Peace and Protest in Pop Culture

By Alyssa Kristeller


In the age of lockdowns, social distancing, and masks, creativity is still finding ways to flourish. The political and social climate of the Middle East seems to influence all forms of art – from music to style – and artists are using their products and talents as a means of commentary. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube are common channels of artistic expression and political activism for creators and fans alike.


Welcoming a New Peace in Song

The signing of the Abraham Accords earlier this year opened both Israelis and Arabs to the beginning of political, security, and economic collaboration between the Israeli government and its neighbors. Singers Waleed Al-Jasim of the U.A.E and Elkana Marziano of Israel sparked the beginning of artistic collaboration between their respective countries with their new song “Welcome.”


Listeners from all over the world can appreciate and identify with the song’s lyrics in English, Hebrew, and Arabic expressing messages of peace, such as through the line “you are my friend far away, far away,” followed by “I hear you pray far away, far away.”1 Additionally, its music video features scenes from both Dubai and Tel Aviv, taped separately by the singers who collaborated through the internet.2 The video, which was published on YouTube in late September, 2020, amassed over a million views within a week of its publication. The singers are already planning a live concert together once the coronavirus pandemic ends.3


In separate interviews with Al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based and Saudi-owned news channel, and The Times of Israel, both singers expressed their enthusiasm for the song as well as their hope for a future of peace between their countries.


Protesting in Style

The Israeli clothing brand Adish (Hebrew for ‘apathetic’) takes modern day streetwear trends to the political scene. It was founded in 2016 by two young Israelis, Amit Luzon and Eyal Eliyahu, who were inspired by popular brands such as Supreme and Palace to create a label from their own region.4 “Why should I wear a shirt that represents New York?” asked Eliyahu in an interview with Haaretz. He cited a similar question as the inspiration for starting the brand: “Why isn’t there a company we like that comes from here?”5


While Adish products are commonly sold through high-end fashion retailers in Europe such as Farfetch, Printemps, and Dover Street Market, it isn’t simply a flashy label. The brand’s founders partner with about 60 Palestinian women embroiderers living in the occupied territories. Each piece features traditional ‘tatreez’ (Arabic for ‘embroidery’), as well as a label denoting the item as “made in the Palestinian Territories” and the embroiderer’s name in Arabic.6 Luzon and Eliyahu say they were inspired to make a political statement upon their first visit to the West Bank to meet with their future business partners.


“You understand that your family and your home is an insane privilege,” Eliyahu explained in an interview with Haaretz. “You learn to see there’s another side that doesn’t have those things.”7


While they have received positive and negative reactions from both Israelis and Palestinians, the brand continues to vocalize its goal to serve “as a statement for the indignation of the current social climate in the Middle East and the hope for change.”8 On their Instagram, you can find posts highlighting not only t-shirts with hand-embroidery from the Dheisheh refugee camp and hoodies woven with Majdalawi fabric in Gaza, but also statements in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and victims of police brutality.


Getting Creative with Diplomacy

The Middle East is in a period of transition. In addition to the peace deals, the challenge of containing and slowing the spread of the coronavirus and international factors such as travel restrictions and security threats from Iran impact the lives and work of people throughout the region. Art imitates life, and people find a way to express themselves and their beliefs and hopes through art, music, fashion, film, and other forms of culture. By using art as a tool of collaboration with others, individual activity in international relations may become more accessible to those outside the traditional arena of diplomacy.


Maybe all it takes is a little creativity and a dream.



Works Cited

  1. Waleed Aljasim and Elkana Marziano, “Welcome”, 2020. Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R0TyCbKaIU

  2. Judd, Emily “‘My friend far away’: UAE Israel singers unite for song in first music collaboration”, 2020. Al Arabiya, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/10/07/-My-friend-far-away-UAE-Israel-singers-unite-for-song-in-first-music-collaboration

  3. Judd, “‘My friend far away’: UAE Israel singers unite for song in first music collaboration’”, 2020.

  4. Choufan, Liroy “This Israeli Fashion Brand is Bringing Palestinian Embroidery to the World’s Top Stores”, 2020. Haaretz, https://www.haaretz.com/life/.premium.MAGAZINE-this-israeli-fashion-brand-brings-palestinian-embroidery-to-the-world-s-top-stores-1.9261189?v=1603843494146

  5. Choufan, “This Israeli Fashion Brand is Bringing Palestinian Embroidery to the World’s Top Stores”, 2020.

  6. Choufan, “This Israeli Fashion Brand is Bringing Palestinian Embroidery to the World’s Top Stores”, 2020.

  7. Choufan, “This Israeli Fashion Brand is Bringing Palestinian Embroidery to the World’s Top Stores”, 2020.

  8. Adish Studios, “About”. https://www.adishstudios.com/en/company/about/main/

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