The Israeli song “Toy”, sung by Netta Barzilai, won the Eurovision song contest on the 12th of May. Israel was euphoric. Benjamin Netanyahu called Barzilai “Israel’s greatest ambassador” and said “next year in Jerusalem,” a reference to the contest venue in 2019.
Barzilai herself was very aware of her political role, and said in an interview that “we have done something crazy [fantastic] for Israeli Hasbara” (Hebrew, Kan Israeli news). Isabel Kershner of the New York Times noted how “many Israelis hailed it as a diplomatic victory and national vindication.”
But all that occurred just a couple of days before one of the bloodiest single massacres in Israeli history, the killing of 62 Palestinian Gazan protesters, injuring over 3,000, with over 1,360 shot by Israeli soldiers using live ammunition – and that massacre was occurring simultaneously with Israel’s celebration of the US Embassy inauguration in Jerusalem, in a split-screen reality.
But how long can the split-screen reality last? On Saturday, Dutch comedian Martine Sandifort appeared with a satirical version of the Israeli song, using a backdrop of footage involving Palestinian protests against Israeli forces, the separation wall etc. This appeared on the prime time Sanne Wallis de Vries’s satirical show.
The scathing text points to these realities (some mainstream media has provided partial translations, like BBC and Haaretz – I provide a full one here, and thanks to Ronnie Barkan for the full subtitled video):
Look at me, I am such a sweet country.
World leaders eat obediently out of my hand. And I put out all fires with a kiss.
Hey, We are giving a party, wanna come? See you later in al-Aqsa mosque, which will soon be emptied anyway.
From Haifa to the Dead Sea, there are fireworks and kosher satay. So just come and dance with me.
Is your country surrounded by stone throwers? Build a wall that only Trump can dream of.
Launch a buka-buk, launch a buka-rocket.
Look how nicely I throw bombs.
Yes, Israel is winning again. This party has been going on for 70 years in a row. Look how lovely!
Nope, I don’t think so. No Palestinian is invited here. Not in my Zone – I’m a strict door bitch!
I chase away the Palestinians to a different mood. It’s my party and I’m gonna shine here!
Is your party crashed by radicals? So open up embassies, you’ll surely make cash!
De-la ching-a-ling-ching, with your dollars and cents! Ha!
Look how beautiful! Yes, Israel wins again. This party has been going on for 70 years.
Israel always wins. This shizzle has been going on for 70 years.
I’m a very sweet country. And the whole world still eats from my hand.
That’s nice, that’s very nice. I think it’s beautiful.
So, as you might expect, Israel has now complained about this. Israel’s ambassador to The Hague wrote:
“Freedom of speech, freedom of the press and satire, are important elements of a democratic and pluralistic society, as exists in the Netherlands and Israel. We cherish and respect these principles, yet in that show you went too far.”
The letter was sent to the Dutch television channel as well as Central Jewish Board – the umbrella group for Holland’s Jewish community.
The ambassador, Aviv Shir-On, expanded into accusations of anti-Semitism, when he told the Dutch newspaper NRC that the content of the song was not only “crude and offensive”, but that it also “packages anti-Semitic stereotypes as jokes”. BBC notes that “The chicken-clucking of the original song is replaced with further references to money” (referring to the “ching-a-ling” etc.), and that “critics say the parody evokes traditional anti-Jewish prejudices by associating Jews with money”.
But the broadcast group behind the show, BNN Vara, insisted the song was not referring to “anti-Semitic prejudices.” They said:
“In the Sanne Wallis Show, events of the past week are discussed in a satirical manner. Last week Israel winning the Eurovision song contest coincided with a flare-up in the conflict in the Gaza Strip. The parody brings Israel’s policy up for discussion and is emphatically not an indictment against the Jewish community.”
So let’s look at this closely, let’s see what the song might actually be referring to, particularly in terms of the money issue, which seems to be the core of the matter.
Apparently, the reference at the start to world leaders eating “obediently out of my hand” seems either a reference to the leaders who came to the US Embassy inauguration, which was Israel’s party because the US was giving its acceptance to Israel’s blatant violation of international law in the act of unilaterally annexing East Jerusalem – or a general reference to widespread acceptance of Israeli criminality historically, which manages to continue on despite UN resolutions and with no sanctions.
Now, Netanyahu has explicitly said in the wake of the announced US Embassy move, that he has “decided that the first 10 embassies to come here will get preferential treatment. We’ll help you. All of you should do that”, and that the principle was “first come, first served”. Guatemala has already announced its intention to move its embassy, and Netanyahu himself has boasted that six countries are seriously considering following suit.
We cannot seriously believe that “preferential treatment” and the “help you” is not about money. Of course, it is about money and politics. And arms sales, and human rights violations. Israeli attorney Eitay Mack published a piece yesterday titled “U.S. Embassy opening: A who’s who of the Israeli arms trade” (+972 Magazine). Mack notes:
“Only around 30 countries took part in the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem last week. Not coincidentally, Israel’s ties with most of them are based on arms sales used to carry out gross human rights violations.”
He provides the logic:
“Immediately following the end of the 1967 War, the State of Israel began a massive diplomatic campaign aimed at convincing countries around the world to oppose resolutions in international forums demanding the Jewish state unilaterally withdraw from the occupied territories. Israel attempted to buy the votes of murderous dictatorships and military juntas in exchange for weapons and training.”
And finally states:
“This list of participants is an embarrassing low point for both the Trump administration and the Netanyahu governments’ international influence. […] The government of Israel is once again in need of support from murderous and corrupt regimes, if only to create a veneer of success. […] [T]he guest list is a reflection of 51 years of a failed Israeli struggle for international recognition for the annexation of East Jerusalem.”
So Martine Sandifort, with her satirical song, is really not off the mark at all. The money issue is not about Jews as such. It is about what Israel does to “buy votes”, and Sandifort is making a clear connection between it and the Jerusalem Embassy issue, as well as referring to the whitewashing of oppressive regimes (“Is your party crashed by radicals? So open up embassies, you’ll surely make cash!”).
Sandifort’s reference to “Dollars and cents” seems to refer indirectly to the US, but that’s not strange, as the US has been the major player in this Jerusalem-legitimization move, violating international law on behalf of Israel, for more violators to join the party. It could also be noted that USA is a major patron for Israel’s oppression with its 3.8 billion Dollar annual military aid – constituting more than half of its global military aid.
Sandifort is thus on the mark. But of course, Israel uses its “trick” – “Anti-semitism”. As the late Israeli Minister Shulamit Aloni said, it’s a card that “we always use” in order to rebuff criticism of the state.
And that is precisely what this is about. Israel now wants to use this case in order to divert attention from its crimes, by making itself the victim. The Israeli Ambassador writes that the parody song “went too far” – and that “distance” couldn’t possibly be a just response to Israel having gone too far. No, that’s just not possible. And to make sure that everyone moves back a safe distance, let’s throw in the “anti-Semitism” accusation, just to be sure.
After the draft of this post was prepared, Israeli singer Adi Granot published another parody on “Toy”, in Hebrew, doing pretty much the same that Martine Sandifort did, just without the live performance scene. The title is “There’s No Occupation” (watch here with subtitles). The text:
Take a look, a democratic state
Here and there another Gazan is taken down
And I’m at the square, what do I care
Boom boom boom boom
Wai, stop crying already
Demonstrating isn’t worthwhile
We’ll shoot you all and then – bye bye
And anyone touching the fence
His life will turn worthless
And we have no other solution
A singular democracy among all
The most moral army in the world
Shoots them for no reason
Because there’s no occupation
There’s no despair
Only a closure without electricity or water
Come to the fence, we’ll redeem you quickly
Ah ah ah, and the war will come and unite the entire nation
Yes the war will cleanse us from the blame
Koolooloo koolooloo, look how we won – so what if we massacred?
Screw Europe, Baiby [Bibi – Netanyahu], we got away with it again, baiby
(chorus – because there’s no occupation)
We don’t need Merkel anymore We made a pilgrimage with Trump… (chorus)
And the song ends with Netanyahu proclaiming “to the glory of the state of Israel!”
So what now, has Adi Granot also gone too far? Will she be put under arrest for years like Dareen Tatour who wrote “Resist them”? No, probably not. We don’t usually do such things to Jewish Israeli citizens, just to the non-Jewish ones. And if such a critique, which “goes too far,” comes at us from abroad, well then, the “anti-Semitism” charge is standard procedure. When Palestinians protest, a bullet to the head is a quite common and measured response. But that’s all because we don’t want things to get out of hand, to go too far. “Good fences make good neighbors”, wrote Robert Frost.
Thanks to Ofer Neiman.