Izhar Ashdot is an Israeli rock legend, a founding member of Tislam, the most successful Israeli band of all time, and a solo performer in his own right. He has long been a left-wing activist and often performs at Meretz (left-wing social democratic political party) rallies.
Generally an adored musician, Ashdot has found himself in the center of a controversy that is rocking Israeli society in a different way than he is used to. This week the Director of Galatz גל”צ, one of the two nationwide radio stations operated by the IDF, ruled that Ashdot’s latest song עניין של הרגל “A Matter of Habit” could not be performed or played on the station.
While Galatz is an army radio station run by the Ministry of Defense, this has not stopped it being a voice of free expression and a lynchpin in the cultural development of the State of Israel. For Galatz to censor or ban a song is almost unheard of. And banning an Izhar Ashdot song… unthinkable.
I had already heard rumors on the blogosphere as to the problematic nature of the song including a couple of open letters from would-be politicians/minor celebrities questioning Ashdot’s thinking; but until Galatz banned the song I hadn’t taken the time to listen to it.
With a fellow Israeli in my office I pulled the song up on YouTube and we watched the official music video.
There is no doubt this is a painful song which sets its sights on Israeli society and in particular the Army for creating a culture of fear and hatred which make killing “a matter of habit”. This exaggerated and one-sided criticism tempers a deeper message in the song, as Ashdot really seems to be saying that we have backed ourselves into a corner, convinced ourselves that it is us against the World and placed our existential threats on a pedestal that has become identity defining.
Ashdot claimed in an interview that, “A song becomes political when it is treated in that way.” But some might argue that a song becomes political when it contains the line, “Patrolling all night in the Kasbah of Shechem. Hey what here is ours and what is yours?”
We have a habit in Israel of making valid points in such strong words, sometimes even extremist, that the original message is lost. (As an aside, in America I have found the exact opposite: valid points made in such weak, consensual language that I can no longer identify the original message.) Peace Now is against Settling the West Bank, a legitimate opinion, yet they often portray Settlers as the enemy and use overly painful terms in describing their opponents.
Likud often questions the validity of biased human rights organizations run by Israelis who are funded by foreign governments, again a legitimate opinion, but by framing these organizations as traitors, the argument loses its own validity. Ashdot has fallen in this trap.
He ends the song with the words, “To learn how to love, is a matter of delicacy”, and it’s a shame that he hasn’t heeded his own advice. For, with all the delicacy of a hammer Ashdot has saddened and angered mainstream Israel with an apparent attack on the most beloved institution (the IDF), when he could have artistically side-stepped naming names and had a deeper effect. We can’t really blame him, it’s all a matter of habit.
The writer is Makom’s Community Shaliach and Israel Engager in Greater Washington
A couple of years ago HaDag Nachash came out with a song that took a swipe at the cultural and political choices of most Israelis. Consolation Song critiqued the way in which Israeli music – and the tastes of its listeners – had begun to run away from any engagement with the world. “Best not to stay up all night worrying about things,” rationalized the song, since there’s “no solution anyway. Better to sing consolation songs.”
A combination of fear at what clear-eyed critique might reveal, and a general moral laziness was leading people to kick back, hang out, and enjoy a vacuous kind of dance music. The song was performed in a virtuoso replica of the very genre HaDag Nachash were critiquing. Namely, party-mood, bazooki-tinged clap-fest Mediterranean music.
The story of Yom Kippur on Kibbutz Beth Hashita
What happens to a small close-knit community when 11 of its members are buried in one day?
What forms of mourning and meaning are available to this community, when religion is foresworn? And when the 11 young men all died fighting for Israel in the Yom Kippur war, how should their secular kibbutz now relate to Yom Kippur?
Celebrating Israeli Culture and Expression (Pride):
We believe that one of the most beautiful expressions of להיות עם חופשי בארצנו (To be a Free People in Our Land) is the flourishing of Jewish culture and art that has come as a natural progression from the Jewish people building a thriving society in their ancestral homeland. To Full Post
Just before you book an act, take a second to ask yourself a few questions.
Why am I aiming to book this Israeli act and not a different Israeli act?
What are my criteria for choosing?
Bearing in mind the amount of time and money you are about to invest in this band, it’s important to remember that the impact of the live event should be measured by more than how many people came through the door. To Full Post
A Shalom Chanoch classic is transformed from a soldier’s tale to a woman’s relationship with a non-communicative man.
First appeared in www.forward.com
What is the theme song for Israel’s Tent Protests? Although there are some brand new candidates (Mosh Ben Ari’s Look Me In The Eyes, and the unplugged version of a new song The Good Guys Will Win, that HaDag Nachash wrote specially for the Tent Protests), Israelis are rediscovering popular songs from the recent past that would seem to have been written with the current protests in mind. Tallkbackers and youtube uploaders are hailing them as prophecies finally coming to pass…
My top five are as follows:
Ehud Banai is a leading Israeli singer-songwriter.
This piece first appeared in Hebrew on http://www.ehudbanai.co.il/
Sometimes I ask myself why the sages determined that the days commemorating the destruction of the Temples should be days of mourning and fasting. After all, it was the Babylonians and the Romans after them who caused all the exile and destruction, so why aren’t they fasting?
Hagit Yaso won A Star is Born last night.
I don’t think even she was all that surprised. While tens of thousands demonstrated in the streets of Tel Aviv for fair housing prices, and others mourned the loss of Norway’s security and Amy Winehouse, the rest of us were watching cute Hagit win A Star is Born.
Dear Mr. Waters,
I was deeply disappointed to learn that you have decided to build a wall between yourself and your Israeli fans. We love you here in Israel. Surely, you must know that from the warm reception you received when you performed here five years ago at the Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom.
What you may not realize is that most Israelis believe in a two-state solution. But this vision is not as easy to turn into a reality as you may think. Instead of recognizing the situation’s complexity, you have joined the campaign to boycott Israel, appointing yourself as a judge in a conflict between Middle Eastern tribes. (How British of you!)