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Hit French rap album praises intifada

PARIS, June 30 (JTA) — Tune in to the leading French rock music station, Skyrock, and you probably won’t have to wait long to hear a track from the album “Carved in the Rock.” The album, by the rap group Sniper, was released at the end of May and has been ranked as high as number three in the official sales charts compiled by France’s National Union of Recording Publishers. It also is the most requested album on Skyrock, the country’s most popular station among young people. Those figures worry some French Jews, since the album contains a song called “Stone Thrower,” dedicated to Palestinian youth fighting Israel in the intifada. According to many critics, the song goes beyond expressions of solidarity with the Palestinians, veering into direct propaganda and incitement. For example, lead singer DJ Boudj attacks the media for “talking about” Palestinian “parents who send their kids into battle.” “What would you do if they killed your father, destroyed your house?” the song asks. “I speak for me, Umhak Allah. I would go and make carnage.” Later in the song, the message is even more direct: “Bare hands face an army ready to kill; to blow yourself up is just resistance.” At times the lyrics seem almost conciliatory, expressing regret at the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and referring to Jews living in peace with their Muslim “cousins” in North Africa before and since the creation of the State of Israel. Sniper’s songwriters apparently were aware of the criticism their words might engender, even trying to pre-empt the reaction: “Contradict the Zionists and you pass for an anti-Semite in two seconds,” one line reads. The album also contains a section where the band teams up with other rappers from the Paris region in a number titled “Panam All Starz.” One line in the tune, rapped by a singer known as Rim K, is unmistakable both for the singer’s attempt to attain street credibility and for its anti-Semitism. Translated into English from the heavy slang of the Paris suburbs, the line reads: “I come out of an urban place. I don’t live like no Yehud” — Arabic for Jew — “nor like no Hollywood starlet.” Despite the attempt to come across as edgy, “Carved in the Rock” was produced under France’s East-West label, which is owned by Warner Music, an arm of the AOL Time Warner media conglomerate. A spokesperson for Warner’s French division said the producer of “Carved in the Rock,” Johnny Trognee, “would maintain his position of not answering journalists’ questions regarding the content of the album.” The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples — known by its French acronym, MRAP — issued a strong reaction. The organization is widely respected among young North Africans in the working-class suburbs of the big cities, though the group has been criticized by Jewish groups who regard it as generally soft on anti-Semitism. When the lyrics were read to him, Mouloud Aounit, MRAP’s general secretary, told JTA, “of course they’re anti-Semitic.” “This is extremely worrying when we know the influence these groups have with young people. It is unacceptable that Skyrock allows these appeals to hate to be broadcast,” Aounit said. Sniper and Rim K have “crossed a new boundary and legitimized anti-Semitism among youths in the suburbs,” he said. “The effects of this are catastrophic.” Aounit asked to be sent the full text of “Stone Thrower,” the line from “Panam All Starz” and the text of an interview Rim K gave the Paris-based news Web site, Challenged recently by Proche-Orient on the use of the term “Yehud,” Rim K said that not living “like a Jew” meant “not living like a star.” “A Jew in France has a certain stamp. They dress stylish, they do university,” he told the Web site. The League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, a mainly Jewish group, plans to hold a meeting of its legal committee early next month to study the text of the songs. Tuline Kontente, the head of the League’s legal service, told JTA that “we are examining the file to see whether there is a case to be made for incitement to racial hatred.” “If a singer can say things like this, what’s to stop kids in school saying the same things,” Kontente asked. Joseph Hattab, a science teacher in a suburb of Paris, wrote in a piece for Collectif 112, a Jewish pressure group based in the working-class suburbs around Paris, that anti-Semitic lyrics in rap songs are part of a wider culture of violence. “This culture of violence and intolerance of the other is found in the analysis and the codes of words used by certain rap groups,” Hattab wrote. Moreover, “these rappers were now coming under the influence of Muslim fundamentalism in a vast world organization charged with directing this new form of cultural identity in our suburbs,” he added. But the lyrics didn’t seem to bother some Jewish youngsters hanging out near a Paris subway station. “Listen, the song title is there to sell the record. It’s just a street-cred thing,” David Boutboul told JTA. Boutboul’s friend, who asked that his name not be used, agreed. “Do you think the Beurs know the words?” he said, using the slang term for youth of North African origin. “Only the Jews care enough to learn them.”