Ethel Cain’s Ethereal and Haunting New Song Is “Meant As a Prayer” for Palestinians

Ethel Cain has released a new song for Palestine, titled “من النهر,” which translates from Arabic to “From the River.”

It’s been roughly a year and a half since the singer dropped her debut studio album, Preacher’s Daughter, and her most recent release was 2023’s “Famous Last Words (An Ode to Eaters).” That changed on Wednesday when she released “من النهر” on Soundcloud. The nearly 10-minute song is atmospheric and bare, consisting solely of piano and Cain’s ethereal voice, punctuated by lingering silences.

In between wordless vocalizations, Cain sings, “Are you watching / there is nowhere left to go / Would I matter if I looked like someone you know / All your money and good deeds / Will not return my blood to me / From the river to the sea / Please do not forget me.”

The “American Teenager” singer also posted about the song to Instagram, writing, “30,000 Palestinians have been killed under Israel’s occupation since October 2023 and countless thousands more since the occupation began 75 years ago. Over a third of them were children.”

“While millions of Americans watched the Super Bowl, our government funded the assault on Raffah [sic], which was supposed to be the last refuge for Palestinians in Gaza,” Cain said in her caption. She added that the U.S. government “is complicit in a genocide, which is certainly nothing new for us as a country.”

Early this week, Israel launched airstrikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, killing over 100 Palestinians, according to CNN. According to Martin Griffiths, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, more than half of Gaza’s population is currently “crammed” into the city of Rafah, to which Palestinians have fled, as Israel had declared it a safe zone. Griffiths’ statement adds that “Military operations in Rafah could lead to a slaughter in Gaza. They could also leave an already fragile humanitarian operation at death’s door.”

In January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) refused to dismiss South Africa’s charge against Israel of genocide. The ICJ stopped short of calling for a ceasefire (despite mounting international calls for one) but issued a ruling ordering Israel to do everything it can to prevent further death, destruction, and any acts of genocide in Gaza. Israel’s military operations have killed more than 28,000 and wounded more than 67,000 Palestinians since Hamas’ October 7 attack in southern Israel that killed approximately 1,200 and took 250 hostages. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed and wounded since the ICJ issued its ruling late last month.

“There is no way to spin this that doesn’t make this a crime against humanity,” Cain said in her post. “The least we can do as individuals is exactly what Palestinians have asked of us; that we not turn a blind eye, and remember exactly what has happened and continues to happen to the people of Palestine. This song is meant as a prayer for them. God be with every Palestinian man, woman, and child.”

In December, hundreds of LGBTQ+ artists signed an open letter calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and pledging to boycott performances in Israel “until Palestinians are free.” (At the time of writing, Cain was not listed as one of the signatories.) LGBTQ+ people as a whole, both within Palestine and around the world, have been among the most outspoken voices calling for a ceasefire and freedom for the occupied territory.

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