Ad Nauseam

The pendulum swings and as far as sex segregation and marginalizing women, it seems Israel is at the very end of the swing: Surely it cannot get worse than forcing women to sit at the back of the bus or requesting women dress modestly when visiting a doctor. And so the silent majority is silent no more, protesting extremists pushing the country away from its founding principles. I am very hopeful we will soon experience again a sane and equal normalcy.

Having said that, I take issue with all the brouhaha about the exclusion of women from advertisements: leading Israeli companies have come under scrutiny (1, 2, 3) for print ads that did not include women in them. Essentially, these people are demanding that women will be returned to advertisements – and I think that’s laughable:
Until the day comes when ad agencies are no longer havens for misogynistic men, portraying women in their stereotypical positions as secretaries and housewives – or seductresses; Until the day comes when women in TV ads will try to persuade us to switch banks or buy car insurance, and not just as gratuitous eye candy to hold the product up against their naked, heaving bodies: Until the day comes when women are shown as equal to men – until that bright day arrives, getting rid of images of women in advertising might just be a breath of fresh air; An extreme measure to combat an unbearable situation that have been going on for far too long. To quote the fictional Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: “[We’ve] got some real honest-to-god battles to fight. [We] don’t have time for the cosmetic ones.”

To prove my point, here is an assortment of newspaper ads published this week:

[singlepic id=322 w=160 h=240 float=center] [singlepic id=324 w=160 h=240 float=center] [singlepic id=323 w=160 h=240 float=center]
[singlepic id=325 w=160 h=240 float=center] [singlepic id=327 w=160 h=240 float=center] [singlepic id=326 w=160 h=240 float=center]

This Post is for Amir Benayun ONLY

If you are reading this post, you must be Israeli singer, Amir Benayun (and no one else!).
I have found a video lying around the Internet and I think it belongs to you. At least that’s what I understood from the following takedown notice on YouTube:
[singlepic id=267 w=525 h=525 float=center]
As you probably know, the sure way to make a video appear everywhere is to try to take it down claiming you own the copyrights. Fair use? Fair mousse! That’s why I felt it was my civic duty to put this video here, for you to take and put it away:

After you have finished downloading it to your home, the video will naturally disappear from this post, and I will know you are keeping it safe where no one can illegally watch it. I am very sorry I had to post this video here, as I am not even sure I agree with its premise, but I felt I had to help you collect every piece of copyrighted material you own.

H/T: room404.net

War, A Rock Opera – Now Available For Free Download

After watching the brilliant Israeli rock opera ‘War’ on stage, and blogging about it, I have been corresponding by email with musician Kobi Vitman who created it based on his experiences in 2002 as a reserve infantry soldier during Operation Defensive Shield, and the PTSD that followed. A couple of months ago, when the original cast recording was issued, I tried to convey to Vitman my own experiences as a listener and a fan of the genre, emphasizing the difficulty in trying to track down these musical gems once the curtain closes on the original show. In accordance with my beliefs about file sharing, copyright laws and my own experiences searching for recordings of Israeli musicals, I tried to push for making the entire album available online.

Well, I am so very happy to announce that as of this week, the album is indeed available online and for free. You can still purchase the physical CD, booklet and all, for 40NIS, but if you just want the MP3 files, they are now legally available on WarRockOpera.com. You can still watch the show live in its acoustic version. Check the website for details.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzAz6Eo4gKA

Media Mention: Shahar Golan Interviews with Kol Israel Radio

I was interviewed for the Voice of Israel English News on REKA radio in light of the new Cellcom TV ad. If you are unfamiliar with the ad you might want to check it out first:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=210H8wavqbc

Now here is my interview with journalist Idele Ross, as aired earlier today. Unfortunately the interview was cut short by breaking news just as I finishing making my point. Oh well… Fortunately, the interview was broadcast a second time, this time in its entirety:

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Transcript

Newscaster Naomi Segal: […] You are tuned to Kol Yisrael, The Voice of Israel, broadcasting from Jerusalem. This week even the New York Times reported on the controversial Israeli television commercial for a cell phone company which shows Israeli soldiers and unseen Palestinians playing soccer over the security fence. Bloggers have been discussing the pros and cons of the commercial which carries the tagline “What do we all want? Some fun, that’s all”. Website designer and digital artist Shahar Golan blogs regularly about the culture of advertising in Israel. He spoke to reporter Idele Ross.

Shahar Golan: Usually when I look at an ad that amazes me at how either politically incorrect or just crass it is, I usually imagine, you know, like an 18 or 20 year old Israeli copywriter thinking about it and for some reason the process never stops at “Okay, that was a nice idea, let’s think deeper, let’s go further” and usually, in my mind at least, it seems like Israelis are making jokes and putting them into ads that really don’t make the cut.

Idele Ross: So why blog about this in English on the Internet? Wouldn’t you be more effective if you were, I don’t know, blogging about it in Hebrew?

Shahar Golan: Yeah, well… My niche is basically writing in English about popular culture and also I blog about Israeli stuff but since I see my audience as the entire world, I just can’t constrain myself into writing in Hebrew which has a definite number of people who can understand it. I write in English and hope that the world reads it and Israelis would make an effort to read it.

Idele Ross: So, among your most recent entries is “Top 10 Most Offensive Israeli Ads – Part 1“, “Top 10 Most Offensive Israeli Ads – Part 2“. Now, based on what’s out there, who’s reading and what kind of responses or talkbacks are you getting?

Shahar Golan: I usually see what people are searching for and basically people are interested in what offends people, either as research or, you know, they’ve seen something that was just so out there that they wanted to share and see who’s been talking about it and that’s how many people come to and find my blog. In the post that you mentioned, basically, I write down about politically incorrect or ads that were made hoping that no one outside Israel would see them. There’s an ad, for instance, for the cable company, HOT, that uses the Vietnam war in a very elaborate musical kinda way but was a bit too much in my opinion, assuming someone will, from the outside world, from the US or from Vietnam, would see it makes light of it just to entertain Israelis and sell a couple of cable subscriptions and that was a bit too much in my opinion.

Idele Ross: Will you be highlighting the most recent, somewhat controversial, Cellcom ad?

Shahar Golan: Right… I’ve been thinking about it, and thinking what I’m thinking about it and what’s my opinion, because basically the ad itself is rather cute, let me say, and that’s what’s rather annoying about it. You know, as Israelis we’re all soldiers at one point or another, and we like our soldiers, so when you’re seeing a couple of soldiers playing soccer in a cutesy kinda way it’s rather nice, but this has further political implications that I’m not sure either the ad company McCann Erickson thought about or the advertiser Cellcom had thought about because this basically moves them into the political conversation and I’m not sure that they want to find themselves there. The ad can be construed as rather controversial, because you see soldiers basically playing over the security fence, the Israeli barrier, but you don’t see their counterparts, you don’t see the Palestinians who are allegedly playing soccer with them, and it’s a convenient way for the company to say, you know, “We are connecting people, we are in communication”, and how easily it is to connect, to move beyond the obstacles, but basically since “the other” is faceless it’s rather crass and a very strange step for the company to engage in this political discussion that probably has no business within the business world.

Newscaster Naomi Segal: Blogger Shahar Golan. The weather outlook for tomorrow through Tuesday…

Update: I have just noticed I was mistaken and the Vietnam war ad I mentioned during the interview was not for Israeli cable television provider HOT, but for Israeli satellite television provider YES. Apparently, aside from leaving a bad aftertaste, the ad was unsuccessful in ‘branding’ me with their product. HOT, YES, it’s all a blur…

For Once, the Yes Men Say No

Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, The Yes Men, have an unusual hobby: posing as top executives of corporations they hate. Armed with nothing but thrift-store suits, they lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate nemeses by basically doing everything that they can to wake up their audiences to the danger of letting greed run the world. I have watched their 2003 documentary and was hoping to catch their newest film, when I found out they will be protesting Israeli policies by withdrawing from the Jerusalem Film Festival in solidarity with the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign for Palestine’. Here’s an excerpt from their letter to the JFF:

[…] This decision does not come easily, as we feel a strong affinity with many people in Israel, sharing with them our Jewish roots, as well as the trauma of the Holocaust, in which both our grandfathers died. Andy lived in Jerusalem for a year long ago, can still get by in Hebrew, and counts several friends there. And Mike has always wanted to connect with the roots of his culture.
 
But despite all our feelings, we cannot abandon our mission as activists. In the 1980s, there was a call from the people of South Africa to artists and others to boycott that regime, and it helped end apartheid there. Today, there is a clear call for a boycott from Palestinian civil society. Obeying it is our only hope, as filmmakers and activists, of helping put pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law.
 
[…] To those who want to see our film, savlanut and sabir (patience)! And for all the rest of us, a little LESS patience, please.
 
L’shanah haba’ah beyerushalayim,
Andy and Mike
The Yes Men

After reading their full letter I still disagree with their action but I do so respectfully. Here’s what we’ll be missing:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUjXsUnjG_M

My Father is Palestinian From Northern Palestine

I am starting to get more and more uncomfortable with the messages I get from the US President I helped elect. First it was the Cairo speech in which the word ‘Palestine‘ was used in a way that insinuates the discussed state already exists. Apparently the only eyebrows that were raised were mine and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow‘s.

But now the White House has put out a video celebrating Muslim Americans who serve in the U.S. Government. That was all fine and dandy, until I got to the part about Lema Bashir whose father is apparently “Palestinian from Northern Palestine“. Neither the White House nor the State Department thought the wording was inappropriate – on the contrary, courtesy of the State Department who translated this video into 10 languages, you can now choose the captioning to be insulted in:

[singlepic id=223 w=525 h=409 float=center]

Northern Palestine?! Where the hell is that?

Israeli Television Starts Broadcasting Fox News in Hebrew

[singlepic id=214 w=320 h=240 float=right]On yesterday’s Friday at Five program on Israel Channel 1, the chyron read “The age of Hussein Obama“. Broadcast one day after the Cairo speech, the usage of the American President’s middle name is an obvious attempt to say ‘He sides with them now’. Taken straight out of a Fox News’ textbook, referring to the leader of the free world by the name ‘Hussein’ has gained popularity in recent weeks within the office of the Israeli prime-minister, as Ben Caspit reports in Maariv. Since the Israel Broadcast Authority is controlled by the PM office, the phrase has naturally trickled down to the mainstream media, if you can still call Channel 1 that.

Knesset Member Daniel Ben Simon was a guest on that show and pointed out on the air that the graphics should be fixed, to which hosts Kineret Barashi and Uri Levi played dumb saying that Obama himself uses his middle name. MK Ben Simon tried to explain that no one calls the previous president Walker Bush, but the hosts just smiled derisively. Here is the short exchange:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3YRDZzFXws

I find this derogatory use of the word ‘Hussein’ despicable, Islamophobic and somewhat childish: when the US president says things we like, we call him Baruch Obama – and when he says things we don’t like, he’s Hussein Obama?

Excuse Me, Could You Move Your Gun? – Israel Through the Eyes of the Lonely Planet Guide Book

You can literally drop me off anywhere on the globe and all I need is the relevant Lonely Planet guide book to make sure I have a peaceful, hassle-free, insightful journey. I learned this while travelling in South Asia back in 2001-2002, and that’s why upon returning to Israel I also purchased the Lonely Planet guide for Israel, as I knew it would be interesting to read about my own country from the point of view of a backpacking foreigner. Following is one ‘boxed’ nugget for your enjoyment written ten years ago:

Boys, Girls & Guns

[singlepic id=211 w=320 h=240 float=right]Israel is still technically at war with more than a few of its fellow Middle Eastern countries. This, in addition to being enmeshed in battling Palestinian terrorist groups and struggling to contain the sporadically violent extremist factions within its own society, means that wherever you go you’ll see armed soldiers. Bus stations, in particular, are filled with soldiers in olive green uniforms either arriving home on leave or heading off back to base. Having an occasion to ask, “Excuse me, could you move your gun so I can sit down there”, is an accepted part of bus travel.
What takes more getting used to is the prepubescent appearance of some of the soldiers. Unlike most standing armies, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is a citizens’ army made up of draftees – both men and women – plucked from civilian life at age 18, fresh from high school. With the conscripts out of adolescence, it’s an army were fatigues are supplemented by RayBans, and M16 rifles double as crucial fashion accessories. Nor is it always necessary to wear a uniform to carry a gun. Any soldier who loses their weapon (though rarely are women assigned to the weapon-carrying infantry units) is liable to seven years imprisonment, therefore off-duty, jeans and T-Shirt clad soldiers sometimes haul their rifles around if there’s no secure place to leave them. We once spotted two young men attempting to groove on a Jerusalem dance floor encumbered with machine guns slung across their backs – although we suspect this may have had a lot more to do with narcissism then security.
The initial spell of compulsory service in the IDF stretches for 3 years in the case of men and 18 months in the case of women. Once this has been completed, every male is assigned to a reserve unit to which they are recalled for about 30 days service each year, until the age of 35. Single women are also liable to reserve service up until the age of 34, but in practice they’re exempted once they’re about 25 years old. Presumably once a person hits their mid-30s they’re assumed to have finally grown out of teenage things such as guns.

Update: Ido Kenan from room404.net just sent some visual proof:

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Credit: Ido Kenan – room404.netcc-by-sa

When I Cry, I Cry for Both of Us – Israeli Politics and the Eurovision

Everything you do or say in Israel can be construed as political, from the paper you read to the lunch you eat. It’s no wonder, then, that so many songs sent to represent Israel at the Eurovision song contest over the years have raised quite a bit of ruckus on the way. Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane:
In 1974, just after the Yom Kippur war, Israeli band Kaveret sang at Brighton, UK, “There’s enough air for a country or two”. In 1983, a decade after the Olympics massacre and half a century after WWII, singer Ofra Haza, in front of a German audience in Munich, sang “I am still alive”. In 1991 at Rome, Italy, a singing Duo Datz wished whoever comes ‘Ahalan’ in Arabic, but stated they were born ‘here’ and so were their children. At the 2000 contest in Stockholm, Sweden, things got so hectic that the band Ping-Pong were disavowed by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority after insisting on waving an Israeli and a Syrian flag (and some cucumbers). In 2007 at Helsinki, Finland, Israeli band Teapacks warned the world that you-know-who is “gonna push the button”.

Held this week in Moscow, Russia, the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest will include another political song from Israel, but one that is quite sober and realistic. Sung by “an Arab girl who looks Jewish and a Jewish girl who looks Arab” this song might not win Europe over, but I believe singers and songwriters Noa and Mira Awad will make many Israelis proud by their simple statement in English, Hebrew and Arabic: There must be another way:


There Must Be Another Way – Noa & Mira Awad – Lyrics

 
English:
 
 
Hebrew:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
English:
 
 
Arabic:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
English:
 
 
 
 
Hebrew:
 
 
Arabic:
 
 
English:
 
 
 
 
 
Hebrew:
 
 
 
 
English:
 
 
 
English Translation:
There must be another
Must be another way
 
Your eyes, sister
Say everything my heart wants to say
We’ve come a great distance
Our road has been long and hard
Hand in hand
 
And the tears fall, flow, in vain
Our pain has no name
We are both waiting
For the day ‘after’
 
There must be another way
There must be another way
 
Your eyes say
One day, the fear will be gone
In your eyes there is determination
That we can continue
Our journey
For as long as it takes
 
For there is no address to sorrow
I cry to the open plains
To the merciless sky
 
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another
Must be another way
 
A long and hard journey
Lies before us
Together, on our way to the light
Your eyes say
All the fear will someday disappear
 
And when I cry I cry for both of us
My pain has no name
And when I cry I cry
To the merciless sky and say
There must be another way
 
And the tears fall, flow, in vain
Our pain has no name
We are both waiting
For the day ‘after’
 
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another
Must be another way
Phonetic:
 
 
 
Eina’ih, ahot
Kol ma shelibi mevakesh omrot
Avarnu ad ko
Dereh aruka, dereh ko kasha
Yad beyad
 
Vehadma’ot zolgot, zormot lashav
Ke’ev lelo shem
Anahnu mehakot
Rak layom sheyavo ahrei
 
 
 
 
Aynaki bit’ul
Rah yiji yom wu’kul ilkhof yizul
B’aynaki israr
Inhu ana khayar
N’kamel halmasar
Mahma tal
 
Li’anhu ma fi anwan wakhid l’alahzan
B’nadi lalmada
L’sama al’anida
 
 
 
 
 
 
Derech aruka na’avor
Derech ko kasha
Yachad el ha’or
Aynaki bit’ul
Kul ilkhof yizul
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Vehadma’ot zolgot, zormot lashav
Ke’ev lelo shem
Anahnu mehakot
Rak layom sheyavo ahrei
 
 
 
 

Update:
May 12, 2009 – Israel qualified for the final contest. Russian host Andrey Malakhov: “The most political-correct [sic] song goes to the final! Congrats Israel”.
May 17, 2009 – As expected, Europe did not fall in love and with 53 points Israel has finished in 16th place.