A Eurovision teaser video gives Israel’s liberals and conservatives something to agree on

The Eurovision Song Contest gets controversial.
The Eurovision Song Contest gets controversial.
Image: Reuters/Pedro Nunes
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The Eurovision Song Contest is being held in Israel this year, starting on May 14. Shocker: It’s being overshadowed by political controversy.

Some have called for a boycott to show solidarity with Palestinians, while others say such opposition undermines Israel’s right to self-determination. The Israeli broadcaster KAN, which will air the contest, decided to embrace all the trouble and turn it into something funny: a promotional video about Israel’s woes, delights, and stereotypes that leans into the problems with music and satire.

Shocker: The video only generated more outrage.

The video begins in Ben Gurion airport with two confused Europeans who are greeted by two singing Israelis, there to allay the visitors’ trepidation about this place that’s always making international headlines. “Don’t say a word, I know what you just heard, that it’s a land of war and occupation. But we have so much more than that; you’ll see the prices and say ‘what?’ We like to call ourselves the startup nation,” the songsters reassure.

The singers are Lucy Ayoub, a host of the Eurovision contest, and Elia Grinfeld, a KAN journalist. They explain in the song, “I’m Lucy, I’m Arab. Yes some of us live here. I’m Elia. I’m Russian. We fled there out of fear. In fact most Israelis have complex identities. That is why we all look at each other here as frenemies.”

Throughout the four-minute tune, the singers travel and sing about the positives and negatives of Israel, even making light of anti-Semitic stereotypes. As Grinfeld puts it in the video, “Most of us are Jews but only some of us are greedy.”

Walking along the shore in Tel Aviv, he proclaims about the lovely beaches, while the subtitles in English display “lovely bitches.” This might have been an error, or more likely given the satirical take, a dig at Israeli accents.

Either way, these lines generated accusations of anti-Semitism and misogyny and only fueled the controversy surrounding the contest. This prompted KAN to reply that the video was intentionally tacky: “Just to be clear: the musical was satire and was meant to deal with stereotypes about Jews and Israel. YES, also by using self-deprecating humor like we love. We know our flaws, and we’re not ashamed to laugh at all of them.”

The good news is that the video has given people with opposing political views something they can agree on: namely, that the video is a disaster. That conclusion was reached by both the left’s Jewish Voice for Peace and right-wing hardliners like Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son.

So much for claims that laughter is the best medicine.