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Can we take ‘Avi does the Holy Land’ seriously?

Israel/Palestine
on 39 Comments

Avi does the Holy Land is a video blog with a provocative series of satirical videos about Avi, a fictionalized Canadian Jewish woman who travels to Israel on a birthright trip and falls in love with the place, or so she says. She’s hot to trot.

Screenshot: Packing for Birthright Avi can practically hear the mangled grunts of generations of Jews who died in the gas chambers calling out to her "Date a Jew".

Avi can practically hear the mangled grunts of generations of Jews who died in the gas chambers calling out to her “Date a Jew”.

It’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with 7 Tips to Get Right for Birthright, an indoctrinating video watching Avi as she packs for her trip to Israel. Avi shares a wealth of expressions. She can practically hear the mangled grunts of generations of Jews who died in the gas chambers calling out to her from beyond the grave “Date a Jew”:

In “Pride v Pinkwashing” Avi enjoys mingling with the crowd enthusiastically expressing “It’s so amazing that the birthplace of Hitler is now bringing forth hot gay men who love Israel with every inch of their sweaty hot dicks. I felt so proud to be in my homeland,” among other things.

During her day of fun in the sun Avi sits down with one of the “belly-aching leftist shitheads” — local Palestinian activist Rami Younis — he plays it straight and doesn’t share her enthusiasm for Israel’s free spirt. Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man interviewed Avi for +972 and reported some of her efforts ventured into “serious attempts at journalism.”

Shithead screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 8.04.38 PM

In Avi Does Tel Aviv Pride!! we learn “Germans feel they can make up for the Holocaust f’ing Jewish boys”. Has it ever occurred to you Netanyahu looks like a penis with a combover?

At The Forward Mira Sucharov asks “So is Avi Other? Or is Avi us?”, indicating some people can’t quite figure out if they see themselves in Avi, or perhaps wonder if Avi is on team Israel or not. Hmm.

Some people I’ve shared these videos with think Avi is a liberal zionist, I’m not convinced of that. She interviews debates Peter Beinart, and knocks him around a bit, but check out her latest video, Episode 5 on African refugees where Avi does some “hard core journalist reporting”:

Schaeffer Omer-Man’s interview with Avi is peppered with commentary such as “Jews can’t be racist! We’re the chosen people!” and “Israeli men are amazing because they can kill with their bare hands”. Avi informs but appears to stay in character the entire time:

It’s intriguing that you chose to focus on Pink Washing in one of your recent episodes. It’s a topic that a lot of North American Jews tend to shy away from. You went even further, airing a Palestinian narrative of the issue. Are you worried about backlash from the right-wing, pro-Israel community back home?

No, I think I put that issue to rest. Israel cares so much about gay rights, so maybe if the Palestinians tried more to be gay, people would care more about them.

You just interviewed Peter Beinart, who to a lot of people represents efforts to create a “big tent,” efforts to push the Jewish community into becoming more inclusive of Jews who are critical of Israel. Do you think that there should be a place for diaspora Jewry to think and speak critically about the occupation? About the settlements?

First off, just this week, Tzipi Hotovely, the deputy foreign minister, set the record straight that there is no occupation.

But the biggest issue facing North American Jewry are these new people questioning Israel — and far worse, stopping their donations to JNF. We need to push these people out of the tent. Somebody needs to send them to Jewish re-education summer camps.

Seriously? You be the judge. But remember, Avi is a fictionalized character. More of Avi’s thoughts here.

Screenshot: 10 tips to SUPPORT ISRAEL "Send money"

Screenshot: 10 tips to SUPPORT ISRAEL “Send money”

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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39 Responses

  1. diasp0ra
    February 29, 2016, 3:42 pm

    I honestly don’t know how to take her videos.

    They might be satire, and if it works, hey, I’m all for it. But actually living through this crap day by day I struggle to find the humor in it. But this is me personally. Not my cup of tea.

    Others might find it a good way to be introduced to the realities of Israel.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 29, 2016, 4:11 pm

      i’ve been a fan of the videos from day one. she stays in character the entire time and accurately reflects the racism within the pro israel community.

      furthermore, because her character is so rightwing, people who are rightwing might not get how toxic she is. it reminds me of when stephen colbert was invited to give an important speech and roasted bush at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner. all those years he had been trashing the right wing but because his persona was rightwing they somehow thought he was on their team, when all he ever did was mock them. people were just aghast when he went off on them during the speech — i loved it. i like avi for all the same reasons. she’s totally overt in her racism — and pulls it off time and again.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X93u3anTco

      • DaBakr
        February 29, 2016, 5:31 pm

        i never would have come across ‘avi’ had i not checked mw this morning. i am assuming that annie asking wether she should be taken “seriously” is meant to be a joke. but all comedians are serious about their comedy. the most religious jews and most pious muslims would never watch avi -or anyone like avi-and would both naturally consider her the ‘canadian jewess slut’ she claims to be. everyone else is free to see the humour in her blog-or not. the interview with beinhart was brilliant up to and including her x-post comments on her grandfather.

        thinks its safe to assume that the same divide that separates average zionist from average zionist-hater would carry over to opinions on ‘avi’ and her blog. either she is an overt ‘racist’ character or she is mocking both right wing and left alike. i doubt she is far to the right but even that is hard to predict as plenty of right leaning israelis engage in dark sarcastic humour against themselves-maybe not so much in mixed company but alone together for sure.

        annie said she “loved it”. i love it. something must be wrong with ‘avi’. or is something right?

    • tree
      March 13, 2016, 7:46 pm

      Haaretz just did an article on her, which was picked up by The Forward.

      Yes, it’s satire. Yes, she considers herself a leftist. Interesting article.

      http://forward.com/sisterhood/335526/undressing-avi-feminist-jewish-slut-sheds-web-persona-to-talk-real-sex-and/

      However, I can see where a Palestinian might have trouble finding the humor in the racism that they have to deal with on a daily basis.

      And obviously some people, like Steve Grover for one, can’t even recognize the satire because the characters racist statements mirror their own racist thoughts, and so they think she is “smart” when she’s spouting racism.

      • echinococcus
        March 13, 2016, 10:36 pm

        Tree,

        That satire can’t bite at all as long as the person uses Herrenvolk “birthright” to stay “in her Tel Aviv apartment”.
        Yes, it is satire but it is Zionist satire, dammit. Directed at one wing only of the genocidaires.

      • Annie Robbins
        March 13, 2016, 11:43 pm

        thanks for the article tree.

  2. Steve Grover
    February 29, 2016, 4:13 pm

    Annie,
    She is a lot smarter than you.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 29, 2016, 4:14 pm

      clearly, (or her writers if she uses them) and a much better performer too.

      • jd65
        March 1, 2016, 1:40 pm

        Smarter? There are different forms of intelligence, and I wouldn’t assume she’s generally too much “smarter” than you, Annie. Although she’s quite obviously pretty savvy in an attention-grabbing, marketing kind of way.

        So far, I’ve only seen 3-4 of her videos and read the interview from +972. I’ve had a very different reaction to her than you have. She impresses me as a relatively shallow opportunist. A product designed with its highest priority being consumption. She wants views, and she doesn’t much care what she says, means, or how people perceive her. It’s “Look at me, look at me, views, views, attention, shock, attention, marketing, demographics, hopeful money streams.” She fancies herself a combination of Schumer, Silverman, and Ali G but lacks the talent and wit.

        It also feels to me like she’s got her priorities upside down: to her, being “provocative” is more important than being funny, interesting, or having a solid point. That’s ass backwards. Seems to me that Ali G, Schumer, and Silverman (and for that matter Lenny Bruce, Dave Chappelle, etc…) all had something to say and were/are hilarious and interesting FIRST, with their provocativeness being a natural outgrowth of their talent and attitude. But then again, as Silverman says, “Deconstruction is the enemy of comedy.” I guess we’ll see…

      • Annie Robbins
        March 3, 2016, 4:38 am

        She impresses me as a relatively shallow opportunist. A product designed with its highest priority being consumption.

        i think that accurately describes the (extremist zionist) character she’s playing. and i think she’s pulls it off really well.

      • echinococcus
        March 3, 2016, 5:30 am

        jd65,

        Good diagnosis. I wonder, though, what is at all funny in the performances of Schumer, Silverman, and Ali G –all obvious Zionists who from the first second start kicking the guy lying down, the weakest, and only attack cultural outliers like the hard-right faction. Never the tenets of Zionism. Gag.

      • jd65
        March 3, 2016, 11:50 am

        @ echinococcus: Thanks.

        …what is at all funny in the performances of Schumer, Silverman, and Ali G… Well, aside from me being a fan of the truism “deconstruction is the enemy of comedy,” actually explaining my thoughts on your question “what is at all funny…” would be very time consuming and likely fruitless. When one person thinks something is funny and another doesn’t, does it ever happen that the first person explains why they feel it’s funny and then the second person busts out laughing saying “I get it now!”? Pretty much never happens. I will say this though: my appreciation of Schumer and Silverman basically comes from one long stand up performance by each: Mostly Sex Stuff from Schumer, and Jesus Is Magic from Silverman. They’re both a bit “uneven” maybe, but for me there was enough killer stuff in each to make them worthwhile for sure. They both gave me a good amount of big laughs. And when I say “laugh,” I mean laugh. Not sitting stone face while somewhere in my mind I’m thinking to myself, “That was funny.” If you care to, I’d say watch those two full stand ups from Schumer and Silverman to see them at their best. And realize that you have to mine the entire piece as the payoffs are intermittent, but worth it. Then decide.

        The 3 Avi Canadian Jewess shtick videos I watched gave me a total of (drum roll please…) 1 laugh. Her line “I thought pinkwashing was when I put a red sock in with my white laundry,” got a laugh out of me. I like that one :) Aside from that, I did pretty much nothing but squirm through her bits. So for me: No laughs = Not funny.

        As for this: …all obvious Zionists… – Honestly, I have no idea on whether/how Schumer/Silverman/Cohen would be, or wouldn’t be, Zionists. That’d be news to me…

      • echinococcus
        March 3, 2016, 12:50 pm

        jd65,

        I suppose the main difference is that I identify all three of these in the first seconds as typical Zionists. It’s so friggin obvious! Well, when you check them later, bingo! one has a sister in Zionist entity politics, the other one is a cousin of Chuck Shumer and so on… Then that Baron-Cohen thing always making fun of the downtrodden, the “other”. Unfunny by definition.

      • jd65
        March 3, 2016, 4:01 pm

        Hey again echinococcus…

        I identify all three of these in the first seconds as typical Zionists. It’s so friggin obvious! Well, when you check them later, bingo! one has a sister in Zionist entity politics, the other one is a cousin of Chuck Shumer and so on…

        Hmm. While I’m not saying these folks are not Zionist (leaving aside the wormhole discussion of even defining that term), that’s the 2nd time in this thread you’ve called them “obvious” Zionists without showing/stating anything specific about them that would lead anyone to think so. I’m unfortunately left w/ the idea that you feel they’re “obviously Zionists” because they’re Jews? That’s, of course, offensive and ridiculous. I’m assuming that’s not what you think, but your comments in this thread could lead someone to get that impression. And that’s unfortunate.

        As for Schumer and Silverman having relatives who are clearly Zionist (C. Schumer for certain) or likely Zionist (I don’t know much about Silverman’s sister) being some kind of proof showing Amy and Sarah to be Zionists, that’s associative nonsense. Does this mean that Max Blumenthal is a Zionist? I don’t think he is, and every time I hear Atzmon and his followers refer to him as some sort of “controlled anti-Zionist Zionist opposition,” I wanna puke and scream…

      • echinococcus
        March 4, 2016, 2:25 am

        jd65,

        First off, ID’ing Zionism is not a wormhole at all. Two elements only: 1. positing that “Jews”, however defined, are a people, and 2. have a right to some homeland. Only these (I don’t believe that tribal attachments should be confused with nationalism, ie Zionism.)

        As for obviousness, well, that is of course way more subjective and more of a wormhole discussion. No relationship to being “Jewish” or not. It has to do with the acknowledgement of some extremely widespread pieces of conventional / popular wisdom. These being extremely widespread, it doesn’t take very long to become suspicious.
        Anyway, the Schumer cousins have been politicking together as have the Silverman sisters, enough to show the solidary feeling –I checked them after coming accross their skits. No need to waste more space here on the detail. Look them up, and there is no dissociation at all…

        Funny, now, that you should drag in the highly uncomedic Max. No, I don’t think he is a Zionist but he sure has kept tribal reflexes. He was not the one that Atzmon properly labeled controlled anti-Zionist Zionist opposition. That was the bunch sitting on the BSD board that silently switched the definition of occupation to post-67 only and strangely made the witchhunt against a still-undefined “anti-Semitism” to main goal of the solidarity movement, excommunicating the most consistent anti-Zionists. Somewhat like JVP here. Max got into that tribal defense act, calling Atzmon (a Palestine-born Ashkenazi who even wore the uniform)… an “anti-Semite”, still no definition of the term. Thereby defining the limits of both his logical functioning and sentimental tribal attachment.

      • Annie Robbins
        March 4, 2016, 4:04 am

        what ‘bds’ board? as far as i know the bds national committee is entirely palestinian.

      • Sibiriak
        March 4, 2016, 4:46 am

        echinococcus: First off, ID’ing Zionism is not a wormhole at all. Two elements only: 1. positing that “Jews”, however defined, are a people, and 2. have a right to some homeland.
        ————-

        Excellent definition. Those two elements are indeed the common denominator to all the various forms of Zionism. (When I put forward a definition, I included a need for homeland, in addition to a right to one. Identifying Palestine as the territory of the homeland would probably be useful for any Zionism after 1920 or so.)

      • jd65
        March 4, 2016, 4:58 pm

        Yo echinococcus. ‘Nother interesting post. Thanks…

        jd65,
        First off, ID’ing Zionism is not a wormhole at all. Two elements only: 1. positing that “Jews”, however defined, are a people, and 2. have a right to some homeland. Only these…

        A small part of me understands and agrees w/ you on your “definition” of Zionism. And it’s a reasonable, thoughtful entry point. But a larger part of me disagrees and thinks its merely a simplistic starting point. It would take up way too much space and time for me to parse out my reasons and thoughts on this here. The issue is too big to meaningfully deal with on a message board like this. So for now, I’ll leave it at let’s agree to disagree on the “definition of Zionist.”

        Not that this applies to you, but the whole “What is Zionism / a Zionist?” discussion reminds me of the hilarious, if problematic, Finkelstein quote I heard him say at an NYU discussion: “For most people, Zionism is a hairspray.” Gotta luv it…

        Funny, now, that you should drag in the highly uncomedic Max. No, I don’t think he is a Zionist but he sure has kept tribal reflexes. He was not the one that Atzmon properly labeled controlled anti-Zionist Zionist opposition. That was the bunch sitting on the BSD board that silently switched the definition of occupation to post-67 only and strangely made the witchhunt against a still-undefined “anti-Semitism” to main goal of the solidarity movement, excommunicating the most consistent anti-Zionists. Somewhat like JVP here. Max got into that tribal defense act, calling Atzmon (a Palestine-born Ashkenazi who even wore the uniform)… an “anti-Semite”, still no definition of the term. Thereby defining the limits of both his logical functioning and sentimental tribal attachment.

        I completely acknowledge the seemingly infinite intricate and interconnected problems and issues concerning the solidarity movement, JVP, IAK/Weir, Atzmon, Max, infighting, backstabbing, etc. These are as easily unpacked as the definition of Zionism :) and too giant for me to want to get into in this thread. However, if you’re interested in a bit more of my thinking on these issues (Zionism, JVP, Weir, anti-Semitism, etc.), you can go to my “blog” (link below) and read my letter titled “On Leaving.” It’s too long to post here.

        Rock on…

        http://thepalestineconflict.blogspot.com/p/blog.html

      • hungrydave
        March 8, 2016, 4:42 am

        Echinoccus

        I don’t know Silverman or schumer so can’t comment, but this is nothing like Borat.

        To understand, look at the comparative strength of who’s doing the mocking and who’s being mocked.
        Baron-Cohen is a wealthy western Jew mocking Muslims (already under attack) and a very poor Eastern European nation (Kazakhstan).
        By contrast, Avi is mocking wealthy western Jewish society that sends their children off to experience their ‘birthright’ built on the backs and bones of Palestinians so their kiddies can explore their ‘roots’ and feel a part of the tribe – that’s the bit that makes me want to gag and she targets it and destroys. Also there’s an aspect of bravery because it’s her tribe too. She seems pretty clued up on the attitudes of these types which makes me think Avi has lived this to a degree and recognised it for what it is and is now calling it out as bullshit. Who knows what repercussions she might get from her family and community for mocking birthright like this. I think she is brave and funny

    • Froggy
      March 1, 2016, 1:40 pm

      Steve,

      And Annie is a lot smarter than you.

    • hungrydave
      March 8, 2016, 4:49 am

      Steve Grover February 29, 2016, 4:13 pm
      Annie,
      She is a lot smarter than you.

      that is extremely rude, irrelevant, unsubstantiated and pathetic. I don’t understand why you would post something like that. You didn’t come out of it looking good.

      • Mooser
        March 8, 2016, 1:59 pm

        “that is extremely”

        Hello “hungrydave”. To access a comment archive, press the blue-highlighted ‘handle (“Steve Grover”) above any comment.

        You can do that, and you’ll be able to see if “Grover” is up to his usual standard.

  3. ahadhaadam
    February 29, 2016, 5:08 pm

    It’s supposed to be Sacha Baron Cohen style comedy (Ali G, Borat) with reductio ad absurdum humor, ambushing interviewees for their reactions, and lots of vulgarity. From the little I have seen, it doesn’t seem to express any political view or support any Hasbara narrative, and if you’re looking for any political taint, that’s as close as it gets to objective a-political journalism, at least as much as anything about Israel can be a-political…

    • hungrydave
      March 8, 2016, 4:23 am

      Are you kidding? It’s so obviously taking the piss out of shallow birthright types and the plastic idea of selling Israel as a gay friendly, young persons clubbing heaven.
      Am I the only person that sees this as a very clever critique of the western Jewish fantasyland idea of Israel?

  4. Kay24
    March 1, 2016, 3:32 am

    Here is someone who should be taken seriously. An interesting article.

    Simone Zimmerman

    American Jewish Millennials Aren’t Disengaged From Israel, We’re Angry

    “What we need is for the community to stop willfully blinding itself to the disastrous reality of holding millions of Palestinians under military occupation.
    We need the community to stop justifying policies that deny Palestinians the ability to move freely, to sleep safely in their homes without the fear of a military raid, to access water and resources, to live without terror that their homes could be bombed to rubble, and to protest the unjust conditions of their lives nonviolently. None of these policies are moral, and none of these policies make Jews safer.

     
    Moreover, we need the community to stop policing and demonizing those of us who say these truths in public and are fighting for change. We need the community to stop holing itself up behind walls and tanks and guns, as well as behind redlines and standards of partnership. 

    read more: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.706175

  5. echinococcus
    March 1, 2016, 11:26 am

    Some people I’ve shared these videos with think Avi is a liberal zionist

    Figures. They are the worst. Satire against some “rightist” cultural traits to save the racial supremacist state and continue the genocide. As 1-ha-adam says, it’s very much like the Baron-Cohen piece of dung –making fun of the weak.

    • hungrydave
      March 3, 2016, 2:29 pm

      How is it making fun of the weak? It’s making fun of the western privileged birthright crew in specific and zionism in general. How are they ‘the weak’??

      • echinococcus
        March 4, 2016, 2:50 am

        I don’t think she is making fun of the “western privileged birthright crew” or “zionism in general”. In fact, the guy who’s set up to provide the anti-racist viewpoint is… an American, almost obviously an illegal Zionist immigrant. Calling for a Remember the Holocaust (TM) while sitting on occupied Palestinian land is definitely not making fun of Zionism, but only some of the practitioners of it. Tell you the truth, that skit made me choke with rage, not laugh.

      • Annie Robbins
        March 4, 2016, 4:00 am

        which skit?

      • echinococcus
        March 4, 2016, 5:27 am

        The one re the African refugees. For the reasons stated.

      • hungrydave
        March 7, 2016, 11:10 pm

        Echinococus
        The remember the holocaust thing is completely taking the piss out of the holocaust obsession that zionists like the avi character have. That is playing the role perfectly and very clearly mocking it.
        What the American guy says about African refugees is completely true and so is what the Palestinian guy says in the pink washing episode. How do you assume to know their background? Didn’t an American Jew called Max Blumenthal spend time in Israel campaigning about African refugees and researching for his book. Do you hate Max Blumenthal?
        Try watching some other episodes

      • echinococcus
        March 8, 2016, 6:22 am

        Come on, Hungry Dave. If I hear about an American on Palestinian soil of course the first thing I want to know is his legal status, permanent residence and citizenship status. There is something called statistics to inform you about the odds of just meeting a Max Blumenthal off the street. Besides, Max’ citizenship status is also a legitimate question to satisfy before I read what he is doing.
        Repeat, that is all on Palestinian soil.

  6. W.Jones
    March 1, 2016, 2:43 pm

    I think that based on her section on African Refugees she is disagreeing or being skeptical about the idea of a Jewish state.

  7. Tchoupitoulas
    March 2, 2016, 8:56 pm

    Avi really knows how to work her holy of holies.

  8. Tchoupitoulas
    March 2, 2016, 9:23 pm

    OK – I thought it was “straight,” i.e. not satire, until I watched the pinkwashing episode – now I think it’s pretty clearly satire.

  9. Balfour
    March 3, 2016, 5:58 am

    Avi is a performance artist, and her vlogs are Rorschach ink blots open to interpretation- personally, I think the real life personality portraying the Avi character is liberal, and sympathetic to cultural Zionism, but understands how the current dialogue supporting all things Israel has become adolescent and wildly emotional and the different efforts of Israeli Hasbara have begun to lampoon itself.

  10. hungrydave
    March 3, 2016, 2:19 pm

    I think it’s brilliant, she completely nails the whole privileged american jews treating Palestinian land like their own disneyland birthright thing.

    For any zionists getting upset that it’s offensive to jews, ask them if they found Borat offensive to Kazakstanis

  11. hungrydave
    March 3, 2016, 2:39 pm

    I honestly think this is one of the best things i’ve seen in ages. Americans (and other westerners) don’t listen when you tell them about Palestinian rights, it triggers an off switch. Maybe they will listen when their ideology is lampooned in such a clever and funny way. It;s bulletproof, directly attacking back will be seen for what it is – lacking a sense of humour; trying to be funny in return won’t work because right-wingers are never funny without being aggressively political.
    This slips through the gaps and brings some points to the general consciousness that I don’t think could get through the apathy or barriers of zionism in any other way.

    She needs to stay in character and not discuss her politics, just carry on :-)

    Well done Avi

  12. peacenotapartheid
    February 25, 2017, 7:57 pm

    Avi has an Indiegogo campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/avi-does-the-holy-land#/

    Her interview on i24 News (4/16) is as hysterically funny as her videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbfoOAdUB3I

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