Israel is now in high gear with its Eurovision festivities, officially starting tomorrow and culminating in the finale Saturday. In seeking to brand Israel as a liberal democracy for Eurovision fans, the official Israeli public broadcasting company, Kan, issued a video that jokes about “war and occupation”, applies anti-Semitic tropes about “greedy Jews”, and for good measure adds in some misogyny about “lovely bitches”, which one is supposed to see on the Israeli beaches…
This tour-de-force of vulgarity is apparently what the producers thought would be funny, some “chutzpah” to dispel political tensions concerning Israel in this context. Yet in ridiculing these issues, Israel’s official state-sponsored authority has cast Eurovision in Israel as an indelibly political event, one that Israel is using in order to white-wash, culture-wash, and pink-wash its policies.
Jewish Voice for Peace shared the four-minute video with the heading: Israel gets desperate over Eurovision flop
Eurovision is shaping up to be a big flop, and this video isn’t going to save it. Antisemitism and misogyny set to music is a bad look, Israel. #BoycottEurovision2019 (this is *not* a parody video, it is a very real PR effort by Kan Eurovision)
The first scene is at the Ben-Gurion Airport, where two hosts greet visitors.
[Male] Don’t say a word, I know what you just heard, that it’s a land of war and occupation.
[Female] But we have so much more than that; you’ll see the prices and say ‘what?’ We like to call ourselves the Start-Up Nation.
That’s typical Israeli diversion – we’re not backwards, we’re forward. The implicit suggestion is that Arabs are backward, and they’re just trying to destroy us.
One host is Lucy Ayoub, who will also be hosting the Eurovision show itself, and she is a Palestinian-Israeli.
I’m Lucy, I’m Arab. Yes some of us live here.
But of course, for Israel, Palestinian-Israelis don’t exist. They are just called “Arabs”, and that makes it easier (even though about two-thirds of them do identify themselves as Palestinians). But Lucy presents herself as a “good Arab”, and is already supposedly countering a claim that all “Arabs” are under occupation. And since “Arabs” can live in Israel as citizens, then there’s supposedly no Apartheid, because they supposedly have equal rights, which they don’t, and they are supposedly equal citizens, which they aren’t.
The male host presents himself:
I’m Elia. I’m Russian. We fled there out of fear.
Elia Grinfeld is actually a Kan journalist. The immigration wave of about a million Russians and former Soviet Union following its disintegration did involve fear of various kinds, but also a wish for a better fortune elsewhere. The Israeli government under Shamir lobbied to have their entry to the US barred, instead channeling them to Israel, also in order to increase the Jewish demographic count as well as the settler count. Anyhow, fleeing “out of fear” has not helped Palestinians return to their homes, but that’s another story, one which the hosts will not touch.
The basic notion of this Hasbara is “it’s complicated”, and that’s the next line in the song:
In fact most Israelis have complex identities.
So it’s supposedly not Israel vs Palestinians, oh, no, that’s way too simple and primitive – it’s “complex”.
In the following line, “So please kapara join this quick indoctrination”, many may notice the play on “indoctrination”, which is a mocking of the Hasbara propaganda notion. But this really is Hasbara par excellence, and in that sentence there is more than meets the eye. “Kapara” is a word that has become slang in Hebrew. The term comes from the religious ritual of swinging a rooster at the Day of Atonement (“Kapara” literally means atonement), yet its typical Arab-Jewish (“Mizrahi”) pronunciation with the accent on the middle, rather than the last syllable, is marking that cultural appropriation. In Arab-Jewish culture it is used as slang for endearment. So Elia Grinfeld, the “Russian”, is saying to us “kapara”, with an Arab-Jewish accent, as if he’s saying “dear”, but with a twist.
The next line, sung by Ayoub, is “there’s a lot here to be seen, if you will it it’s no dream”. This is a direct quote from Zionist founder Theodor Herzl. The European, Jewish-and-white-supremacist colonialist ideologue’s words, are sung by the “Arab”, Palestinian Lucy Ayoub, as if an inversion of Elia Grinfeld’s “kapara”. There is a chilling mix here. Ayoub is happy to recite the hopes of the ideologue which eventually brought the expulsion of most of her people, and has led to her second-class citizenship under the Jewish State, in which the “national self-determination… is unique to the Jewish People” (according to the Nation State law), where the national anthem, “The Hope”, speaks only about the hope and the longing of the “Jewish soul”. That precisely she of all people should recite Herzl, is to me almost unfathomable. Yet she does it so willingly.
In the next scene, Grinfeld appears to be buying tickets for the train and sings “most of us are Jews but only some of us are greedy”. This is so obviously anti-Semitic, even Yair Netanayhu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu, decried the video. Yair Netanyahu has himself trafficked in anti-Semitic themes, sharing a cartoon featuring Jewish philanthropist George Soros as a puppeteer behind the “Reptilians,” so if Yair Netanyahu noticed that this Eurovision video was anti-Semitic, then it’s really gone far.
Ayoub chimes in:
And you might notice people here are very very needy.
And a young person brazenly pulls the train ticket out from the hand of the unsuspecting foreign tourist. The suggestion here appears to be that many of us are just thieves, but don’t take it too hard, because only some, not all, are greedy.
But then this acerbic, anti-Semitic vein is softened by the next scene, which shows a woman helping another woman lift a heavy bag near so as to make the bus, and the line is “we’re generous, we’re kind, we’ll always help a stranger”. Feminist solidarity, you know.
In another section, Tel Aviv is marketed as a bastion of secular liberalism. “Such a marvel. Look at that, an open shop and it’s Shabbat”, Grinfeld sings. And then “gays hugging in the street” and even a “protest against eating meat”. So Israel is supposedly the leading edge in liberalism. Don’t listen to talk about the monopoly of the Orthodox rabbinate, they didn’t get Tel-Aviv yet! But that doesn’t really help the Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from eight villages which are now buried underneath Tel Aviv – they can’t return to their homes, because they are not Jewish, and it wouldn’t help them one bit if they were also gay or vegetarian. But, hey, why destroy the atmosphere?
“Stroll the park, walk the bridges, and enjoy our lovely bitches”, Grinfeld sings. The supposedly clever play on the Israeli accent which pronounces “beaches” as “bitches” is not a mistake, as it is clearly and officially translated in subtitles as “bitches”. And this is supposed to be funny. Like JVP said – “Misogyny set to music is a bad look”.
Next comes a section set to heavy, Arabic-style music, which features almost exclusively men in various cities, making gestures accentuating their groins, with a chorus of “You should try shawarma,” and a gross demonstration of devouring the food. This is appallingly orientalist and male chauvinist, with the typical Israeli culinary cultural appropriation, coupled by a cultural derision of its origins.
This next part is one of the few serious parts in the video. Ayoub is standing at the shores of the Dead Sea. “This is the lowest place on earth”, she sings. “It’s a sad, sad tragedy, because of all the factories, in a number of some years [sic] the sea will disappear”.
Indeed, it is so sad, and she’s not being ironic here. The Dead Sea is indeed the lowest place in the world, currently lower than 430 meters below sea level. But the water surface used to be 395 meters in 1970, and 390 in 1930. It is currently falling in level by at least 1 meter per year. Most of the drastic fall in level is due to the relentless extraction of minerals by Dead Sea Works and diversion of waters from the Jordan River which supplies it. The Dead Sea drying is a man-made catastrophe. Jordanian as well as Israeli and Palestinian efforts to save this sea by connecting it to the Red Sea have been mooted, but this may prove too little and too late.
Here I would agree with Lucy Ayoub – it is a tragedy, and it’s sad. Travelling by the Dead Sea last year has been one of the saddest sights of nature I have witnessed in my life, because I still remember it from my childhood about 40 years ago. One wonders why the Kan producers even brought this sad sight into a video that boasts of Israeli success.
After the melancholy section at the Dead Sea, Ayob and Grinfeld return to the up-beat music, and present Jerusalem. “And our beloved capital, golden Jerusalem”. The focus is explicitly on the Dome of the Rock – a Palestinian, Muslim location, which has been declared by the Jewish State as part of its “united capital” under the flagrantly illegal, unilateral annexation since 1967 and in “basic law – Jerusalem” of 1980, which is considered “null and void” by the international community – until Trump came by last year and said it was all Israel’s. By referring to the “golden Jerusalem”, the hosts are indirectly referring to the popular Israeli song by Naomi Shemer, “Jerusalem of Gold”, and by pointing to the golden dome, they are saying “this gold is ours”. This is not just putting dibs on East Jerusalem, but on the most holy site to Muslims within it, one which has been administered by Jordan and the Muslim Wakf protectorate under a special status quo agreement. The nerve of this Jerusalem clip is not just provocative in its nationalism – it seems to be adamant about framing this as a holy war, and appears as a triumphant celebration of a complete religious takeover and appropriation of all things non-Jewish to be part of the Jewish State.
The two are now in good mood, and they tell us to “see the shuk (Palestinian market), the old city”, and of course, “visit Yad Vashem”. Here the music stops, and there’s a moment of silence, like in Holocaust Day. Yes, never forget the Holocaust, which means that Jews can do anything (as Golda Meir said).
The video continues with a couplet about religion —
“Experience the holy sites, Gods watching from above, yes people here are crazy and that is what we love”.
And then at last it ends.
It is a veritable horror show. It’s crazy. But these people–they love to be crazy. Kan has responded to widespread critique about this video, by saying:
Just to be clear: the musical was satire and was meant to deal with stereotypes about Jews and Israel. YES, also by using self-deprecating humor like we love. We know our flaws, and we’re not ashamed to laugh at all of them.
But none of this is funny. At best it’s just sad. But it’s also infuriating. If anything, this video should serve as its own undoing, and persuade more people to boycott Eurovision, which is now clearly being exploited by Israel for its ultra-nationalist, racist, vulgar and chauvinist purposes.
H/t Linda Cooper