About a week ago the David Project co-produced a video, where a full cast of unpaid college students parodied the newest cannon of viral YouTube videos with “Sh*t people say about Israel.” The video depicts “college students” making generalizations about Israel, or asking naive questions, and closes with a standard hasbara line: Israel wants peace.
In the video, one brunette co-ed says, “I heard everyone there is in the army.” Then, twirling her hair follows up with “are you in the army?” Another sits with a friend eating from a Sabra container and asks, “is it Hamas or hummus?” Later, what appears to be a student giving a presentation in class says, “Israel uses disproportionate force against the Palestinians,” backed with a clip of, “Jews have no connection to the land of Israel.”
The purpose behind the statements and questions in the video is to demonstrate that people who support the Palestinian cause, are uninformed on Israel, its society and politics. At the end, the video concludes with a bunch of clips where confused looking people say “you mean Palestine?” and then the punchline:
‘No, we mean Israel. Because Israel wants peace. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Jews have been in Israel for over 3,000 years. Israel wants peace. Hamas doesn’t want peace. Peace, peace, peace, peace.’
Last fall the David Project created a department that trains college students in multimedia production. The program, Israel Video Advocacy Project was held in November in Baltimore, MD, where the hasbara group brought sixteen students together for a crash course in production. Dubbed as “video advocacy” in order to “create a positive atmosphere towards Israel on campus,” the David Project also provided each participant with “a flip camera and a USB wrist-band loaded with video-specific links and resources, as well as general Israel campus advocacy information.”
The program is in its pilot year, and “Sh*t people say about Israel” is the first video. (For a double-whammy of sexism and hasbara, check out “Shit Girls Say (Taglit Birthright Israel Parody.”
In early January comedian Franchesca Ramsey created the online video genre that “Sh*t people say about Israel” models. She produced what Colorlines calls a “popular and critical examination of race,” through her video “Shit White Girls Say…to Black Girls.” In the short, Ramsey, clad in a blond wig uses a voice that pitches the perfect imitation of “not trying to be racist” and being very racist, while asking a series of naive questions to the camera. What makes the video funny is that the perspective is from a black spectator and mocks the notion of a “post-racial” society.
People loved the videos and in days over a million viewed it. Young people also started making their own, which reflected their particular experience. “Shit white girls say…to Arabs,” reflecting growing Islamophobia and Orientalist attitudes, “Shit White Girls Say… To Brown (Desi/Indian) Girls,” reflecting widespread appropriation of Indian culture.
Though, not all of the videos engage in a constructive discussion of race and gender. In addition to the videos above, a series of well-made “Shit girls say” videos hit it big online, however in this series men dressed up as women, and depicted women as annoying, insecure and self-obsessed. As Samhita Mukhopadhyay writes at Feministling these videos further gender stereotypes rather than deconstruct them.
If Ramsey’s video is to explore the gaze of the oppressed, a more apropos video would be called, “Sh*t Zionists say to Palestinians.” However, no one has made that video yet.