The 'We Con the World' video: A blockade to peace

Someone out there thinks that it’s a perfect time for a music video making fun of those who died on the Gaza flotilla. Jerusalem Post deputy editor Caroline Glick for one. So do the people at Latma, a Hebrew-based “satire” site that Glick happens to edit. That partnership happened to produce the following “humor” video entitled “We Con the World,” a riff on the “We Are the World” tune from ’85 that depicts those on the flotilla in a more-than-unfashionable light [via The Daily Swarm/BBC]:

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Too soon.

That’s a phrase my comedy friends chastise me for using too often, and often as a crutch for easy laughs. But it is an absolutely apt statement for this occasion. The events that have surrounded the Gaza flotilla incident are unsettling to say the least. To see a group of people take such a serious situation so lightly is appalling. It doesn’t help that the video hardly resembles comedy: Take out the music and it can sound like straight up propaganda.

But what may be most unsettling is that some people believe in this kind of stuff. There are folks who think it’s funny, and think it speaks to the experience of all Israelis, even of anyone of Jewish faith. Take a peek at what Glick wrote as an introduction to the video on her Web site:

This week at Latma – the Hebrew-language media satire website I edit, we decided to do something new. We produced a clip in English. There we feature the Turkish-Hamas “love boat” captain, crew and passengers in a musical explanation of how they con the world.

We think this is an important Israeli contribution to the discussion of recent events and we hope you distribute it far and wide.

And this is an editor of a prominent Israeli newspaper. Yes, even reporters have opinions, and yes, the Jerusalem Post is known for having a slightly centrist and right-wing political stance. But when an editor is involved in such an outrageously offensive video concerning a volatile situation, it creates a scenario that’s questionable at best and downright irresponsible at worst. Sure, journalists can have creative outlets outside of work, but this is a stretch (it’s a stretch calling it creative as well.) If Glick had any sense, she’d resign from either Latma or J-Post.

But clearly this is a situation without much sense. As the BBC reported, someone at the Israeli press office emailed the video to journalists. Talk about a goof. And the Guardian managed to get a shocking quote from spokesman Mark Regev:

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, told the UK’s Guardian newspaper: “I called my kids in to watch it because I thought it was funny. It is what Israelis feel. But the government has nothing to do with it.”

I’m Israeli. And I certainly don’t “feel” that the situation is this way. And I certainly won’t pretend to speak for every Israeli, or every person of Jewish faith, when making a blanket statement about a political situation that is far from black and white.

And yet, these are the kinds of situations and voices that bubble up to the surface in our media world today: Those with a rational perspective on the situation tend to get drowned out by extremists on both sides, who seek to draw a dividing line in a complicated situation and make it into a one-side-or-the-other argument. Which is fundamentally bunk. It’s a fallacy to think that any one person can speak for the entirety of a nation or religion, and even more so when the individual expresses extreme opinions. Sure, you can claim their perspectives as valid, but no more than any other person’s in the conversation.

It’s led to a situation that’s created a generation of apathetic Jewish people. Peter Beinart recently wrote about the subject for The New York Review of Books. In a piece entitled “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” Beinart swiftly detailed the ways that many young Jews are getting turned off of all-things-Israel. And it’s creating a polarizing perspective when it comes to the American Jewish communities and Israel:

One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.

Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups likeAIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled. Saving liberal Zionism in the United States—so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel—is the great American Jewish challenge of our age.

Beinart hit on many excellent points, but the one of a deepening divide between two extreme points of view on Israel may be the most important of all. It’s not only creating a situation where members of the worldwide Jewish community cannot see eye-to-eye, but one in which those who live in Israel must be ruled by a coalition government in a country where intense and diverse opinions run the gamut. When peace needs communication, more and more we’re faced with a situation where everyone is talking past those on opposing sides, nothing gets solved, and divides grow.

Throughout this situation, those with moderate views (or less extreme ones for that matter) not only get shut out of the process, but turned off it completely. I should know: This piece is perhaps the first time in more than half a decade that I’ve set out to seriously discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and at this rate I’m practically treading water. Prior to attending Brandeis University as an undergrad, I had a passion for discussing politics and issues in Israel. I went to college expecting an environment where I could have mature, open conversations about serious issues affecting people around the world.

Instead, I was thrown into an atmosphere that trumped reasonable arguments on this issue. Where I expected to find peers eager to dicuss and debate, I met individuals willing to throw around hate, no matter what side of the issue they spoke from. And it confounded many of my “pro-Israel” friends that I had Israeli citizenship and somehow supported a two-state solution. After a few frustrating months and many red-faced moments, I turned my back on the discussion entirely for years. All because the discussion ceased to exist.

(It’s important to note, all of my discussions on the issue of Israel, Palestine and the Middle East were held outside of a classroom setting. I cannot speak about the actual classes that discussed these issues as I did not take any. But, a college education is as much about learning outside the classroom as much as it is when you’re sitting in an auditorium desk, and these political “encounters” speak to the reality that many young American Jews face in college… or at least the realities I faced.)

Though I can hardly call myself a fan of his work, Ariel Pink recently provided a simplified take on the issue in Israel that I can (somewhat) get behind. In an interview with Heeb magazine conducted and published before the Gaza flotilla incident, Pink made some dramatic statements about Israel that initially caught me off guard.

You know what, I am whatever everybody thinks I am. And Jews . . . Jews just like to be called Jewish. That’s all that they care about. They’re fucking stupid. The ones that are like, not in Israel, they’re just so stupid. They’re all like, beefed up with national pride and all that kind of stuff. It’s just bullshit. I’m totally against all that. I think you’re a man of the world. Worldly. We’re all from the same DNA strand, you know. It’s like potatoes are our brothers. So, so, so silly.

What caught me off guard is the language Pink used. Eloquence aside, the heart of Pink’s message is a distilled, simplified take on how I feel about the American Jewry and the situation in Israel. Despite decades and centuries of political unrest in the region, I hope for peace and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians. And yet, I can’t help but think my simple wish will somehow get distorted into some sort of extremist perspective, much in the way Pink’s fairly simple statements seem outrageous because of the way he chose to describe them. But, I also know that may be the only way my thoughts even get out to the public.

In the end, that may be when the problem in the Middle East is really bad: When a message of peace and prosperity can somehow be misconstrued as extreme.


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