Opinion

How Dutch Satirical TV Became the Latest 'anti-Israel' Enemy

In a world in which you’re either ‘for’ or ‘against’ us, it's clear where you stand when you present a parody of Netta Barzilai

Sanne Wallis de Vries performing her spoof version of "Toy."
Screengrab from Twitter

Anti-Israel.” The phrase is so commonly bandied about that it hardly merits attention. It has become virtually meaningless when applied to statements and acts that contain any criticism, even very harsh criticism, of government policies and actions.

Dozens of Gazans killed? An “anti-Israel” commission of inquiry will be established; a Norwegian boycott of products from the settlements (which even in official Israel are not defined as part of its sovereign territory)? – it must be “anti-Israel.” And let’s not forget all those “anti-Israel” statements from Breaking the Silence or the “anti-Israel” activities of Meretz and the party’s leader — that “traitorous, walking filth, human garbage can” Tamar Zandberg.

When supermodels like Gigi and Bella Hadid say something critical about the events in Gaza, the fashion section of the Walla website won’t forgive them for “coming out against Israel.”

The whole world is against us. It’s a very old story, one we’ve been taught – yet again – in recent years, by the Facebook page of rapper The Shadow, by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and by the number one claimant to victimhood, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But even after we’ve grown accustomed to the bleak thought that every word of criticism uttered about Israeli government policies, about the occupation, about the human rights situation in the territories, about Israeli militarism is “anti-Israel,” we now have the main evening news broadcast of the Israel Television News Company falling into the right’s warm embrace by declaring a bit of Dutch satire “anti-Israel.”

Why? Because Dutch television dared to show news reports of the bloody events in Gaza as the background of a performance of Netta Barzilai’s Eurovision-winning song “Toy.” And because they aired a comedienne, who did a spot-on imitation of Barzilai’s clucking sounds and dared to say a few things about Israel as a country that fires missiles (we do, don’t we?) and that enjoys monetary aid from Trump (have we ever said that we don’t?). When she says “There will be no Palestine here,” isn’t she accurately echoing the current aspirations of our right-wing government?

For the Israel Television News Company, all of this – whether on target, biased or totally one-sided – is interpreted as “anti-Israel.” There is no more nuance and no more criticism — only “for” and “against.” Are you for us or for our enemies? As if we were still right back in Chapter Five of the Book of Joshua, facing a drawn sword, and the Israeli consciousness can fathom no other options.

The satirical imitation on Dutch TV, a new enemy, is “anti-Israel” just like certain sketches on the Israeli satirical TV show “Eretz Nehederet” are “anti-Turkey,” with the characters complaining that “these guys are worse than Hamas — and we invented Hamas!” Or “anti-Greece” as when the characters of an obnoxious Israeli family visit and trash that country, muttering “what a disgusting nation.”

Now, imagine things were reversed. Imagine a Greek television station airing an excerpt from this sketch and protesting that the creators of “Eretz Nehederet” had degraded and humiliated the Greek people. Or Turkish TV upset because the Israeli satire show had impugned the Turks’ “national honor,” which happens to be a criminal offense in Turkey. We’d be chuckling and scoffing and say they didn’t understand anything.

The term “anti-Israel” should be left to the politicians who like to cry victimhood, to self-styled right-wing patriots, to supporters of The Shadow and to websites that don’t think too much about appending a populist headline to a minor news item. If the Israel Television News Company’s news program wants to taken seriously and not as a propaganda leaflet like Israel Hayom newspaper, it should have thought twice about the headline it chose to describe an annoying, even maddening, but quite successful parody of Netta Barzilai.