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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Rock the Casbah

This has been bounced around in the news and the blogosphere for the past week or so, but I haven't weighed in because I was (and to some extend, still am) conflicted.

First watch the video and then we'll talk:


OK, here are the bare facts:

The six soldiers are from the IDF's NAHAL Brigade and were on a patrol in the city of Hebron.  Based on the quality of light it is probably early morning.  The call of the Muezzin in the beginning supports this, but could easily have been added later along with the music soundtrack.

Clearly this was not spontaneous since the routine was rehearsed and the cameraman was in place to record the soldiers before they arrived on the scene.  However, they were on duty, wearing full combat gear and carrying weapons... something that needs to be kept in mind during any reasonable discussion.

This is where we depart from facts and move into opinion and conjecture.

First off, if indeed it was filmed early in the morning, the intent may have been to do so before any of Hebron's Arab citizens would be up and around.  Personally I hope this was the intent because if I were an Arab living in an area that was being patrolled by armed combat troops, I'm not sure I'd be happy with the idea of them making a game of their position of authority over me.

Second, the music seems to have been added later by whoever edited the video.  They were likely dancing to a much softer version of the song being played on an ipod or cell phone of one of the soldiers.  So from a disrupting standpoint, I doubt many (if any) of the locals were aware of what was going on outside their windows.

Another point worth making is that this is far from the first such video by combat troops.  U.S. troops in Iraq and UK soldiers in Afghanistan have recorded similar videos, but to my knowledge, most or all were done on base and not among the population they were patrolling.

There have been many versions of this video circulating on YouTube (some of which have been removed), but the comments have spanned the full spectrum from those who found it was very positive because it showed the human, youthful side of the IDF troops in the midst of difficult, dangerous duty assignments... to those who found it akin to Nazi guards doing the makerena in Auschwitz.

Personally I fall somewhere in the middle.  I think it is extremely important to show the human, youthful side of our soldiers since they are so often portrayed as inhuman, unfeeling monsters.  But there are other ways to do that which wouldn't come off as mocking. 

I have personally seen our soldiers doing humanitarian work and offering assistance and kindness to the population among which they are forced to serve.  If the IDF spokesman's office would assign a few still and video cameramen to document the reality of our troops service, I'm sure they would end up with plenty of footage that could be combined into a nice montage showing the human side of the equation.

In some ways I think whoever carried out the video stunt shown above may have unwittingly played into a trap that Israel seldom avoids:  In the court of public opinion, any conflict between a modern industrial people and a less developed agrarian one will invariably be ruled in favor of the 'noble savages'.  I discussed this ages ago in a post entitled 'Questioning the National Geographic Worldview.  Feel free to have a look. 

The meeting point of this un-winnable struggle is the moment at the start of the video which juxtaposes the call of the Muezzin with club music.  When that Muslim call to worship bumped up against a dance beat, we lost the debate before it even began.

Anyway, if you haven't talked this topic to death already amongst yourselves, please feel free to weigh in here.

Posted by David Bogner on July 8, 2010 | Permalink

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In the world we live in there is the truth and the "perceived" truth. You can only imagine which is more powerful. I think the truth here is a bunch of kids decided to take a break from reality and have a little fun. What we'll be hearing and reading about however, via the Palestinian and world press media machines, is the childish and unsophisticated nature of the IDF -- armed troops once again showing how callous they can be as "occupiers". I think the soldiers had probably scoped out the area and what they planned, but G-d forbid that something untoward had happened -- an incident of some sort -- and the recent unplesantness on the waters off the coast of Gaza would have seemed minor in comparison. I'm just suggesting that, unfortunately, there really isn't room for such antics, even when there is absolutely nothing malicious involved.

Posted by: Ron | Jul 8, 2010 11:39:43 AM

You know, when I first saw the video it made me very uncomfortable -- though I couldn't articulate why. Thanks for taking the time to share this. I think that many people will identify with your/our ambivalent views.

Posted by: zahava | Jul 8, 2010 12:49:34 PM

I agree with what Ron says.
Tho my real problem is with YouTube, not the antics of some soldiers who also happen to be kids. (I also agree with Zahava...maybe its a mom thing - you just want to smack them and say 'Stop that, get back to work, let me make you a sandwich...')

As Ron says - it will be interpreted, re-interpreted and misinterpreted. Everything goes 'viral' now. Is that a good thing, a bad thing?

Frankly, I find it tiring.

Posted by: weese | Jul 8, 2010 3:42:50 PM

you just want to smack them and say 'Stop that, get back to work, let me make you a sandwich...'

O.M.G, weese! I <3 that! That so very accurately sums up my reaction to the video! I think it IS most definitely a mom thing! :-)

Posted by: zahava | Jul 8, 2010 3:58:11 PM

Not an issue. If it becomes an issue, it will be decided on the music. Those who like the music will like the video.

This is of a genre. There was a video of "Spontaneous" dancing in a train station. Ah, here it is.

Hamas will probably counter with their own video. Maybe this will eventually replace shooting war. We'll have a Globo-vision song contest instead.

Posted by: AreaMan | Jul 8, 2010 4:28:45 PM

Looking more deeply, these dances are part of the Intergalactic Choreographic Conspiracy -- it's all an attempt to get people to sign up for dance classes despite the condition of the world economy.

If you look at that YouTube page, you'll see lots of other train stations around the world are in on it. The train station managers have linked up with the choreographers in a conspiracy so vast it cannot be imagined...

Posted by: AreaMan | Jul 8, 2010 4:31:49 PM

That doesn't bother me at all. It's just a group of young sojers goofing around in order to make the best of a bad situation. The Israel haters will squawk no matter what....so what?

If I were an IDF PAO, I'd be more concerned about how lame those dance moves were. Those guys need help from the experts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jg3qM_ml_-4

:)

Posted by: Karl Newman | Jul 8, 2010 6:06:18 PM

I would like to point you all to an interesting post by Elder of Ziyon in which he quotes an interview with the soldiers who made the video clip.

It all began one evening when they sat down and started thinking how to bid farewell from the guys in the company. "We talked about it until we came up with the idea of making a satire out of the whole thing, just for laughs", one of the soldiers says. "We thought of all kinds of things that we could do, but they all looked too extreme to us. It's a custom to leave something behind after one leaves his company. We were really havnig a hard time in Hebron so we wanted to do some thing for laughs. You have to understand that service in Hebron is really hard. We were their twice. So we came up with all kinds of ideas, and than we thought about the dance. We downloaded the song to our cell phones and one of the soldiers came up with the moves. We practiced for a few minutes. It wasn't that complicated. We agreed on some codes that will help us remeber the moves because we had to do it without the song in the background."

And then the soldiers went on patrol. "We decided to do it late, around seven in the evening, and in a deserted area so no one can see us. It's important to emphesize it wasn't in the Casbah. It was spontaneous. One soldier stood near the guarding post and filmed it with his cell phone. The commander who stood on the left side shouted out the codes, and everyone did the moves according to the codes. We did it in one take", the soldiers said yesterday.

After the shoot they attached the song to the video and prepared the film to show it to the soldiers in the platoon.

It all makes much more sense now.

Posted by: annie | Jul 8, 2010 6:31:22 PM

I think that once in a while it's nice to be reminded that these are 18 and 19 year old kids, who we entrust our families lives to on a daily basis. The fact that they need to blow off a little steam is understandable. Keep in mind what kids their age are doing in the States.

Posted by: Max Power | Jul 8, 2010 7:57:42 PM

I think that once in a while it's nice to be reminded that these are 18 and 19 year old kids, who we entrust our families lives to on a daily basis. The fact that they need to blow off a little steam is understandable. Keep in mind what kids their age are doing in the States.

Posted by: Max Power | Jul 8, 2010 7:57:42 PM

I too had mixed-feelings when I saw the video and you have expressed my thoughts perfectly. Especially when you write:

"Personally I hope this was the intent because if I were an Arab living in an area that was being patrolled by armed combat troops, I'm not sure I'd be happy with the idea of them making a game of their position of authority over me."

"I think it is extremely important to show the human, youthful side of our soldiers since they are so often portrayed as inhuman, unfeeling monsters. But there are other ways to do that which wouldn't come off as mocking.

I have personally seen our soldiers doing humanitarian work and offering assistance and kindness to the population among which they are forced to serve. If the IDF spokesman's office would assign a few still and video cameramen to document the reality of our troops service, I'm sure they would end up with plenty of footage that could be combined into a nice montage showing the human side of the equation."

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Jul 8, 2010 8:34:25 PM

To me, it makes sense.

Especially after reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/188th-Crybaby-Brigade-Chicago-Hezbollah/dp/1416549323 which explains exactly what happens when you entrust the defense of a country and heavy machinery to 18-year-olds (lots of jokes, lots of messups and lots of hard work)

Unfortuantely, to the hypersensitive world media, it doesn't make sense and is, as you said, making a mockery of the Palestinian occupation. The perceived truth, not the ultimate one, will always be the right one and the reason we never win at hasbara. But I don't think they were thinking about all the implications when they made the video.

Posted by: Vicki | Jul 8, 2010 10:31:01 PM

To me, it makes sense.

Especially after reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/188th-Crybaby-Brigade-Chicago-Hezbollah/dp/1416549323 which explains exactly what happens when you entrust the defense of a country and heavy machinery to 18-year-olds (lots of jokes, lots of messups and lots of hard work)

Unfortuantely, to the hypersensitive world media, it doesn't make sense and is, as you said, making a mockery of the Palestinian occupation. The perceived truth, not the ultimate one, will always be the right one and the reason we never win at hasbara. But I don't think they were thinking about all the implications when they made the video.

Posted by: Vicki | Jul 8, 2010 10:31:01 PM

To me, it makes sense.

Especially after reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/188th-Crybaby-Brigade-Chicago-Hezbollah/dp/1416549323 which explains exactly what happens when you entrust the defense of a country and heavy machinery to 18-year-olds (lots of jokes, lots of messups and lots of hard work)

Unfortuantely, to the hypersensitive world media, it doesn't make sense and is, as you said, making a mockery of the Palestinian occupation. The perceived truth, not the ultimate one, will always be the right one and the reason we never win at hasbara. But I don't think they were thinking about all the implications when they made the video.

Posted by: Vicki | Jul 8, 2010 10:31:01 PM

Sigh. I'm such an old timer. I wish they had used the orginal Rock the Casbah by the Clash.

Posted by: NIna | Jul 9, 2010 12:21:36 AM

I think that this was put far more eloquently in an age long past, but all I can think of when I think about the whole Situation is:

Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

Not that I am trying to refer to the Palestinians "half devil and half child" but rather the whole message contained in the entirety of the poem.
- R

Posted by: Rob | Jul 9, 2010 2:07:35 AM

imho this is the best hasbara that israel has had in a long time.

any official video of humanitarian assistance and all the other worthy stuff would a) appear totally stage-managed and therefore cynically manipulative and b) undermine the genuine value of discreet charity.

the cheek of these young soldiers is the perfect antidote to the image of nameless commandos addressing the world's press with their faces hidden.

Posted by: aparatchik | Jul 9, 2010 10:59:48 PM

imho this is the best hasbara that israel has had in a long time.

any official video of humanitarian assistance and all the other worthy stuff would a) appear totally stage-managed and therefore cynically manipulative and b) undermine the genuine value of discreet charity.

the cheek of these young soldiers is the perfect antidote to the image of nameless commandos addressing the world's press with their faces hidden.

Posted by: aparatchik | Jul 9, 2010 10:59:48 PM

Bibi was interviewed by Larry King and asked about this video, but at the time he had not heard about it and was unable to comment. Too bad, would have liked to have heard his reaction.

In any case, the army appeared to be only mildly perturbed about this.

Posted by: Jewish Ideas Daily | Jul 11, 2010 11:24:17 AM

Bibi was interviewed by Larry King and asked about this video, but at the time he had not heard about it and was unable to comment. Too bad, would have liked to have heard his reaction.

In any case, the army appeared to be only mildly perturbed about this.

Posted by: Jewish Ideas Daily | Jul 11, 2010 11:24:17 AM

I am coming back to your post because I liked what you wrote and wanted to add my own thoughts.
In the digital age we have to be careful about what we post and the effect it wil have and here we need to think globally. This video wasn't just shared among a few guys, it was seen worldwide.
Most (if not all) of us would agree that Jewish ethics is ethics at its best. Yet it is not just part of our culture, it is something that should guide us every day. Ethical Judaism isn't just for the showcase and therefore needs to be taught to Israeli soldiers even if, or maybe because, they are young. I suppose lots of them are aware of the consequences of their actions but it is still necessary to instill this idea into the rest.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Jul 12, 2010 10:07:22 AM

From a friend who works in the army and knows the guys who did this - they recorded it in the Jewish section of Hebron, and were not on duty at the time. Hope that makes you feel a little bit better... And all sound was added after the video was filmed.

Posted by: Tal | Jul 20, 2010 6:14:39 PM

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