Israel's Settlers, Brought to You by the Ministry of Silly Videos

Israel’s right-wing tries, once again, to make a satire that is both funny and biting. Once again, Orit Arfa's takeoff of Miley Cyrus fails. Can people be funny in the service of their homeland?

Asher Schechter
Asher Schechter
Asher Schechter
Asher Schechter

A girl who is not Miley Cyrus swings on a wrecking ball in minimal clothing. Singing her heart out, tears in eyes, she does everything the real Miley does in her infamous "Wrecking Ball" clip, complete with licking sledgehammers and cozying up to metal chains and other assorted construction paraphernalia.

Supposedly, just another Miley parody. Only instead of a searing ballad inspired by the royal hunkness of Liam Hemsworth, this particular wannabe is singing a love song to… the former Jewish settlement in Gaza?

Orit Arfa, she of "Jews Can’t Stop" fame, is already an accomplished artist in the often overlooked genre of political Miley Cyrus parodies. Her first much-maligned Miley video featured the young writer-cum-satirist and Ariel resident twerking on bulldozers while unleashing verbal gems like “We (Jews) gonna fight all night/ till we get our birthright” and received the dubious honor of being named "The Worst Miley Cyrus Parody Ever" by both New York Magazine and Heeb.

And her second video, Gaza Wrecking Ball, is so much better. With lines like “We never ever wanted a war/ we only wanted to live in peace” and “Don’t you ever say we should have walked away/ we will always want you”, Arfa mourns the 2005 evacuation of Gush Katif with the subtlety of, well, a wrecking ball.

We con the world

They came in with a wrecking ball / Tore down our homes and all we loved / All we wanted was to live our lives / All they ever did was hate us / Yeah, they, hate us/ You ha—ha-hate me”, she sings. What of the timing of its release, coinciding with the death of Ariel Sharon, the person who was responsible for “wrecking” the Jewish settlements in Gush Katif? Mere coincidence, she says.

But compared to other right-wing spoofs that have graced YouTube over the past few years, Arfa looks like a downright Molière.

The most famous one was, perhaps, 2010’s "We Con the World," a parody of 1985’s star-studded music video "We Are The World" produced by right-wing Israeli media criticism website Latma. Following the events surrounding 2010’s Free Gaza flotilla, "We Con" - sung by a slew of Arab characters - featured lines likes “as Allah has shown us, for facts there’s no demand/ so we will always gain the upper hand” and “we’ll make them all believe the Hamas is Momma Theresa”.

In the highly flammable atmosphere of the propaganda war of those days, the video was a hit, bringing in over 2 million views (to date) and even briefly promoted by Israel’s official hasbara authorities.

After the success of "We Con" Latma made a slew of other videos, merging spoofs of pop songs with right-wing satire. There was "The Three Terrors" (geddit?), "Jingle Bells from Bethlehem," "Somebody to Hate," "Arab Times are a Changin’" and so much more.

These were often uncomedic, unfunny didactic events, filled with antiquated Arab accents (or Swedish, whoever hated Israel most that week) and right-wing ideological truths told with no punchlines.

Which begs the question: is it possible to make a funny right-wing satire about Israel? Evidence, so far, point to the contrary.

Inadvertantly hilarious

It’s not a problem unique to Israel, of course. You’d be hard-pressed to find a conservative comedian in the U.S. other than perhaps Dennis Miller (who, some argue, ceased being funny the day he changed political colors). Last March, Britain’s Radio 4 was embroiled in a scandal following allegations of left-wing comedic bias.

In Israel, at least, it could be that the right just doesn’t get enough chances to produce its own brand of humor.

While supposed liberal-biased shows like "Eretz Nehederet" rule the prime time, a plan to produce a right-wing satirical show for Latma on the barely-watched public Channel 1 was canceled late last year after two years of futile attempts.

But it could also be that the two Hs: Humor and Hasbara - don’t mesh.

Could humor, after all, be didactic? So far, right-wing attempts are marred by the fact that they find it more important to be right than to be funny.

Satire is traditionally anti-establishment. Being pro-establishment, laughing downwards instead of upwards, is bullying. How many comedians have you ever seen that were self-satisfied?

Back to Orit Arfa, the right-wing’s new princess of viral. Unlike other right-wing cracks at humor, Arfa is an odd bird. First of all, not only is she secular, but she is unafraid of using partial nudity as a way to deliver her message. Her repertoire, including renditions of Alicia Keys (“Israel Will Inspire you”) and Stevie Wonder (“We Just Called to Say We Love Israel”), also includes a good dose of self-parody (whether conscious or not).

So she’s rather funny. Probably not for the reasons she aimed for, but a laugh is a laugh. Her honest-to-god, uncynical patriotic vitriol, combined with her willingness to deliver her message through the medium of gyrating on bulldozers, makes for a pretty good joke. Finally, the Israeli right has its own very funny person.

Construction in the West Bank.Credit: Nir Kafri
Miley Cyrus performs in New York's Times Square during New Year's Eve on December 31, 2013. Does she know what she's celebrating?Credit: AP
Orit Arfa, the 'setter Miley Cyrus, from the YouTube video Screenshot from 'Gaza Wrecking Ball.'

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