Ballad of Saed Bannoura

Saed Bannoura is a friend of mine
But I’m lucky to know him, to be sure
He is from a land called Palestine
From the town of Beit Sahur
His house was a mile from where Jesus was born
And a mile from a military base
He grew up under occupation
Such a lovely town but such a terrifying place

When the First Intifada started Saed was facing off with tanks
So many of the youth then became martyrs
And Saed almost joined their ranks
He was running from a death squad
Soldiers shot him in the chest and in the back
They shot him six times altogether
But Saed said you guys just don’t have the knack

He wouldn’t die, he wouldn’t die
They tried hard to kill him
But he just spat in their eye
He wouldn’t die, he wouldn’t die, he wouldn’t die

A soldier came and kicked him to turn him over
A blow that broke four of his bones
A local doctor ran to try to help him
The soldiers said you leave him alone
It was hours before they took him
To hospital where he got surgery
But after they cut out half his lung
And patched him back together most sloppily


To stop the intifada
They tried different strategies
First they tried packing the prisons
Then they tried brutalilty
Neither one of these things worked
So they tried assassination
But now he’s sitting right in front of me
Working at his station

Yes they tried to kill Saed Bannoura
And they succeeded with so many more
But now Saed is a citizen of Portland
My neighbor, by the Willamette River shore
And now Saed is a journalist
Reporting from his wheelchair
Though twenty years ago he took six bullets
Which was quite a lot more than his share


I wrote the song on the occasion of my friend Saed’s birthday. Saed is a friend as well as a hero of mine. The song tells some very skeletal bits of the story. As a young communist and organizer of the First Intifada in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Saed showed up to a demonstration in the Beit Sahour/Bethlehem area of the West Bank of Palestine, where he grew up. Instead of the demo he was expecting, there were mostly sketchy-looking guys hanging around, which he discovered were undercover Israeli police. With no provocation, they shot him 6 times, nearly killing him. They let him lie in a pool of his own blood for a long time, threatening to shoot a Palestinian doctor who tried to come to his aid. Eventually they drove him off, not to a hospital, but to a military base. After spending some time there, they eventually took him to a hospital, where an Israeli surgeon did an unimpressive job of patching him up. He lived, though full of shrapnel and scars, and paralyzed from the waist down. He continues to be an activist, primarily by running the Independent Middle East Media Center. These days he lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.