In 2005, I never imagined that I would one day remove Israeli rapper Subliminal from my list of friends on Facebook. At the time, I was an active Facebook user and an avid fan and researcher of Israeli hip-hop music. Subliminal was a very popular rapper with a highly political message, so it was particularly important for me to interview him for the thesis I wrote surveying the genre. But our scheduled meeting fell through, making Subliminal one of the few Israeli rappers I had not personally met.
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We finally met three years later, after which he added me as his friend on Facebook. I gladly accepted. And while we never became real friends, I always took pleasure in knowing that one of Israel’s most famous rappers was on my list of friends.
Until this week.
Subliminal wrote a post so full of incitement and hatred that it led me to delete him from my list of "friends.”
The post, written in Hebrew, was a response to the murder of an 18 year-old Israeli soldier, apparently by a 16-year-old Palestinian who had crossed from Jenin into Israel illegally. His post included three particularly upsetting points:
1) He said that Israel should "burn all of the prisons for Palestinians with everyone inside" and then "annihilate Jenin."
2) He referred to the Israeli government as a "bunch of pussies" for not responding to the murder with more violence, and used a particularly unpleasant derogatory term for gays to describe witnesses to the murder who did not behead the killer immediately.
Violent, sexist and homophobic. Charming.
3) He concluded by saying that "leftists" who do not like what he has to say should just "kill themselves" already.
The post has received over 5,400 likes so far and 258 shares, reaching a wide audience.
The influence of this rapper, so filled with hate, has extended beyond Israel to the entire Jewish world: he was an ambassador of the Education Ministry, and accepted an invitation from the Jewish Agency to teach about the connection between hip hop and Jewish learning.
As a rapper, someone who makes on his way with words, Subliminal should know how powerful words can be and just how much impact they can have.
Indeed, he posted a pathetic clarification the next day – saying he wrote his post while very angry, that he has nothing against leftists or Arabs and that he does not mean to demean the government. He did not once use the words “sorry” or “apologize.” In fact, he even explicitly said he was not apologizing but merely “clarifying his words.” He even went on to explain that he was mostly upset about “extremism.” The irony seemed lost on him.
Before the Jewish world celebrates Subliminal as a role model again, he needs to learn some lessons in anger management and in Jewish values, for he has failed on both counts.
It is ok to be angry about the murder of Eden Atias. The loss of life is always painful, and the victim’s youth and military service made the news that much more difficult. But Subliminal’s angry reaction included multiple incitements to violence. His attempt to “clarify” cannot undo those angry words, and the significantly fewer number of “likes” and “shares” of that “clarification” makes that evident.
More importantly, his “clarification” suggests he does not understand the extent to which his hateful writing undermines the Jewish values he claims to espouse. Jewish law makes clear that a murderer must stand trial for his crimes and may only be put to death if convicted fairly. The rabbinic tradition accepts the biblical precept of a “life for a life,” but through the courts; not mob violence. This same precept instructs us that we do not punish a murderer by murdering his family and neighbors, but that only he may pay the crime. Calling on Israel to kill all prisoners or an entire city is not a call for justice; it is incitement to murder.
It should go without saying that homophobic and misogynistic language violates the concept of human dignity. Subliminal is of course not the only rapper to employ such language. But since he claims that his anger stems from a love of Israel and Judaism, I expect him to refrain from language that objectifies women and uses same-sex attraction as an insult.
In the meantime, Subliminal may choose to dismiss my points as those of a “silly left-winger,” to borrow his own phrase, but I hope he realizes that one need not be left-wing to oppose misogyny, homophobia, and incitement toward violence.
Alternatively, Subliminal may apologize for his hateful speech and work on expressing his politics and emotions in a productive way.
In the past, Subliminal has been celebrated for his strong sense of Zionism and Jewish pride, and he has been given the opportunity to act as a role model and educator. I hope that the leadership of the Jewish and Israeli world will stop celebrating his supposed love of Israel while overlooking his hate for others. Despite my love for Israeli hip-hop, I will no longer be buying his music or attending his concerts. I call on the leaders of the Jewish community to join me.
Arie Hasit, a rabbinical student at Machon Schechter, serves as the spiritual leader for NOAM - the youth wing of the Masorti Movement in Israel. He lives in Jerusalem.