The song "Long Live Palestine and Down with Zionism", known in Swedish as "Leve Palestina", with its impassioned lyrics, took to social media. (Photo: Reuters)

From there, on the Scandinavian peninsula in northern Europe, and from the cold Swedish city of Gothenburg, the song set off that ignited the hearts of people across Europe and the United States with enthusiasm they might not have known in decades. In mass rallies across several Western cities, demonstrators chanted the song "Long Live Palestine and Down with Zionism," known in Swedish as "Leve Palestina," in rejection of the brutal Zionist attacks on the Gaza Strip, which have so far killed more than 12,30 martyrs and left more than <>,<> wounded.

One of the clips of that song on the platform "Tik Tok" garnered about two million views in just one week, as well as repeated in hundreds of clips, which made Western media and some media platforms describe the song as "an icon of Western protests in support of Palestine, and a new international anthem against Zionism" (1).

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In one of the sections of the song, which begins with the cry "Long live Palestine and Down with Zionism", and tells the story of the struggle of the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation, the song tells how the Palestinians began to throw stones first and then fired rockets at their enemies, as the whole world knows their struggle to live a free Palestine, as the song describes. Therefore, when young protesters from the Swedish Social Party sang the song on International Workers' Day 2019, the song was accused of being "anti-Semitic" because it included the phrase "Down with Zionism", and the Swedish parliament even held a special session to discuss the content of the song. At the time, the author of the song, "George Toutari", denied that his song was anti-Semitic, stressing that it calls for urging the world to "get rid of the system of controlling others by force of arms," noting that the message of the song is that "the Palestinian has the right to his homeland even if the Jews live there, and not under the rule of a colonial state as is the case now."

Although the song was banned in Sweden and Europe, it continued to echo as an expression of Swedish solidarity with the Palestinian cause, but also an expression of rejection of colonialism, the system of apartheid, genocide and all issues of national liberation, which made it return to the world music scene after nearly four decades of composing. Who is George Tuttari who spread the Palestinian cause in Sweden? And what is the story behind that song?

Palestine is my country

After leaving Palestine for Sweden during the 1967 war, author and singer Georges Toutari, who was born in Nazareth, occupied Palestine, began establishing a new art form aimed at conveying the reality of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinians' right to their land to an audience that "knew nothing about the Palestinians, and at a time when Arab embassies were doing nothing for the Palestinian cause." Therefore, Tootari, together with his Swedish leftist university colleagues, who were interested in the Palestinian cause, decided to form a musical ensemble in 1972 called "KOFIA". Between the founding of the band and the outbreak of the First Intifada in 1987, Keffiyeh released four albums, three CDs and one tape, all self-financed without relying on a production company, as Tottari recounted in a documentary.

In Keffiyeh's second album titled "My Homeland's Land", released in 1978, the song "Long Live Palestine" came out for the first time, which sparked widespread controversy in Sweden at the time, before sweeping social media platforms about 45 years later and becoming an icon of rejection of Zionism in the world. However, "Long Live Palestine" was not the only song sung by "Keffiyeh" with such explicit support for the Palestinian cause, as there is a song sung by the band in its first album "Palestine is My Land" issued in 1976, whose message showed bold resistance, as "Keffiyeh" opened her career with the song "Fire on the Zionists, imperialists and reactionaries", and used a sharp musical and rhythmic mixture between the oud and the Greek "Bozuki". The lyrics in Swedish and Arabic came in courageous defiance of both the Israeli occupation regime and its European government allies, after the Swedish government rolled out the red carpet for Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

To the same musical rhythm came the second song, "Pansar och Canoner", which tells the story of a woman whose farmer husband joined the guerrilla groups and decided to liberate the occupied territories in a "popular revolution" in all of Palestine, whose drums can be heard in the background of the song.

The songs of the "Keffiyeh" band are not only characterized by their strong rhythm that combines oriental Arabic music derived from Palestinian folklore with Western musical instruments, but also characterized by an enthusiastic storytelling style, each song tells a story and presents an integrated cultural image and a historical context rooted in the earth, in the rest of the album's songs, the rhythm records the voice of a Palestinian refugee woman living in famine conditions in refugee camps in Jordan after the 1948 Nakba, and despite the famine, "um Ali" to the rhythm of drums and flutes recalls how she encouraged her children to Confronting the imperialists and Zionists.

In other songs, "Keffiyeh" commemorates the 1976 massacre of Tel al-Zaatar in Lebanon against the Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut by the Israeli-allied Maronite Phalange Party, as well as the 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre. The song "Artillery and Tanks" (Dom Dödar Våra Kamrater) referred to above, tells about the killing of comrades and the bombing of houses, although the singer swears in his song that he will force the enemies to recognize the people of Palestine, and then consoles himself, saying: "I love the land of my homeland, Palestine. I long for stones, mountains and valleys."

The European scene in Gothenburg was different from the spirit of oriental music that Georges Toutari brought and tried to merge with the Western musical rhythm, but the theme of "despair and loss" that colored all Palestinian art after the Nakba reshaped Palestinian folklore from love and spinning songs to patriotic songs that lament the land and lost loved ones. This deep sadness helped to mix instruments, sounds and activism, making the keffiyeh a wide left-wing audience in Sweden, especially in the left-wing cultural centers where the keffiyeh performed its concerts, where flute player Bengt Carlsson recalls: "When we came to these concerts, they would provide people with percussion instruments and say play with us, people can participate in the concert, which is very nice" (2).

Engaging the audience in singing has become a hallmark of the keffiyeh band, whose songs are clouded by enthusiastic shouts that cannot be easily removed from the ears of the audience, as we can hear in the song "Daughter of Palestine" (Palestinas Dotter), where the singer shouts: "No, no, no, we will not kneel". The album ends with "Baladi", a song that focuses on the right of return to historic Palestine: Deir Yassin, Galilee, Jaffa, Haifa and Acre, a finale that evokes the lyrical poetry of Palestine's cultural folklore.

My homeland's land

In the second album released in 1978, "Keffiyeh" focused on singing about Palestinian women, steadfast refugees, fighting fedayeen, fertility of the land and the towns of occupied Palestine, but the first song from the album, which was released under the title "My Homeland's Land", came from the city of Galilee with fertile soil, greenery and olives, which is "Sång om Galiléen", where the Kufic band was keen to put the Palestinian cause at the heart of the global liberation struggle, while explaining the details of the Palestinian cause to a people who knew nothing about Palestine, and Tottari explains: "I lived in Sweden and decided that it was my duty to help Swedes understand our cause. Our songs told stories of historical events from the voices of mothers who lost their sons and daughters and everything."

In the song "Nasaret", "Keffiyeh" puts the lyrics of a Palestinian from 1948 to the music of the oud, with side responses from the flute to the singing of George, who tells the story of the Palestinian people during the Nakba, and his personal story about the city he left in 1967, and then Totari suddenly moves to an enthusiastic melody as if he noticed after a sad nap, singing: "And we will save you, O Palestine, with your wedding on the day of liberation." The album ends with a strong message that summarizes the story of the struggle of the entire Palestinian people, as if they explain their goal after telling their story, so the song "Leve Palestina" came to be an enthusiastic cry expressing the Palestinian struggle, and a key element in all the leftist pro-Palestine protests in Sweden at the end of the twentieth century, before returning to the scene again with the current Zionist aggression on Gaza.

Loyal to my family and loved ones

While Beirut was burning with shells by the Phalange militias and their allies and Palestinians in refugee camps were subjected to heinous massacres under the auspices of the Zionist army in Sabra and Shatila, "Keffiyeh" released her third album in 1988 entitled "Mawal for My Family and My Loved Ones", and as is clear from the title, the album tells the entire story about the life of the Palestinian among his family and loved ones, his joy at the first rain, his dance on the famous Palestinian dabke, and the work of women in embroidering well-known Palestinian dresses.

In the song "Klappa dina händer", Totari builds these images from the life of the Palestinian, and his interest in life as much as he can, and during the song the voice of the violin gradually rises as if it is the beating heart of Palestinian life. The stories told in the songs of "Keffiyeh" are similar to those written by the novelist and leader "Ghassan Kanafani": in the song "Bomba inte mer", Tottari depicts boys who play together in peace, build new lives and homes for future generations, but are killed under brutal bombardment that assassinated their dreams.

Tottari acknowledges this similarity between his songs and Kanafani's stories: "I got to know Kanafani's work closely in Al-Hadaf magazine. Of course, I was deeply moved by what I read and reacted to." Then the shadows of Lebanon's massacres appear in the album "Keffiyeh" through the song "Souda Lebanon", which tells through the voices of Palestinians on the battlefronts what they saw of the brutal massacres: "The bombs came from all directions, from the West from the East, they want to burn everything that exists, we will fight with all our courage, we will triumph over fascism and Zionism, we will stand against Satan and all his collaborators."

Kufiyeh's fourth and final album was released in 1988 during the First Intifada, and unlike previous albums, the songs of this album were recorded with Arabic lyrics only, as if it came as a postcard for those who remained in Palestine despite all the suffering, oppression and extermination they are subjected to daily. The album also contained songs with clips dedicated to Gaza, Jerusalem and the Galilee, and songs that incited the struggle and popular revolution. Through music and songs, Georges Toutari succeeded in bringing the fighting spirit of the Palestinian cause to the heart of Europe, without getting involved in dragging his cause into a discourse of "non-violence." He has succeeded in placing his cause at the heart of national liberation issues, linking the Palestinian cause to the global struggle against imperialism in Vietnam and Iran, and most importantly, providing a real definition of the Palestinian cause in his diaspora in Sweden.

Tottari wrote more than 50 Swedish and Arabic songs about his native Nazareth, Ramallah and Deir Yassin, with lyrics stemming from a deep Palestinian wound, and although Tottari stopped producing new albums 35 years ago, his artistic production and the production of his band "Keffiyeh" still resonates in the fields of the world to express his songs about the spirit of the Palestinian cause.



  • Old Swedish Song 'Leve Palestina' Echoes Global Solidarity on TikTok.
  • Leve Palestina": Story of a Palestinian-Swedish Band Kofia.
  • Kofia: A Revolution Through Music (full film)
  • Source : Al Jazeera