He might as well have been a hip hop star. Not just any, but the kind once revered for dispensing with ‘conscious‘ knowledge,  like Public Enemy. Who would have ever consigned such a fate to a 94 year-old French Holocaust survivor, the title of whose best-selling book graces this mural, together with an image of the author.

Predating, by a matter of months, the anti-capitalist demonstrations that have swept across Europe since last Spring, Stéphane Hessel’s 30 page pamphlet-equivalent takes particular aim at Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. Denounced by rightist members of France’s Jewish establishment, Hessel has nonetheless survived, his book helping give voice, if not language (Spain’s Indignados, anyone?) to Europe’s leftwing revival.

Hence, the invocation of hip hop. Few book titles better summarize the response listeners have made to this little heard rap by Majede Najar, an Arab-Canadian teen. Reciting her own verses in front of a computer, Najar’s lyrics conjure up the most profound horror. The kind one associates with the barbarism of the Arab-Israeli conflict, at its absolute worst. As seen through the eyes of a child, with an inexpensive sequencing program, that is.

One of the reasons Hessel’s book has touched so many people is because it succeeds in tuning into a zeitgeist defined by compositions like this. Listen up – with care.

Photograph courtesy of Thierry Ehrmann. Published under a Creative Commons license.