Although the Israelis and Palestinians continue to fight in the Middle East, WhiteFlag Project, a musical group composed of both Israelis and Palestinians, showed that music trumps violence during its visit to Oberlin on Dec. 8.
According to its website, “WhiteFlag Project is a core group of Arab and Jewish musicians, motivated by the desire to continue this unique musical dialogue and invite other likewise-minded musicians from all over the world to help create peace through their music.” Many musicians in the group hail from Gaza and Tel Aviv, two locations heavily affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Hosted by the Oberlin Zionists, Oberlin Peace Activists League and J Street U, this event included both musical performances and a workshop. During the workshop, audience members broke into small groups and were encouraged to share visions for the future of Israel and Palestine. Although individuals were initially shy, timid introductions quickly grew into animated discussions.
Mark Smulian, a producer, vocalist and bass player in WhiteFlag, explained the group’s origins, saying, “WhiteFlag has been together now for 11 years, since … about 20 or 30 musicians got permission to come into Gaza from Israel to have a jam session.” From that jam session, six musicians decided to continue working together, eventually
forming WhiteFlag. Although not all of the band members were able to attend the event, Aeron Shneyer (guitar), Zaher Abdul Jawad (Oud and ethnic string instruments) and Gani Tamir (vocals) accompanied Smulian onstage.
The incomplete line-up is representative of greater challenges facing the band. According to Smulian, WhiteFlag has difficulty meeting regularly because Jawad, who currently lives in Gaza, needs a permit to attend band practices in Israel.
Despite this obstacle, Smulian is pleased with the positive effects of WhiteFlag. “The main thing that has came out of [WhiteFlag] for us is an understanding … of how powerful the music was as a force to enable us to work and communicate together.”