to Zion in general, and to Jerusalem in particular.

To wit the most famous and memorable verses of this psalm:

"If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skills,

"Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I remember thee not,

"If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy."

No wonder Palestinian officialdom in the West Bank couldn't allow "Rivers of Babylon" to be sung at the festival.  It resonates with a rich history of Jews as the most indigenous people in this part of the world and belies the Palestiian narrative that Jews are but colonial latecomers and implants in a land to which they have no historic claims.

The expurgation of "Rivers of Babylon" from a Ramallah stage also ought to serve as an object lesson -- a "teachable moment" -- to U.S. presidents, past and present:  A two-state solution is unattainable -- a cruel mirage -- as long as even "moderate" Palestinian leaders refute any and all historic Jewish ties to the land of their ancestors over a span of some 3,000 years -- even as far back as a half millennium before Jews sat and wept "by the rivers of Babylon."
Palestinians are hosting an international arts festival this week -- with performances in Ramallah and other major West Bank cities.  Among the performing artists was the Boney M disco group, known for its world-famous "Rivers of Babylon" song.

But before the singers could mount the stage in Ramallah, they were told that "Rivers of Babylon" was out.  Why?  Because according to an Associated Press report, festival officials would not countenance lyrics about Jewish longing and ties to biblical Israel.

To be precise, these are the words that are verboten in Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank:

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

"Yeah, we wept, when we remembered Zion"

This censorship, mind you, did not occur under Hamas rule in Gaza, but in Ramallah, the "capital" of the Palestinian Authority, recognized as a trustworthy "moderate" peace partner by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.

Maizie Williams, the lead singer of the Boney M group, said the song was banned because organizers deemed it "inappropriate." 

"We were a bit disappointed that we could not do it, because we know that everybody loves the song no matter what," she said.

But it shouldn't come as a shock why such seemngly innocent lyrics couldn't be heard in Ramallah, why they're impermissible in Fatahland, where Palestinian leaders from Abbas on down stoutly deny historical Jewish ties to the Holy Land.  This, after all, is a song that evokes Jewish connections to the land dating back some 2,500 years.  And not only does it refer to the Jews' relatively brief exile in Babylon but also to their memories of hundreds of years of Jewish sovereignty in Zion before the Babylonian exile.

The Boney M song takes its words from Psalm 137, which is even more explicit about Jewish attachment to Zion in general, and to Jerusalem in particular.

To wit the most famous and memorable verses of this psalm:

"If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skills,

"Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I remember thee not,

"If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy."

No wonder Palestinian officialdom in the West Bank couldn't allow "Rivers of Babylon" to be sung at the festival.  It resonates with a rich history of Jews as the most indigenous people in this part of the world and belies the Palestiian narrative that Jews are but colonial latecomers and implants in a land to which they have no historic claims.

The expurgation of "Rivers of Babylon" from a Ramallah stage also ought to serve as an object lesson -- a "teachable moment" -- to U.S. presidents, past and present:  A two-state solution is unattainable -- a cruel mirage -- as long as even "moderate" Palestinian leaders refute any and all historic Jewish ties to the land of their ancestors over a span of some 3,000 years -- even as far back as a half millennium before Jews sat and wept "by the rivers of Babylon."

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