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Death toll in Gaza surpasses 28,000, posing a threat to Palestinian art, music and culture

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Wanees Zarour
Provided by Wanees Zarour
Wanees Zarour

Composer Wanees Zarour was born in Ramallah on the occupied West Bank. He has developed a career making music that transcends borders. He is currently the director of the Middle East Music Ensemble at The University of Chicago and is trying to preserve middle eastern music through his work.

Historically, music has served as a way for the Palestinian people to captivate their struggle. The song 'Salute to Gaza' and this folk medley from the Qanun Players of Gaza are examples of the long-enduring struggle for Palestinian liberation.

Meanwhile in Gaza, there have been over 28,000 Palestinians killed by the Israeli Defense Forces. Almost 70% of the dead are women and children. These killings are in response to the October 7 attacks by Hamas that resulted in the deaths of 1,200 Israelis.

There have been global calls for a ceasefire as Palestinians continue to be targeted and killed by the Israeli government. President Joe Biden has expressed frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, most recently calling his killings “over the top.” Simultaneously, Biden has sent millions of dollars in aid to Israel and continues to state his support.

The deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinians also signals the death of new art, music, inventions, and lives unexplored. The threat to Palestinian music and culture is at an all-time high as the population continues to be targeted.

Currently, more than 1.3 million people, or more than half of Gaza’s population, is seeking refuge in the city of Rafah, where Israel has begun targeting the densely populated area with airstrikes. Israel is being encouraged by several nations to not launch a full-scale ground invasion.

Social media has proven a powerful tool in capturing the suffering of the Palestinian people. Videos of deceased bodies, bereaved family members and missiles in the air have gained attention online and provided insight into the Israeli aggression.

What would it be like if 28,000 people from your city were gone? How has art historically helped capture the fight for Palestinian liberation?


Wanees Zarour is the Director of the Middle East Music Ensemble at The University of Chicago. He is an award-winning Palestinian-American composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist steeped in maqam and jazz music.

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255 or email thesource@tpr.org.

This interview will air on Tuesday February 13, 2024.

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