Gazan who shot local version of Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ is not happy

In April, Gaza showed that it was "Happy." A local videographer helped the Palestinian enclave join the global trend of people dancing and smiling to the tune of Pharrell Williams' inexorably catchy song. In the video, ordinary Gazans dance, clap and goof around in various locales across the territory. It's sweet and utterly banal, which is part of the point of the whole phenomenon.

In an interview aired by NPR this morning, the videographer, Anas Hamra, explained that he was motivated to make the video to show the world that Gazans "still are humans" and that they can feel happy despite the dire conditions in the territory, which even before the current Israeli offensive faced crippling power cuts and fuel shortages, soaring unemployment, and the permanent impact of an Israeli- and Egyptian-authored blockade that restricts the movement of the 1.7 million Palestinians packed into the thin strip of land.

The other reason Hamra made the "Happy" video, he tells NPR, was to make the point that Gazans, too, "deserve to live."

In 2013, Gazans also produced a spoof video of "Gangnam Style," the viral hit by Korean pop star Psy. In "Gaza Style," Palestinians make fun of Gaza's various shortages and perform the song's famous "horse dance" while riding donkeys. (You can watch it below.)

Israel's Operation Protective Edge, which enters its third week, has led to about  800 deaths, the vast majority of them being Palestinian civilians. Israel claims it is targeting the Islamist militant group Hamas, which has fired thousands of rockets into Israeli territory, and is doing its utmost to avoid civilian casualties. But hundreds are still dying amid the siege.

An NPR journalist caught up with Hamra at the al-Shifa hospital, the strip's biggest medical facility and the main center where wounded and dead Palestinians have been taken during the conflict. He had spent 24 hours documenting the endless stream of casualties and encountered a friend who had lost his whole family, including his wife, mother and children. Hamra says he has to suppress his emotions: "Maybe we are becoming cold, but I have to," he tells NPR.

"Gaza hasn't been happy anymore since Israel declared what it called 'Operation Protective Edge'," wrote Hamra in a blog post July 11. "But, honestly, this is just an intensification of the occupation by the oppressor, against a free people who simply want to live in peace and harmony, and to live happily in beautiful Gaza."

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.
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