Palestinian Spoken Word Poet Rafeef Ziadah Performs at Israeli Apartheid Week Lebanon
Rafeef Ziadah is a Palestinian performance poet and human rights activist based in London.
She is one of the founders of Israeli Apartheid Week internationally, a member of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott Initiative (PACBI) and serves on the secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions national committee.
On March 10, 2016, Rafeef performed to a full house at an Israeli Apartheid Week-Lebanon event held at the American University of Beirut.
The first time I heard of Rafeef was sometime in 2011 or 2012. I watched a YouTube video of her performing her powerful poem “We Teach Life, Sir,” which went viral within days of its release. But to watch Rafeef perform in person is an unforgettable experience. Her poetry demands to be heard. Her presence on stage. Her emotions. Her energy. Her living and breathing of each word she writes and utters. Wow!
At the poetry night at AUB, I audio recorded two poems she performed.
The first piece titled “Passport” revolves around the line: “Yesterday I put my hand up in a crowded room and swore an oath to the Queen and all her heirs” (which she pronounces “hairs”).
Rafeef spent most of her life undocumented. She was living in London when she was informed that she would get a passport. She had to fly back to Toronto to swear an oath to the Queen and all her hairs. I mean, heirs.
The second piece is her famed and imposing poem, “We Teach Life, Sir,” with which she brought the poetry night to a close. Rafeef wrote this poem during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008-2009. She was the spokesperson for the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign in Canada at the time. When a journalist asked her if the problem would be solved if Palestinians stopped teaching their children hate, the poem was her reply.