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Cringeworthy Israeli Eurovision promo vid cracks about ‘land of war and occupation’ and ‘greedy Jews’ and ‘lovely bitches’

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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

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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6 Responses

  1. bcg on May 13, 2019, 2:18 pm

    Wait a minute – did that video say that it’s so easy to float in the Dead Sea because of the….phosphates??!!

    • Jonathan Ofir on May 13, 2019, 4:28 pm

      Yes bcg, he said “phosphates” i Hebrew (‘fosfatim’).
      I don’t think it’s so chemically accurate… I’m not an expert in chemistry, but from what I’ve gathered, I undestand that the massive gathering of minerals, especially Potash and Potassium Chloride for fertilizing, taken from these artificial pools (where he’s floating, where the hotels are), have caused an imbalance which leaves a lot of the actual salt (Natrium Chloride), which is heavier, to aggregiate disproportionally at a rate of some 25 cm pr year at the surface, and that is actually pushing the water level, at the southern pools, up (ironically, while the general water level goes drastically down). This is apparently causing a flooding of these hotels and may now mean irreversible damage – they may have to just close or be rebuilt higher up.

      The company which profits from the mining is reportedly reluctant to foot the bill of balancing this over-aggregation of salt.

      • bcg on May 13, 2019, 6:42 pm

        Yes, Jonathan, you may be right about what the phosphates are doing, but I’m 99% certain that the reason it’s easy to float in the Dead Sea is because of the salt content (which includes magnesium salts), which makes the water denser.

        “The salt concentration of the Dead Sea fluctuates around 31.5%. This is unusually high and results in a nominal density of 1.24 kg/l. Anyone can easily float in the Dead Sea because of natural buoyancy. In this respect the Dead Sea is similar to the Great Salt Lake in Utah in the United States. ”

        I think they got the basic science wrong.

      • Jonathan Ofir on May 14, 2019, 1:47 am

        Yes of course, bcg, he’s floating because of the salt. I was just referring to the quip about the phosphates and mentioning an anecdote about the mineral imbalance.

  2. Misterioso on May 14, 2019, 10:18 am

    “EU diplomats dance on Palestinian graves” by Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, May 9/19

    “Update, 11 May:”

    “On Saturday, Finnish musician Jaakko Eino Kalevi announced he was withdrawing from the EU-sponsored party on the ruins of the Palestinian community of al-Manshiyya.

    “Kalevi wrote on Twitter that he took the decision ‘as I am now more aware of the widespread opposition to Israel’s hosting of Eurovision.’

    “Original article”
    “On 15 May European diplomats will be holding a party featuring the Dutch DJs Detroit Swindle and artists from across Europe at Charles Clore Park in Jaffa.

    “They will be dancing – figuratively, if not literally – on the graves of Palestinians.

    “The party, hosted by the Dutch, European Union and German embassies, among other European institutions, is supposed to celebrate the Eurovision Song Contest that will be going on simultaneously in Tel Aviv.

    “The other artists in the lineup are Few Nolder, Hellwana, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Karpov Not Kasparov, Onra and Pejzaz. It will also include a screening of Johannes Schaff’s film Symphony of Now.

    “But 15 May is also Nakba Day, which commemorates the ethnic cleansing 71 years ago of some 800,000 Palestinians by Zionist militias in order to establish the state of Israel on the ruins of their lives, communities and history.

    “So-called Charles Clore Park tells part of this story.

    “It is built on the site of al-Manshiyya, a once thriving neighborhood of Jaffa – a port city that was known as the Bride of the Sea for its central role in Palestinian cultural and economic life.

    “Jaffa’s golden age ended when Zionist militias conquered the city in 1948 expelling all but a few thousand of its Palestinian inhabitants, many fleeing by sea.

    “But before the Haganah, the main Zionist militia, occupied Jaffa in May 1948, a smaller Zionist gang, Etzel, also known as the Irgun, attacked al-Manshiyya.

    “Weeks earlier, on 9 April, the Irgun, led by future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, had carried out the notorious massacre in the village of Deir Yassin, that sowed panic and fear across Palestine.

    “And in 1946, the Irgun had perpetrated the bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.
    In late April 1948, the Irgun attacked al-Manshiyya and conquered it.

    “’The residents of al-Manshiyya and the other villages tried to resist. They gathered, primarily around the Hassan Beq mosque, and tried to fight, despite their small number and lack of weapons,’ Zochrot, an Israeli organization that raises awareness about the Nakba, states.

    “’As the fighting continued, the number of killed and wounded increased, until al-Manshiyya finally fell on 28 April 1948, and was cut off from Jaffa.’

    “The Haganah then moved in to conquer the rest of Jaffa and its surrounding villages.

    “’Some of al-Manshiyya’s inhabitants were expelled to Jordan, and others were sent by sea to Gaza and Egypt,’ Zochrot states. ‘A few were transferred to Jaffa and later lived in the Ajami ghetto, alongside refugees from Jaffa and the nearby villages.’

    “Right after the conquest, an Israeli commander gave this account of what al-Manshiyya looked like after his men had finished their work: ‘Piles of ruins wherever you look, gaping holes in walls, ruined belongings, streams of water flowing from open faucets in destroyed buildings and … deathly silence.’

    “That silence, he added, was ‘broken from time to time by a shot … fired by our reconnaissance forces.’

    “But as it did in hundreds of towns and villages across Palestine, the new Israeli state moved in to destroy the evidence of what existed before, and to rename places to erase their history and identity.

    “Over most of al-Manshiyya, the Israelis created Charles Clore Park, named for a Jewish British philanthropist.

    “’The rolling surface of the park formed ‘dunes’ concealing the rubble remaining from the demolition of the neighborhood, which had been pushed to the seaside,’ Zochrot states.

    “’In the Zionist tradition of making the wilderness bloom, the dunes were covered with grass and colored green.’

    “While official Europe is determined to help Israel erase and deny this history and once again celebrate the destruction of Palestine, Palestinians and their supporters are making sure no one can forget.”

  3. Stephen Shenfield on May 14, 2019, 6:18 pm

    You can see from this video how addicted the Zionists are to antisemitism, how strong their felt need to provoke and encourage it.

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