73. Palestine [aka Prisoner of Akka, aka Prisoner of Acre]
Written by Unknown
Performed by Sijen 3aka
Hear it via http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Sijen+3aka&search_type=&aq=f



During our research we wanted to find music recorded in Israel/Palestine which, like the songs of Yothu Yindi and Dan Hapeta, spoke against the idea of the indigene’s land becoming the occupiers Promised Land.

We wondered when the Palestinian recording industry started and how Palestinian artists, writers, producers and label owners, fared in the years between the first wave of Jewish migration after the First World War and the transformation of Palestine into the State of Israel. We asked ourselves, how did these events shape the existence and output of Palestinian music; what was the sonic response to the events of this period of Palestinian and Israeli history?

And then we came across a text by scholar David A McDonald, called ‘Performing Palestine: Resisting the Occupation and Reviving Jerusalem’s Social and Cultural Identity through Music and the Arts’, which was published in the online journal Jerusalem Quarterly. McDonald tells us that ‘For at least the last 70 years, dating back to the first known archival field recordings of music in Palestine, we find that music and musical performance have represented a central modality for Palestinian collective identity formation and resistance to colonial occupation. Indigenous musical performance has served important social and cultural roles within local, regional, and national formations.’ [1]

Field recordings’: that got us thinking about ethnography. We wondered who might have been making such recordings, who they would have recorded -- and who and what they might have decided not to record (no pop music, probably). We wondered where we might find such recordings and what they might reveal about their time and location.

We were thinking of going to the National Sound Archive to see what they have that might fit McDonald’s description. McDonald’s text is worth reading in its entirety for its overview of the history of changes in Palestinian cultural practice during the occupation – he also got us thinking about whether other kinds of excavation of Palestinian culture were taking place in Palestine at least seventy years ago.

That question took us to the late 1920s and early 1930s. It led us to the work of Chester C McCowan, author of  ‘Archaeology in Palestine in 1930’, published in 1931 by  The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research:

As in the years immediately preceding, archaeological activities in Palestine have been many in 1930. A dozen important city sites, pre-prehistoric stations, have been under excavation [and] investigation. Newspaper canards have not been wanting. The most startling discovery was made by an Australian newspaper, in which ‘an Orientalist’ published the translation of tablets found in Bethlehem recording an ancient treaty of universal peace.

America again takes a slight lead in excavation. Four expeditions are British, one is Italian, five are American, and one is a joint British-American enterprise. Miss Garrod, Mr. Turville Petre, and M. Nueville are concerned with prehistory, the latter two attempting to unravel the puzzle of the dolmen. Sir Flinders Petrie and Pere Mallon are on the border between Neolithic and Early bronze. Professors Grant and Albright are working on material which runs from the time of the Exile back to the end of Early Bronze. Mr. Guy is at present concerned chiefly with the Israelite period, Early Iron I and II. Mr. Fitzgerald has material running from Early Bronze to Byzantine rimes. Professor Garstang had been dealing chiefly with Middle and Late Late Bronze strata. At Jerash Dr. Fisher and the writer are dealing with the Roman and Byzantine periods. Signor Botticina at Amman is covering practically the same period, and also the Arab.’ [2]

While Chester and his colleagues were busy digging up Palestine, they may have heard about a series of events that took place in another of Palestine’s historical sites, events that were to do with architecture, religion, migration and the possession of land.

In 1929 the fifth major wave of Zionist immigration to Palestine began. [3] That August in Jerusalem there were violent clashes following Zionist demonstrations and Palestinian counter demonstration near the Western Wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the second oldest mosque in Sunni Islam after the Ka’ba in Mecca, and is third in holiness and importance after the mosques in Mecca and Medina [4]. The wall also has immense significance to Jews and Christian, among whom it is known as the Wailing Wall; the site of the mosque is also home of the Holy Temple of the Jewish faith.

Learning Each Other’s Historical Narrative: Palestinians and Israelis’, an educational project initiated by the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East and aimed at 9th and 10th grade school students, documents the aftermath of the demonstrations. The project draws on the official bulletin of the colonial Palestine government and a Palestine government newspaper report from August 25, 1929:

The Jerusalem area: The situation is quiet in the Old City and in the heart of the New City (outside the walls). Some isolated Jerusalem suburbs were threatened by a small number of Arab snipers. No significant losses in persons or property occurred in the suburbs; the Talpiot quarter was evacuated without loss of life. In all areas of the city, the threatened suburbs and the isolated Jewish colonies, there were patrols of British infantry, armoured vehicles and Air Force soldiers.

These patrols will stay in these areas for the time being. Injuries to date were as follows: Muslims: 10 dead, 21 seriously injured, 32 lightly injured. Christians: 3 dead, 1 seriously injured, 15 lightly injured. Jews: 14 dead, 37 seriously injured, 66 lightly injured.

Hebron: Yesterday there was a severe attack on the Jewish quarter which resulted in heavy loss of life. It appears that the number of those killed is at least forty-five Jews and eight Muslims, and the number of wounded at least fifty-nine Jews and ten Muslims. A strong detachment of British Air Force soldiers and British police restored order. This detachment will stay in Hebron for the time being. Jewish inhabitants evacuated Jewish neighbourhoods. They are currently residing at the police stations.

Nablus: On Saturday morning a crowd of Arabs attempted to force their way into a police station. However, they were repulsed. Two of them were seriously injured and eight were lightly injured.

Beisan: A clash took place yesterday between Arabs and Jews residing in Beisan. Two Jews were seriously injured and eight were lightly injured. Order was quickly restored. Detachments of the TransJordan Border Force are stationed now at Al-Majami’ Bridge, Beisan and Safad.

Safad: Some tension yesterday and this morning in relations between Arabs and Jews. The TransJordan Border Force detachment stationed at Safad was reinforced by relief forces from the British Police from Haifa. The situation has improved.

Haifa: A small number of Arabs forced their way into the Hadar Hakarmel. The police repulsed them without any difficulty. The situation is calm […]’ [5]

In October the General Palestinian Conference convened in Jerusalem to discuss the situation. In January 1930 the League of Nations formed an international committee to investigate the clashes. In Britain two months later, the Shaw Committee released its finding on the clashes. There were further reports from Britain that year: the Hope-Simpson report on immigration announced that Zionist immigration was under-sourced and the UK Colonies’ Minister issued a White Paper incorporating the findings of the Shaw and Hope-Simpson reports. [6]

In June Mohammad Jamjoum, Atta Al Zeir, and Foad Hijazi, were executed at Acre Prison in Palestine by the British colonial authorities for their role in what would become popularly known (by Palestinians) as the 1929 uprising aka the Al-Buraq uprising, ‘thereby creating the first and most revered of Palestine martyrs.’ [7]

The Palestine newspaper reported the lynching as follows: ‘Execution of Fouad Hijazi, Ata Al-Zeer, and Muhammad Jamjoun. A result of the Balfour Declaration policy. Let the blood of those martyrs, the righteous children of Palestine, water the roots of the tree of Arab independence. Commemorate this day every year.’ [8]

Regarding the song, Prisoner of Acre, we’re not certain if the name of the singer is as we’ve spelled it, or whether the title is correct. We found the song on YouTube, where it was posted by one mballan. mballan also transcribed the song and described it as a ‘traditional Palestinian song lamenting the loss of three great men in 1930- Fouad Hejazi, Mohamad Jamjoum, and Atta Al Zeir. R.I.P. Here is a VERY ROUGH translation of the words, even though I do not believe such a beautiful song can be translated into a language like English.’ [9]

Here is mballan’s translation of Prisoner of Acre:


Three men and three verdicts, the accusation: love of Palestine, the ruling judgement: execution.
O Atta Al Zeir, Foud Hejazi, O Jamjoum, O three shining stars!
You lit up the land of my nation, and from Akka came the funerals for three doves,
emerging from the darkness and spreading my country with rays of light.

They were three men, racing towards death, in front of them the deadly predicament of the oppressor.
And they met it with bravery and courage as great as the area of the country they were defending.

O the darkness of the prison (of Akka) is too much, when will it be over for these brave men?
The day is Tuesday the 3rd, O My Land (Palestine)
Answer…who will race to give his life and blood for you?

From Akka’s Prison came the funerals, Mohammad Jamjoun and Fouad Hejazi,
Mourn for them O my people mourn,
The grief of the year has come.
[Repeat verse]

(Church bells toll)

Mohammad Jamjoum with his will, Fouad Hejazi with his love of righteousness, look what they offered!
Only to have the judgement of the Oppressor execute them!
[Repeat verse]

And Say O Mohammad ‘I am the first among you!’, my voice O Atta is in your honour,
and say O Hejazi ‘I am the first among you’, that is the strength of their honour.
[Repeat verse]

(Church bells toll)

O my dear loving mother the time has come, with all the nations of the world to witness,
they called Fouad, O Fouad, they cannot even say farewell!
[Repeat verse]

They call to Atta, O Atta you are the glory of men and bravery,
he attacked the garrison with sweeping passion!
[Repeat verse]

(Church bells toll)

O my brother Yousef, and you my mother, do not (act in revenge) my sister lest you fall into demise.
For the sake of this country I sacrificed my blood, it is all for you O Palestine.
[Repeat verse]

These three died the death of lions! Stay steadfast O mother, stay resilient.
For this nation (of Palestine) we give up our lives, our bodies, and our souls!
And the crown of freedom and victory sits waiting for us!
[Repeat verse]

(Bells toll)

On this day of Tuesday these young men will hang, the people of the brave Atta and Fouad,
they do not fear torture nor death!!
[Repeat verse]


We should point out that we have yet to discover when or for which record company this song was recorded, or for that matter where it was recorded - was it made in exile? We sent a message to mballan in the hope that he might have the information to hand, and have yet to receive a response. It would be interesting to know whether Prisoner of Acre forms part of the canon of any ethnographic – or musicological – research project undertaken in Palestine during the 1930s or thereafter.



[1] ‘Performing Palestine: Resisting the Occupation and Reviving Jerusalem’s Social and Cultural Identity through Music and the Arts’, by David A. McDonald, www.jerusalemquarterly.org

[2] ‘Archaeology in Palestine in 1930’, by Director Chester C McCowan, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 41 (Feb., 1931), pp. 2-18 Published by: The American Schools of Oriental Research, via www.jstor.org

[3] Palestine-Net: Chronology of Palestinian History www.palestine-net.com

[4] www.atlastours.net

[5] ‘Learning Each Other’s Historical Narrative: Palestinians and Israelis’, by the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East P.O Box 7, Beit Jallah, LNA, March 2003. Say the authors, ‘This booklet gives both teachers and pupils the opportunity to learn the other’s narratives. It was designed so that on each page, in between the Palestinian and Israeli narratives, there is space for pupils to write their own comments. In December 2002 the teachers who helped develop the project began teaching the narratives to their 9th and 10th grade classes.’ (‘This project and publication of this book have been made possible by The Public Affairs Offices of the US Embassy, Tel Aviv, the US Consulate General, Jerusalem, The Wye River Foundation.’) www.vispo.com

[6] Palestine-Net: Chronology of Palestinian History. www.palestine-net

[7] www.alawda.org

[8] Learning Each Other’s Historical Narrative: Palestinians and Israelis, by the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East

[9] http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Sijen+3aka&search_type=&aq=f



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