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ISRAEL: Fight over Gaza flotilla narrative continues on YouTube

August 13, 2010 |  6:58 pm

Whether the Gaza Strip-bound flotilla hoped to deliver humanitarian aid, break the naval blockade, provoke Israel or a combination of the above, the incident has continued to roil diplomatic waters. Both sides have presented their versions of the event, accusing each other of manipulation.

But for those who despair of regular diplomacy or are fed up with the verbiage, there's the multimedia diplomacy scene. So as high-level diplomatic struggles continue among Israel, the U.N. and Turkey, people are slugging it out on YouTube too.

And there's humor in it, too, depending on the beholder.

Shortly after the deadly flotilla raid, an Israeli satirical website released a music clip that rocked the boat and the Internet. Latma's political humor and satire come from an Israeli right-wing perspective, an alternative to the mainstream variety perceived to be dominated by the left. They have a steady local following but made their international debut with "We Con the World" — a parody of the 1985 hit "We Are the World" — lambasting the declared humanitarian mission of the Gaza flotilla as totally bogus.

So far, it has more than 2 million views on YouTube and is the No. 1 most-discussed upload in Israel. Who knows if it would have caught on like this if Israel's government press office hadn't accidentally — or not — circulated the link to the foreign press only to recall it later, stating that it didn't reflect government opinion.

Now there's a new clip out there, presenting the opposite side and poking fun at Israel's public-relations efforts.  "Gaza Flotilla Mashup Video -- Internet Killed Israeli PR" was created by an impromptu group called Minor Demographic Threat (self-described as a "marauding band of anarcho-Yiddishist minstrels") and features some of the faces Israel sends to the media front-lines to explain its positions, such as Mark Regev and Avital Leibowitz, representatives of the prime minister's office and the Israeli military. Based on the 1979 hit "Video Killed the Radio Star," the clip mocks Israel's PR attempts in the Internet era as spin. "Bloggers came and broke your heart," they sing to Aliza Landes, the army's new-media maven who oversees uploading, blogging and tweeting Israel's message to the world.


The "mashup" was just beginning to make the cyber rounds when it got blocked in several countries. "This video is not available in your country due to terms of use violation" is the YouTube message you get in Israel.  They may have their tongue in their cheek instead of guns in their hands, but it's still a war of sorts. À la guerre comme à guerre, there's a new version replacing the one that got blocked.

Latma's "We Con the World" also was removed from YouTube at a certain stage. Copyright violation. The new counter-clip, assume the makers, is blocked due to a short (but hey, still pretty gratuitous) "guest appearance" by Hitler. The creators explain they use Hitler to protest Israel's accusation that the flotilla passengers supported Nazism and that it would be difficult to misread this as glorification. "All of us in Minor Demographic Threat are in 100% agreement that Hitler was a putz," they wrote on their YouTube channel.

— Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Videos, from top: "We Con the World." Credit: YouTube.  "Internet Killed Israeli PR." Credit: YouTube

[For the record, 9:46 a.m. Aug. 14: An earlier version of this post referred to Latma's video "We Con the World" as "We Are the World."]

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