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WATCH: Racist college humor in the Israeli heartland

Student Union members at a large college outside Tel Aviv make a grotesquely racist film, and they don’t understand what they did wrong.   

I wish I could say that the young Israelis who made this film and the “thousands” who immediately gave “positive reactions” to it were marginal in this society – that they were “hilltop youth” in the West Bank, or slum-dwellers growing up amid severe poverty, ignorance, violence and crime. But they’re not. They’re college students in their early twenties from the heart of the country, from the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon Lezion, outside Tel Aviv. And the ones who made this little film aren’t marginal on their 12,000-student campus, either – they’re in the Student Union, they’re involved, they’re the leaders of tomorrow, as people like to say of such young adults.

I am very relieved to read there was an outpouring of protest against the four-minute film from other students at the college. In this country, there are both children of light and children of darkness. The problem is that there are so many children of darkness; wherever you go in the Middle East’s only democracy, some of them are guaranteed to be in the vicinity.

The film was a “comedic” promo for the college Student Union’s annual party in Eilat last weekend. It showed a busload of students being waylaid in the desert by three Arabs depicted in the equivalent of how the worst Nazi propagandists depicted Jews – grotesquely ugly and hairy, howling, leering, bent on homosexual gang rape. Playing in the background was twangy Arabic music.

The students posted the film on the college Student Union’s Facebook page, and the outraged comments started appearing. But so did the approving ones, according to the Student Union, as reported by The Times of Israel

The clip was quickly taken down by the student union, which said it would exercise more caution in the future while insisting that the film had been taken out of context and blown out of proportion.

“The clip is meant for comedic purposes only, and it was only meant to entertain while getting the students excited about the traditional vacation in Eilat that will take place this weekend,” the union said. “In less than one day, the video received thousands of positive reactions alongside criticism. We had no intention of hurting any population, and if someone was offended from the video directly or indirectly we sincerely apologize.”

I don’t know which is more stupefying in its moral numbness, the movie or the “apology.” They were just having some good clean fun. They didn’t mean to hurt anybody. It was taken out of context, blown out of proportion. And my favorite – if anyone was offended (which they still can’t understand why that should be, but, being the noble, humble people they are, then by all means) they apologize.

They honestly don’t know what they did wrong. They’re genuinely stumped that anyone could find what they did not funny, but ugly, sickening, vicious, sadistic. And when they realize that a whole lot of people reacted that way, that they’re in trouble, they immediately try to cover their asses by pleading innocence and pointing out all the support they got – and they truly don’t understand what’s wrong with that, either.

I know that there are people like this in every country. But I also know that this is an authentic Israeli type. Those college kids are the real-life basis of countless stock characters in Israeli comedy – the crude, dependably racist boor who says whatever he wants to anyone he wants, who thinks he – or she – is funny but is, of course, unbearable. The thing is, in the comedy routines, they’re usually lower-class, salt-of-the-earth characters; the people who made this film go to college, they run their college’s Student Union. Education doesn’t seem to have helped them, or the thousands of their peers who registered “positive reactions” to the film.

I wish I could say that if we end the occupation this sort of behavior will fade away in this country. But it won’t. It might diminish by a fraction, but Israel is a breeding ground for boors, always has been – in fact I think there are a lot fewer of them here than when I arrived nearly 30 years ago – and boors just naturally gravitate to racism. Why Israel produces so many of them, at every level of society, is a huge question. I think the answer starts with the hard origins of the people, the circumstances, the land, and who knows where it ends.

Whatever, these people are here, they’re on patrol and checkpoint duty in the West Bank, and they’re coming home to take their place in society. And the fact that there are masses of Israelis who are utterly appalled by them doesn’t make up for their prevalence, their conspicuousness, and their resilience.

Every nation has its racist boors, but Israel has more than its share. Interestingly, it’s a type that used to be virtually unknown among Jews, before we became, as the song says, a free people in our own land.

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    1. Ellen

      Don’t disagree with the sentiment that “Israel has more than its share” of racist boors. However, the notion that this racism was “virtually unknown among Jews” before the state of Israel is simply not the case. Many Jewish immigrants to the United States were pretty good at mastering racist attitudes — perhaps not towards Arabs, but towards African Americans and others whom they referred to with pejoratives that I’m sure you’re familiar with. Doesn’t in any way excuse the racism on display in this video or the ongoing persistence of ugly racist incidents in Israel these days — just wanted to correct the historical record.

      Reply to Comment
      • isaak

        I would be the first lover of african americans among jews, if they would be not so crazy nazi hitleristic anti semite.Are you got it?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Lauren

      If these are the graduates of Israel’s school system, then the government and Ministry of Education must rethink the curriculum and education it is giving its young people. Very sad.

      Reply to Comment
      • Yuval

        These are not the graduates of the Israeli school system. The students who made this film lack the sense of judgment, but this film does absolutely not represent the mindset of the Israeli public.

        Don’t forget that the writer of this article has an agenda too, and his agenda is probably to accuse the Israeli public of racism. When reading articles from only some sites on the internet, you only see one side of the coin. To see the other side, that of the public in Israel, you have to go to Israel and talk with the Israeli people face to face, or find some randomly chosen Israelis on facebook and talk to them. You can not trust the media in this case, as in most cases it is not reflecting the true thoughts and believes of the public, but rather showing you a narrow narration, usually a one that fits well to the media’s agenda, or one that will attract more traffic…

        Back to the subject of racism: the Israeli public (to which I belong) is very proud of its democracy. We have an Arab judge in our supreme court, we had an Arab minister in the government, there are Arab parliamentarians in our Parliament, Arab policemen etc… Arab students are studying in the universities’s classes alongside Hebrews, working side to side in the high tech industry companies and playing shoulder to shoulder in soccer teams. An Arab team even won the Israeli soccer cup a couple of years ago.

        It is true that just like in any other country, there are things that should be improved, and not everything is perfect, but these things are talked about, discussed over in the public media, and (hopefully quickly) receive an appropriate solution, just as expected in a healthy, thriving democracy.


        Reply to Comment
        • Lauren

          Yuval, I’m an Israeli citizen and also an educator in our school system. I am not a foreigner. I’ve been living in this country for over 40 years.

          I read a wide range of articles from different sources and learn from “life experience”.

          I work in the Bedouin Sector and come, face-to-face, with Israel’s “democracy”, a far cry from the democracy I was brought up in in the USA.I grew up listening to Dr. Martin Luther King, leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

          I worked for many years in the Jewish Sector as well. I see things from both sides.

          Our school system gives clear messages to its pupils and they do not always support co-existence; nor do they recognize all of its pupils’ narratives. And this is what leads to films such as the one published here.

          I continue to do my utmost to instill true democratic values in all my pupils.

          Reply to Comment
          • John Salisbury

            Good work Lauren.
            I really think you are faced with almost insurmountable challenges.

            Reply to Comment
    3. sarah

      Racism is a universal human failing, not something confined to Jews or Israelis. I look forward to Mr. Derfner’s expose and condemnation of the Palestinian Authority’s rampant promotion of Jew-hatred.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sue

        Way to divert from the topic of the article. How can anyone take your comment seriously. First you say racism is universal and then use Palestinians as the example. Anyone not indoctrinated into Israeli propaganda knows that PA have a damn good reason for hatred of their oppressor. I’ve seen and read of the rampant racism in Israel of Arabs. Including disgusting acts of raining spit on Arab football players from stadiums or men badly beaten by gangs in front of family members while perpetrators are given a slap on the wrist by law enforcement. I just can’t understand how one can condemn the PA for racism when we all know its normal emotion to dislike your oppressor. It is not racism to criticize Israeli occupation and actions.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          >Anyone not indoctrinated into Israeli propaganda knows that PA have a damn good reason for hatred of their oppressor.

          Jews were hated (and oppressed) by Palestinian Arabs LONG before there was a state of Israel or Jews could have oppresed said Arabs.

          >It is not racism to criticize Israeli occupation and actions.

          No. But it is racism to deny Jews equal rights, as Arabs did.

          Reply to Comment
          • Shahid

            “Jews were hated (and oppressed) by Palestinian Arabs LONG before….”

            Is that the same hatred the Jews had from every non-Jew,Goyim,etc or whatever they are called?

            I heard that as far back as 15th and 16th centuries the alleged Jew haters were going out of their way to save the Jews who were about to be roasted alive by Spaniards when they conquered Spain from Muslims and on the top of that they gave refuge to the Jews in Muslim lands in their hundreds of thousands!!!

            Do jews remember the help given to them by Ottoman Empire(and that included Palestine) when they faced extinction from Spain???


            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >Is that the same hatred the Jews had from every non-Jew,Goyim,etc or whatever they are called?

            Not quite the same. You see, only Arabs are happy to dip hands in Jewish blood.

            >I heard that as far back as 15th and 16th centuries the alleged Jew haters…

            As you rightfully noticed, it all took place about 500 years ago.

            At the time, by the way, Arab world was one of centers of civilization.
            Apparently, things are prone to change.

            Reply to Comment
      • DCJ

        @Sarah: I agree, racism is universal, yet only Israel receives the majority of all US foreign aid, receives preferential treatment from the US in the UN and US military cooperation in receiving the latest updates in technology developments: that is why Israel is held to a different standard than the rest of the world.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Khaled Khalid

      What’s interesting is they are making fun of fellow Smites. Like there are no beetle browed, olive skinned Jews with bad teeth? I think these Jewish students see themselves as White Anglo Saxon/Nordic Europeans. The truth is North Europeans see European Jews as being as distinct and separate from themselves as much as they’d see Albanians or other Black Sea cultures.

      Mind you, in India and Pakistan being born with fair skin is considered beautiful and thus those people have an easier life than those born with dark skin, associated with working under the sun and poverty and illiteracy. Same people genetically but skin tone is viewed with a cultural (racist?) prism.

      So the truth is Jews can be just as unenlightened as any other Developing (Third World) country with their crude jokes, disdain and caricatures of other cultural groups.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Khaled Khalid

      However, Why is this Jewish Student mocking Arabs any different to the Caricatures of “Der Sturmer”??? in the 1920’s Germany?
      The objective is the same…Go Away Jews; or in this case Go Away Palestinians.

      And don’t tell me the difference is 6 Million Jews were gased. That happened after the Wannsee Conference 1942. Prior to that Germans just wanted Jews out of Europe. Unfortunately some countries were not as accommodating then as they like to pretend now a days. So this isn’t brought up in polite society in case it leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >However, Why is this Jewish Student mocking Arabs any different to the Caricatures of “Der Sturmer”??? in the 1920′s Germany?

        Not any more different than Arab student caricature mocking Jews.

        Everyone has a right to make caricatures, right?

        >The objective is the same…Go Away Jews; or in this case Go Away Palestinians.

        Palestinian Arabs are telling Jews to go away, Palestinian Jews are telling Arabs to go away.

        Why are you not satisfied with the situation?

        Reply to Comment
      • Elisabeth

        “The truth is North Europeans see European Jews as being as distinct and separate from themselves as much as they’d see Albanians or other Black Sea cultures.”

        Huh?! You cannot even tell that people are Jewish by looking at European Jews. People have to tell you they are Jewish, or their last name has to be Cohen.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Philos

      At Tel Aviv University there was a Nakba commemoration (outside the university premises of course) and a group of students organized by the local Im Tirtzu group were singing “Avienu Nakba Alie’chem” (we brought a Nakba on you – a disgusting distortion of a prayer song “Avienu Shalom Alie’chem” – we brought peace to you)

      The only redeeming thing about the sad spectacle was that the Nakba commemorators outnumbered the boors by at least 2-1 and didn’t respond to their ugly catcalls

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ken Kelso

      Larry Derfner your a hypocrite.
      Why don’t you ever speak out on the PA’s racist media against Jews.
      Its all on Palmediawatch.

      Reply to Comment
      • Eric

        Palwatch ? Lol……seriously ?

        And let me guess…..you get your Arab Translations from MEMRI ?

        People need to stop looking at BOGUS Websites that clearly DISTORT and INVENT things….

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Can you point out some specific lies and inventions by Palmediawatch and/or MEMRI?

          Reply to Comment
    8. Ken Kelso

      Israeli Peacenik Meets the Reality of Palestinian Arab Intransigence
      Elder of Ziyon
      May 13, 2013

      Lital Shemesh is a young, liberal Israeli journalist, considered a rising star in the Israeli media who openly expresses her political aspirations.

      She wrote a must-read article from Walla, translated by Baruch Gordon on his blog:

      Peace? From the Palestinian Standpoint, There is a Past, No Future
      by Lital Shemesh

      I participated in the Dialogue for Peace Project for young Israelis and Palestinians who are politically involved in various frameworks. The project’s objective was to identify tomorrow’s leaders and bring them closer today, with the aim of bringing peace at some future time.

      The project involved meetings every few weeks and a concluding seminar in Turkey.

      On the third day of the seminar after we had become acquainted, had removed barriers, and split helpings of rachat Lukum [a halva-like almond Arab delicacy] as though there was never a partition wall between us, we began to touch upon many subjects which were painful for both sides. The Palestinians spoke of roadblocks and the IDF soldiers in the territories, while the Israeli side spoke of constant fear, murderous terrorist attacks, and rockets from Gaza.

      The Israeli side, which included representatives from right and left, tried to understand the Palestinians’ vision of the end of the strife– “Let’s talk business.” The Israelis delved to understand how we can end the age-old, painful conflict. What red lines are they willing to be flexible on? What resolution will satisfy their aspirations? Where do they envision the future borders of the Palestinian State which they so crave?

      We were shocked to discover that not a single one of them spoke of a Palestinian State, or to be more precise, of a two-state solution.

      They spoke of one state – their state. They spoke of ruling Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Akko, Haifa, and the pain of the Nakba [lit. the tragedy – the establishment of the State of Israel]. There was no future for them. Only the past. “There is no legitimacy for Jews to live next to us” – this was their main message. “First, let them pay for what they perpetrated.”

      In the course of a dialogue which escalated to shouts, the Palestinians asked us not to refer to suicide bombers as “terrorists” because they don’t consider them so. “So how do you call someone who dons a vest and blows himself up in a Tel Aviv shopping mall with the stated purpose of killing innocent civilians,” I asked one of the participants.

      “I have a 4-year-old at home,” answered Samach from Abu Dis (near Jerusalem). “If God forbid something should happen to him, I will go and burn an entire Israeli city, if I can.” All the other Palestinian participants nodded their heads in agreement to his harsh words.

      “Three weeks ago, we gave birth to a son,” answered Amichai, a religious, Jewish student from Jerusalem. “If God forbid something should happen to him, I would find no comfort whatsoever in deaths of more people.”

      Israelis from the full gamut of political parties participated in the seminar: Likud, Labor, Kadima, Meretz, and Hadash (combined Jewish/Arab socialist party). All of them reached the understanding that the beautiful scenarios of Israeli-Palestinian peace that they had formulated for themselves simply don’t correspond with reality. It’s just that most Israelis don’t have the opportunity to sit and really converse with Palestinians, to hear what they really think.

      Our feed of information comes from Abu Mazen’s declarations to the international press, which he consistently contradicts when he is interviewed by Al Jazeera, where he paints a completely different picture.

      I arrived at the seminar with high hopes, and I return home with difficult feelings and despair. Something about the narrative of the two sides is different from the core. How can we return to the negotiating table when the Israeli side speaks of two states and the Palestinian side speaks of liberating Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea? How can peace ever take root in a platform which grants legitimacy to terrorism?

      This is not the first time a group of Israelis who pine for peace have met with their liberal Arab counterparts – only to find that they have no counterparts at all.

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        Oh how the hasbaraniks are desperately clutching at this article. Shemesh, in a subsequent interview with Arutz 7 for Jerusalem Day, described herself quite candidly as always having been right wing although this was hastily interpreted by the interviewer (broadcast from a studio in Bet El, where this blogger also happens to live) as meaning centre-right. The claims for her fame are overstated in his dumb article, no information is given on the seminar she supposedly attended other than that she attended one in Turkey as a “future leader” and doesn’t know what loukoum is. It’s a don’t-bother-to-read article. You’ll have to do better than that.

        Reply to Comment
    9. carl

      No idea who this lital shemesh is, but from her words she does not seems very reliable and convincing in portraying these barbarian palestinians.
      If “The Palestinians spoke of roadblocks and the IDF soldiers in the territories” without mentioning what they really suffer in their lives it means one of these 2 things: or this guys were stupid, or the author heard just what she wanted to hear.

      ..”..representatives from right and left, tried to understand the Palestinians’ vision of the end of the strife”:
      i am sure about it:-)
      “Nakba [lit. the tragedy – the establishment of the State of Israel]”:
      the “tragedy” was not the establishment of israel but instead the erasement of about 500 villages. a big difference. you can start from iqrit village to know a bit more:

      “In 1948, the Christian Orthodox village of Iqrit surrendered to the IDF without a fight. When soldiers ordered residents to leave for two weeks for security reasons, considering the village is extremely close to the Lebanese boarder, nobody thought twice about it. Three years later, in July 1951, when the High Court of Justice ordered the state to fulfill its promise and allow the displaced people, who were still living in temporary houses in other villages, to return to their homes and lands, the small community was thrilled. But on Christmas Eve of that year the IDF blew up the entire village, leaving only the church in place. The people of Iqrit realized that something had gone terribly, terribly wrong.”

      Reply to Comment
    10. aristeides

      I’d so much like to get the Zionist fellow travelers of the Congressional Black Caucus to sit down and watch these things.

      Reply to Comment
    11. rsgengland

      The interesting bit about this, is that this is an occasional, whereas in the Arab media this and far worse is the norm.
      At least in Israel it is fringe activity that gets shouted down. In the Arab media it is near universal, and applauded by the Arab audience.

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        Bullcrap. This is not fringe, it’s now mainstream. These are spoiled brat, comfortably-off secular business students. All the things we said were fringe ended up taking over the reins here, from the Irgun and the Lehi to Gush Emunim and its Jewish Underground, to Kahane and his acolytes. They are our government.

        Reply to Comment
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