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WATCH: An IDF love song set in the ruins of a Palestinian village

One of the more difficult aspects of living in Israel over the last several years has been coming to terms with the layers of denial in which Jewish Israeli society wraps itself. The denial comes in many forms and covers some of the biggest issues facing the country: the occupation, discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and Mizrahi Jews, sexism, homophobia and of course, the Nakba.

I recently came across a video that, at least for me, clarifies just how deep the denial of the destruction of Palestinian existence prior to 1948 runs in Israeli society. The video shows the Nahal Band – a music and theater troupe belonging to the IDF’s Nahal group, famous for their renditions of classic Eretz Yisrael songs – singing Haim Hefer’s timeless “He Never Knew Her Name.” The sepia-tinted clip, which looks as if it were filmed sometime the 1960s, opens with five members of the group driving their jeep through a rocky terrain lined with sabra cacti. As the camera zooms out, we see the ruins of a Palestinian village. The next two-and-a-half minutes show lead singer Sassi Keshet (who went on to become a famous Israeli entertainer), walking around the sabra field, finally reaching what is clearly an abandoned Palestinian home. There, he leans on the building, looking forlorn and dejected, before returning to his fellow troupe members and driving off.

Watching this video, one cannot help but be taken aback by the sight of the soldier singing a love song while walking around a depopulated Palestinian village. The village’s ruins and its cacti are transformed and repurposed into a mere backdrop for the soldier’s longing for his nameless female lover. But the most disturbing aspect of the video is that we aren’t watching some kind of accident unfold before us, nor are we witnessing some lone blemish on the pristine record of the most moral army in the world. The video strikes at the underlying principles of the Zionist project: the denial of the existence of another people who had to be cleared away in order to build a new society.

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    1. Khaled Khalid

      Historical Irony is not something Zionists comprehend.
      We come back to the ultimate irony of a despised people – which is tragic enough not on a Jewish level but on a human level. Only to find a despised people despising the Palestinians with equal disdain.

      Israeli, American, Russian Zionists understand Irony about as much as America’s Tea Party do.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jesus

        Khaled: are u saying palestinians understand irony more than jews? thats sort of a funny thing to say really. u should read maybe some yoram kanyuk , good zio sense of humor, before u say such humorless things

        Reply to Comment
    2. daniel

      another interesting example of taking the nakba as a music video background is arik einstein walking through manshya neighborhood :

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ummm, that’s not a love song in the traditional sense of the word. More like a lamentation song, singing about unfulfilled love between a soldier and a nurse he once saw, a soldier who, after being wounded, meets her at hospital and then dies “without asking for her name.” Since the plot takes place during the 1948 war, the scenery sort of fits.

      Reply to Comment
    4. David Daoud

      I think you are missing the point of this cleverly subversive video. To sing what he is singing (“He met her briefly during the war/ and forgot to ask her name / but knew they would meet again some day”) in these settings is pretty prescient!!

      But really, just what do you mean by ‘The underlying principles of the Zionist Project’? Which Zionist project? I can see that is is very convenient to boil down a wide array of thought like so, in order to easily grapple with it. But in doing so you too are erasing history, in your own way – there were many zionist groups and streams, more than a few of whom attached central importance to building a just society together with the local Palestinians, and were actively engaged in working toward that ends. The fact that they eventually lost out in a major way cannot be attributed to only one party. Erasing this side of our common history, which was full of true humanistic revolutionaries, does no justice to the very ideas you seem to be standing for.

      Your website asked me to leave a comment so there it is.

      Reply to Comment
      • CigarButNoNice

        You don’t get the point, David. This site exists to demonize. The purpose is to legitimize the dispossession of the Jews of their land, the Land of Israel, to recast Arab imperialist aggression against it as a “struggle for justice.”

        Reply to Comment
        • David Daoud

          Everyone misses points here and there Cigar man but it looks as if you missed the entire semester. Do north, central, and south america all belong to the dispossessed natives, or is it only your god who speaks the truth? Yeah there are violent idiots on all sides, but is a Palestinian kid who wants to see a puppet show in the city where he, his parents and his grandparents were all born an ‘Aggressive Arab Imperialist’? Sounds pretty scary, being you!

          Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        That is a good and fair thought, that there are several streams of Zionism. It’s just we seem to be seeing the worst one, I think when Likud came to power is when it really started to show, with Begin.

        Begin as we know used to wear a short narrow mustache and give speeches with posters showing a map of the British Mandate with a rifle over the map (Irgun). He, and Likud after him, still are taking action to take over the entire map, and like Irgun, that appears to be their only morality.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Richard

      If denial of the Arab population ran so deep in Israeli society, Israel would have demolished this village entirely and you would only see the cactus. There’s absolutely no way the people making this video didn’t know what they were filming – all it shows is that they didn’t care, which is an entirely different thing from not knowing.

      Reply to Comment
      • SusiCH

        Thanks for your comment, Richard. I finally come to the understanding that it was pure grace, pity and humanity that only the buildings’ roofs were deleted, not the walls around with it. How good tose people were!
        And if it’s only the point of not caring about facts, I wonder what people like them care about at all.

        Reply to Comment
    6. tomer

      Gee, how wonder whether Russians now living in Kaliningrad sometimes see ruins of the old City of Koningsberg or Prussian Villages. They might sing love songs yet remain unaware of the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Germans in 1945.

      Reply to Comment
      • JG

        Beside your comparison being utterly nonsense, Germans never were indigenious people of Kaliningrad.

        Maybe try to read some history book, keyword Deutscher Orden.
        They were so much indignious to the Balticum like they were to Jerusalem, where the crusade took them before the time they conquered the lands at Baltic Sea…..

        Reply to Comment
        • tomer

          You are obviously a German Nakba Denier!!!
          Do not realise that entire towns, villages and cities were ethnically cleansed by the Evil Russian Army? Koeningsberg, Breslau, Danzig etc were ethnically cleansed. 12 MILLION were expelled at gunpoint. Many were expelled after May 1945 when the Germans side had already surrendered unconditionally!

          Reply to Comment
          • JG

            EOD. I don’t discuss with German Nazis.

            Reply to Comment
    7. Laurent Szyster

      Why twist such a bizarre interpretation of a 1948 love song video into some kind of “proof” about what zionism is (not) ?

      Well, because it is hard – probably impossible ? – to come by children reciting this kind of warmongering song on israeli TV :


      Reply to Comment
    8. Chanan

      What a superficial post-mod mumbo-jumbo.

      There is no denial, no ignoring and no “zionist project” in this song; it is merely a sad war song about nameless love and death, directly referring to the tough 48 war.

      Filming in what looks like 48′ ruins (and was surely seen as such when the video was made, around 40 years ago) seems more than appropriate.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Alex

      Homophobia? No way. Gays have the best possible life in Israel! Just for the record.

      Reply to Comment

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