Every country has it’s own version of The Daily Show. In Israel it’s called Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country). In the latest episode…
The comedians on the program were called up for emergency reserve duty, to save us all from the media’s discourse on the new round of violence, getting more and more hackneyed by the second. The show has always known how to puncture holes in the nation’s long-faced atmosphere, holes that are by no means too big or too offensive, but just the right size to let in some fun and criticism.
This special edition had it all, all the ridiculous aspects of this conflict that many people – those who are not too terrified in the bomb shelters – had thought of, but couldn’t really put into words. They had President Moshe Katsav, who is under investigation for alleged sexual harassment, clad in a white bathrobe adorned with the national flag, up in the North “sympathizing with the citizens of Israel,” but actually having a quick tryst at a resort. Of course, Katsav said that now was the time “to forget the past.”
Eretz Nehederet got it just right – when the war’s raging, apprehension and patriotism take over, quite understandably, and quite fortunately for the leaders and other public figures, whose incompetence and misdeeds are shoved off the headlines.
This is praise, no less, from the rightward-leaning Jerusalem Post. I consider it testament to the critical distance Israelis maintain from their government’s actions. Makhloket (disagreement) is our nature. We thrive on dissent.
In Lebanon, they too have (had?) a similar program called A Nation’s Smiles, which is “famous for poking fun at politicians of all stripes.”
Not two months ago, the show spoofed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, leading his supporters to riot across southern Lebanon — apparently in the neighboorhoods you’re presently seeing reduced to rubble — burning tires and blockading streets.
The incident brought one Lebanese journalist, Faysal Itani, to write:
Lebanon’s history relative to the Arab world is one of public freedoms and respect for the private sphere. Fifteen years of police-state rule could not end that tradition. But now that precious heritage is being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and sectarian ‘coexistence’. The Lebanese government has called for Pierre Daher, the executive director of the TV channel that aired the comedy, to be brought in for questioning about the episode. Sheikh Nasrallah himself called for an end to the riots but not before thanking his followers for their show of “support” instead of distancing himself (and his party) from the entire fiasco.
The government has assured us that the entire matter will be handled through due process of law instead of affirming the sanctity of free speech enshrined in our constitution. But what Lebanese law calls for immunity for politicians from public criticism? And what type of ‘coexistence’ are we attempting to salvage? Coexistence requires a certain level of tolerance and openness. It cannot be based on mutual intellectual imprisonment or on placating those who claim a right to use violence to express disdain for a piece of comedy. Any coexistence that can be shattered with a joke is not coexistence at all but merely a nervous co-habitation of the same piece of land.
At the time of the incident, the AP reported:
Clearly on the defensive, the charismatic Nasrallah said Monday the riots were spontaneous and that his activists helped restore order rather than inflame tensions. He rejected characterizations of the incident by anti-Syrians, whom he accused of hyping the disturbance.
“All that’s happening will not undermine the determination and will of the resistance (against Israel),” he said. “If those carrying out these actions think that through such language and behavior they could reach a point where they can besiege, isolate and finish off the resistance they are wrong. … I promise them that they will fail, God willing.”
Hizbullah’s guerrilla campaign helped drive Israel out of southern Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation, the first time Israel was forced to withdraw its army from Arab land. The group has been keen to sustain that image while trying to convince skeptics that the 12,000-plus rockets in its arsenal are designed to deter a possible Israeli attack.
But there is concern that Hizbullah wants to use its powerful military machine against anti-Syrian groups and other parties in Lebanon. Hizbullah’s detractors also worry it could come to the aid of Iran by attacking Israel. U.S. intelligence officials go even further, saying they believe the group could carry out “terror attacks” on Tehran’s direction.
Ohhh, looks like someone’s got their finger on the nose of this charade.
It’s a damn shame Israel’s turned all its potential allies into enemies.