Drunk Americans = Israeli Public Opinion?

Notice: Video contains offensive language.

I’ve been coming across this video everywhere today. The Huffington Post and Mondoweiss have the video. @ibnezra on Twitter linked to it with the satirical intro “the peace loving people of israel“. The Huffington Post title is “The Real Reaction from Jerusalem.”

It’s called “synecdoche” in literature — when a small part is used as a reference to a whole thing, or vice versa. Hence, “Washington declared” for “the US government declared;” or “two more pairs of eyes” for “two more people watching.” Who do you think the featured teenagers out on the Midrachov represent? Who would back them up? Where do they acquire their attitudes?

Presenting this the way Max Blumenthal did is misleading. Anyone who knows Israel sees these kids and knows those accents are American. With the exception of the South African-sounding girl and the Israeli accented guy at the very end, these all appear to be pre-college, right-wing yeshiva Americans. It’s a very recognizable demographic in Israeli life, not the broader public. (The Israeli also says something dismissive that one might say in the presence of such Americans.)

And consequently, this strikes me as similar to misleading statistics that a majority of Israelis supported McCain and feared Obama by up to 75% — which was only true among American expats. The wider general public supported Obama by much higher figures: 46% McCain, 34% Obama and 18% undecided, nearly neck and neck. And as Paul Hilder wrote recently, over two-thirds  of both Palestinians and Israelis polled both want President Obama to get involved to solve the conflict.

So my question is, who exactly is trying to speak on behalf of whom, here?

[Editor's note: This post was revised after publishing for clarity with the assistance of the author.]

44 Responses to “Drunk Americans = Israeli Public Opinion?”

  1. So my question is, who exactly is trying to speak on behalf of whom, here?

    Is there no screening process before blogs are posted? Is this blog serious?

    Jonathan1 · June 4th, 2009 at 4:37 pm
  2. As of this moment, the video is down, likely due to inappropriate content.

    Kung Fu Jew · June 4th, 2009 at 5:29 pm
  3. I am one of the co-creators of the video. Here are some thoughts that should be included in the post proper:

    It’s about entitlement, stupid.
    06/04/2009 by Joseph Dana

    Max and I went on to the streets of Jerusalem at ten o’clock on a Wednesday to ascertain the feelings of the young population about Obama’s upcoming speech in Cairo. As is often the case, the streets of central Jerusalem were not filled with native Israelis but American Jews. Doubtlessly anyone who has visited Jerusalem has encountered the droves of American Jewish kids that are sent to Israel to study for a period of time from Teaneck or Westchester. We asked people a simple question, “What do you think of Obama and Israel?” Most of the people that we talked to were dual American Israeli citizens. The answers in this video reflect the education and worrisome perspectives that many American Jews harbor towards Israeli politics. The sense of entitlement that the American Jewish community has when it comes to Israeli policy is on full raw display in the words of these young adults.

    Based on our interviews these people were from high socio economic backgrounds and had developed thoughts about current Israeli politics. The question is why more journalists are not covering this story. All you have to do is walk the streets of Jerusalem and you will find dozens of people that harbor the same beliefs. As a resident of Jerusalem, I can say that the people represented in this video are not members of a fringe group or simply drunk college kids. These people reflect the sentiments shared by many people in this country and this city. These people and their families are the core of the opposition to meaningful peace between Israel and her neighbors. This is what Obama is up against.

    Joseph Dana · June 4th, 2009 at 6:13 pm
  4. As is often the case, the streets of central Jerusalem were not filled with native Israelis but American Jews. Doubtlessly anyone who has visited Jerusalem has encountered the droves of American Jewish kids


    These people reflect the sentiments shared by many people in this country and this city.

    Don’t slander people in Israel like that. It’s not fair to use American Jews in Kikar Zion for a sample of Israeli opinion. It’s just not fair.

    If you want a sample of Israeli opinions on this speech, go throughout the country and ask ACTUAL ISRAELIS.
    This just isn’t fair.

    Jonathan1 · June 4th, 2009 at 6:39 pm
  5. Kudos to the poster for changing the contents of his/her statement.

    Jonathan1 · June 4th, 2009 at 7:15 pm
  6. So there are “many” people in J’lem and Israel with these kinds of sentiments? That no chiddush. In the meantime, what purpose does it serve to spend this much time on these idiots? This clip has now gone seriously viral. What has been accomplished other than to give a wider platform for their sick hate?

    Shalom Rav · June 4th, 2009 at 11:00 pm
  7. Dude, what about all the BRI kids who mostly come from left-of-center backgrounds? And that guy who campaigned for Obama… WITFH is he babbling about?

    The only greater Hillul H’ than the comments on the video is the video itself.

    B.BarNavi · June 4th, 2009 at 11:25 pm
  8. It’s now on Gawker.

    EV · June 4th, 2009 at 11:25 pm
  9. (P.S. – Mondoweiss seems to be able to view it just fine.)

    B.BarNavi · June 4th, 2009 at 11:26 pm
  10. I think anyone who has spent any real time in Israel knows what a farce this video is. Jerusalem is not at all representative of the rest of Israel. Jerusalem is a truly international city, a decent sized slice of which is populated by drunk American kids postponing real life for a year.

    On the night of Obama’s inauguration I was engaged in “prat chulia” drills with my reserve unit before being sent in to Qalqilya for a month. As opposed to this group of American hooligans, my reserve unit is truly representative of Israel as a whole. The commanders of my unit are a great cross-section of Israel, some religious, most not, about half sepharadi, about half ashkenazi, and from all over the country. What’s the one thing that all of them have in common? As we were about to run down the shooting range, I pointed out that my wife was back in Jerusalem watching Obama’s inauguration live on the internet, and they all wanted to know if I thought Obama might be willing to move to Israel in four years and be the prime minister.

    That is what Israelis think. Maybe Max Blumenthal needs to get out of Jerusalem, and especially out the American “shana aleph” bar scene, and see what actual Israelis think.

    Yaakov · June 4th, 2009 at 11:53 pm
  11. Maybe Max Blumenthal needs to get out of Jerusalem

    What he needs to do is get his butt kicked, for all of his “enlightening” journalism.

    Jonathan1 · June 5th, 2009 at 12:01 am
  12. I’m sure if we take non-Jewish 18 year olds out of the country and get them drunk, they will behave just so wonderfully.

    DK · June 5th, 2009 at 12:29 am
  13. Excuse me, NON-Jewish? Didn’t see the kippot (or didn’t want to)?

    Shalom Rav · June 5th, 2009 at 7:37 am
  14. Rabbi – You haven’t been to Cancun, have you? These guys in Jerusalem are no different – they just happened to be mostly Jewish.

    B.BarNavi · June 5th, 2009 at 8:15 am
  15. Yaakov – well said well said. thanks for representing the real Israel.

    Jonathan1 – sorry about the former incoherence, I got stuck in a situation where I couldn’t proofread/elaborate properly at the time. but we fixed it up quickly!

    chillul Who? · June 5th, 2009 at 9:48 am
  16. [...] of his Cairo speech: But the greater point about this style of “journalism,” is made by this headline which I came across–”Drunk Americans=Israeli Public Opinion.” Man listen, hand me [...]

    Ta-Nehisi on the “journalism” of Max Blumenthal’s video of Jewish drunken racism « Tied to the mast · June 5th, 2009 at 10:38 am
  17. How do you know these were yeshiva kids? Many of did not dress the part and did not wear kippot.

    Yitz · June 5th, 2009 at 11:30 am
  18. No, this video is not reflective of “Israeli public opinion,” but that’s not the point (Max Blumenthal could have and should have done a better job contextualizing and presenting this). But set that point aside and instead look at this as the dark side of American Jewish entitlement, as Joseph Dana suggested above (although he, again, went much too far in suggesting these young American Jews are somehow reflective of broader Israeli currents).

    As a snapshot of young American Jews in Israel, representative or not, this is deeply disturbing. And being drunk isn’t an excuse. No doubt the drunkness just allowed them to strip away the filters that prevented them from saying what they really think, deep down, even if colored by the bravado of drunken youth.

    And on a side note, every time I’m reminded of the reality of “drunk young Jews behaving badly” in downtown Jerusalem on summer evenings, it makes me think of the hypocrisy of those right-wing and Haredi voices who will no doubt be spouting hatred towards gays in a few weeks when the Gay Pride parade returns to Jerusalem. Their main argument against the Pride parade is that they see it as a desecration of the holy city by gays flaunting their immoral behavior. And yet no uproar about the immoral behavior of thousands upon thousands of young Jews “desecrating” the holy city daily through drunken carousing, foul language, and hateful speech?

    Gregg · June 5th, 2009 at 11:49 am
  19. Yitz – I’d class them into the demographic of delinquent, vulgar, yeshivah dropouts. You know, the kind whose parents ship them off to Israel to “straighten them out” and either come back charedi or even more trouble than before.

    chillul Who? · June 5th, 2009 at 12:08 pm
  20. Anyone familiar with Jerusalem would also be aware that the area that the video was shot is only frequented by Americans. That video was shot at bars that target American college kids on birthright trips, many of whom aren’t really jewish. You would be hard pressed to find an actual Israeli at one of those bars or in that few block radius unless they are working there. A much more accurate depiction of Israeli thoughts on the matter could have been easily had but obviously the maker of the video had a conclusion reached before he shot the video and went about the best way of proving it.

    Jon · June 5th, 2009 at 2:04 pm
  21. This video makes me shutter, and not because it is in any way representative of Israeli public opinion. It’s not. Still, as a slice of the views and experiences of young Americans traveling in Israel, it says a lot about how we teach Israel here in the U.S. The fact that these kids are drunk doesn’t excuse them.

    Joseph Dana was right when he said it’s about entitlement: “The answers in this video reflect the education and worrisome perspectives that many American Jews harbor towards Israeli politics. The sense of entitlement that the American Jewish community has when it comes to Israeli policy is on full raw display in the words of these young adults.”

    The issue here is education. In our Hebrew and day schools, we teach a one-sided history of Israel. There is a fear that if we teach kids about all the bad things Israel has done, they’ll come out anti-Zionists. So we hide the hypocrisies. We discuss the triumph of the Six-Day War while failing to mention the countless political blunders that preceded the Yom Kippur War. We rush through the 1980s, ignoring the Sabra and Shatila massacres and skipping to the First Intifada and the peace agreements of the 1990s that Yassir Arafat ruined in 2001.

    It’s the easy way out. To teach Zionism as we wish it could be taught. But these kids show that doesn’t work. The end result seems to be we end up sending Jewish youth to Israel to get drunk and (apparently) learn nothing. There is another side to this, and maybe if we at least recognized it in our education, we wouldn’t come off as ignorant fanatics. More importantly, we’d be better soldiers for Zionism and Israel. You can’t expect the Arabs to come through if you don’t do so yourself. A nation can’t be built on ignorance and hope to succeed.

    Dave · June 5th, 2009 at 2:21 pm
  22. Both Gregg and Dave make great points.

    As a side note, I was looking at some of the videos posted by the insvestigative journalist Max Blumenthal. This one is must viewing. Ralph Nader makes Mr. Blumenthal look like the jackass who apparantly he is…


    Jonathan1 · June 5th, 2009 at 3:25 pm
  23. Wow. I reallly avoid posting here, but I wanted to make a quick point.

    Gregg – if the video were labelled as a video about the American Jewish community that would be one thing, but it’s not. It it intentionally misleading to title it “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem.” It slanders Israeli unnecessarily – if a point was to be made about Israel and Israelis – then record them, not their visitors.

    LB · June 5th, 2009 at 3:29 pm
  24. Say what you want about Blumenthal, he laid the smackdown on CUFI at AIPAC.

    B.BarNavi · June 5th, 2009 at 4:49 pm
  25. This, like the scene in Borat where he rides around in an RV with drunk frat guys, should be viewed as entertainment, not journalism. Drunk young people sometimes say offensive stuff. Shocking!

    themicah · June 5th, 2009 at 5:16 pm
  26. for the record, that girl sounds nothing like a South African.

    m · June 5th, 2009 at 5:46 pm
  27. Normally, Blumenthal does good work– like his short documentary on Christians United For Israel that B.BarNavi cited. Or this short video he did on David Irving’s speaking engagement in a New York church. In those videos, the context is clear. The point is that when in the U.S., he’s normally worked to shine a light on somewhat organized groups or networks that have coalesced around an extremist ideology.

    Had Blumenthal wished, he could have found similar groups of extremists anywhere in the world.

    Instead, of finding a genuine extremist group in Israel to film, he came up with what?

    Ian Thal · June 5th, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Loco · June 5th, 2009 at 11:11 pm
  29. My beef with this video is that he could have shown born and raised Israelis who say this kind of thing who are not drunk, 18, and American. He’s undermined his own point with this video. Recording the views of Likud or Yisrael Beiteinu voters would have been a trip. He’s done a fairly good job of covering some settler loudmouths already.

    So keep it coming, Max, the more revealing the better, but please, cover your own ass. Make a point that’s bulletproof, not riddled full of holes like this video.

    That said, somebody send those drunk idiots to the West Bank where they can say that crap to a Palestinian face-to-face. I have a feeling their bravado would mute itself before they get that far. What shameful little…

    Kung Fu Jew · June 6th, 2009 at 1:09 am
  30. That’s exactly my point, KFJ.

    He could have visited a meeting of settler extremists and shown their ideology up close, and even presented enough evidence that would allow viewers to gage just how much of a threat they are.

    He could have dropped in on a meeting of Avigdor Lieberman supporters. That would have given him ample material.

    But instead, this is what he presented.

    Ian Thal · June 6th, 2009 at 11:15 am
  31. 46-34 is not “nearly neck and neck”. We’re still talking a double-digit difference here.

    Mike J. · June 6th, 2009 at 11:15 am
  32. I did a radio interview about my video. If you care what one of the authors thinks about his work…. starts at minute 40

    Joseph Dana · June 6th, 2009 at 1:51 pm
  33. I think most of you are dead wrong and confused by your misguided sensibilities with regard to journalistic representation.

    Mr. Blumenthal is not an “objective documentarian” who let his standards slip producing a “misrepresentative” video. Blumenthal is an agitprop journalist who does excellent work embarassing his targets — and what deserving targets they are.

    The morons he exposes in J’lem are not representative of Israel as a whole. But are right-wing, ill-informed Jewish Americans part of the story of I-P conflict? Yes, they most certainly are. Is their role in the problem minimized by the mainstream press? Yes, it most certainly is. Should their political views be exposed and explored? Yes, they most certainly should. Is their racist babble merely the booze talking? No it most certainly is not. Should we thank Max Blumenthal for his work? Yes, we most certainly should.

    If you want “fair and balanced,” watch cable news.

    AJ · June 6th, 2009 at 7:57 pm
  34. I am embarrassed to be in the same religious category with these racist fools. But who is to blame? Their parents, their teachers, and the Jewish community as a whole, which refuses to outwardly and vibrantly demand equal rights, justice, and equality for all human beings – no exceptions. We must practice what we preach, and we must preach peace to all who will listen. OSEH SHALOM!

    Ren Ben Canaan · June 6th, 2009 at 10:18 pm
  35. [...] in poor taste. I very, very rarely agree with Jewschool on almost anything – but this time they were right. The overwhelming majority of people you filmed are NOT ISRAELI (2 were?). They’re clearly [...]

    The Occidental Israeli « Ibn Ezra · June 7th, 2009 at 7:40 am
  36. AJ-

    There are ignorant, and hateful people everywhere. That they might be stumbling out of a bar is not newsworthy.

    It is newsworthy when they organize as a voting bloc, militia, an invisible college that distributes propaganda or arranges for speaking engagements for demagogues, or gain influence on actual levers of power.

    And since Blumenthal has set a standard for himself by making films about the latter, it is right that he be criticized when he stoops to making films about the former and passing it off as something of equal importance.

    Ian Thal · June 7th, 2009 at 8:29 am
  37. A few points:

    1) There is an advertisement in the upper right-hand corner of this site for American Jews to go on programs to Israel. This makes for an inherent bias in jewschool’s post. That’s not meant as a slight against jewschool per se– they’ve got to put food on the table like everyone else.

    2) These programs are AN intrinsic social and economic element of Israeli life which we can absolutely guarantee will NOT go away. Simply countering this video with hegemonic views of Israeli life will distract us from actually taking a look at the problem.

    3) Admitting a problem exists and is real is the first step towards dealing with a problem. Until then the problem remains.

    dividend · June 7th, 2009 at 3:12 pm
  38. Delicious. May those ****heads who take over J’lem be exposed, leading to ever more ridicule.
    As someone who grew up in Israel, these folks are DAMN representative. Not of ‘Israel’ whatever that means (no one is representative in Israel!) But of a particular group that funds, sustains, fights for and pukes on the holy city of Jerusalem.

    Not having them around is a fantastic argument for making ALL of Jerusalem be under the control of a Palestinian state.

    Jew Geuvara · June 7th, 2009 at 5:15 pm
  39. I just wanted to point out that not only does this video misrepresent Israeli public opinion, it also gives an extremely distorted view of the “American Yeshiva Students” in Israel. For every kid getting drunk in town, I would bet money that there are at least four that are actually, y’know, learning in Yeshiva (or at least, hanging out in the dorms, playing sports, or otherwise not reeling in the streets).

    The American kids getting drunk at Zollies, especially at this point in the year, are mostly those who go to yeshivot that cater to kids with substance abuse issues, who got kicked out or dropped out of their yeshivot, or are the least serious students at the mainstream places. The majority are also mostly right wing, but would at least speak in complete sentences and not curse or use racist slurs.

    Mas · June 7th, 2009 at 5:36 pm
  40. Normally, Blumenthal does good work– like his short documentary on Christians United For Israel that B.BarNavi cited. Or this short video he did on David Irving’s speaking engagement in a New York church.

    Really? I thought David Irving made Blumenthal look pretty stupid.

    he could have shown born and raised Israelis who say this kind of thing who are not drunk,

    He could have. He also could have shown born and raised Israelis who have your views, KFJ. But, if he were to go through Israel, speaking to a lot of young people, he probably would have found that most are just as confused about the “matzav” as are most American Jews….But, that would be authentic journalism.

    It’s really disapointing to read that the posters whose views I respect a lot (even if I might disagree with them) actually think that this clown does good work.

    “Blumenthal is an agitprop journalist who does excellent work embarassing his targets — and what deserving targets they are.”

    He should come at people as a true journalist. Agitprop is a coward’s approach.

    Jonathan1 · June 7th, 2009 at 8:46 pm
  41. Thought this comment from Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic Monthly was interesting:

    Maybe Max Blumenthal Wasn’t Exaggerating

    News from the settler movement in Judea and Samaria:
    One of the activists said of Obama, “He’s an Arab Muslim and a gentile, he is fighting against the Jewish people and has declared that he will continue to do so. We already stated our intention to continue to build, no matter who is fighting us – Egypt, Germany or the US.”
    Among the 200 activists that gathered at the Maoz Esther site was Hebron-Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, who explained why peace was impossible in the Middle East.
    “It’s all illusions. With these savages, there was never peace, there is no peace and there will not be peace,” he said. “It’s not because we don’t want it, but because they are enemies of peace. We just have to hope that our entire country is cleared of terrorists, their supporters, their backers and their camels. They should all be sent to Saudi Arabia.”

    Joseph Dana · June 8th, 2009 at 4:11 am
  42. The first group, at least, identified themselves as yeshiva students: “Ner Jake” is Yeshivat Ner Yaakov. American students who study at a yeshiva in Israel for a year before college tend to fall into two categories: The ones who come back much more religious and the ones who kept partying. Most of the persons in the video are clearly in the latter category, but there was one young man, dressed in a white button-down shirt and a black velvet yarmulke (not the guy with the payos), who appeared to be sober and to fall in the former category.

    Yosef · June 9th, 2009 at 7:00 pm
  43. I stumbled onto another website, that says that I’m threating violence against Max Blumenthal, due to one of my posts above.

    I just want to make it clear: That posting was inappropriate and should in no way be construed as advocating violence against Max Blumenthal. He is a child of God, who does not physically threaten anybody, and thus he should be treated with respect.

    IMHO, Youtube should not have removed any of his videos.

    My inappropriate posting does not change the fact, however, that I detest all of his videos–not just the one in question–and I hope Mr. Blumenthal considers a new line of work.

    Jonathan1 · July 19th, 2009 at 10:28 pm
  44. [...] that garnered so much attention for their first collaboration with Max Blumenthal “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem,” they seek to present commonplace opinions about settlements from Jerusalemites, recent [...]

    Interviewing the Producer of “Feeling the Hate” | Jewschool · July 29th, 2009 at 5:59 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik