This article appeared April 4 on the World Music Network
Oday Khatib, the young Palestinian singer of Arabic classical music and protégé of Riverboat Records artist Ramzi Aburedwan, has been charged with stone-throwing, facing up to ten years in prison if he is convicted. Testimonials from around the world have been written in protest at the charge, from teachers and associates who know him, with many expressing a profound skepticism at the credibility of the charge.
Oday’s father, Jihad Khatib, claims that his son was arrested while waiting for a friend he was meeting for dinner, a victim of the indiscriminate nature of occupying forces in the West Bank. Talking to Musa Abuhashhash, a field worker for the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, Jihad noted that nearby some youths were throwing stones, ‘and when the soldiers chased the kids, it did not come to his mind that the soldiers would go for him. Otherwise he would have run away.’
Born and raised in the Al Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron, Oday had never been arrested before and had always been known for his singular dedication to music, gaining a reputation for his interpretations of Palestinian protest songs from an early age. ‘Oday is not interested in throwing stones or getting involved in this. Since he was nine years old he was interested only in music’, his father said.
As a teenager Oday became celebrated as the star singer of Aburedwan’s Ramallah-based Association Al Kamandjâti, an orchestra set up to provide access to music for Palestinian children under occupation in the West Bank. He has since toured internationally with a number of ensembles, including Al Kamandjâti, as well as participating in music education and outreach projects in Europe.
Julia Katarina, the British Mezzo-Soprano who put her opera career on hold to teach voice lessons at Al Kamandjâti for three years, was among many musicians from around to voice her support for Oday: ‘He is very generous with his art, and just loves singing beyond all else! He is a true singer, and I imagine the only way he is surviving prison is by singing. I hope he sings in the military court,’ Julia writes, because if Oday’s accusers can find ‘an ounce of humanity in their hearts, they will release him.’
Such a prospect appears unlikely, however; according to the author and blogger Sandy Tolan, in 2010 the conviction rate in military trials for such alleged offenses was about 399 out of 400, a figure accompanied by a growing clamour among settler communities in the West Bank to have stone-throwing treated as akin to live fire by the IDF.
Support Association Al Kamandjâti: http://www.alkamandjati.com/en/home/
Follow Sandy Tolan’s blog: http://ramallahcafe.com/
This article appeared on World Music Network