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ISRAEL, WEST BANK: MTV does Ramallah car scene

Cross-border car theft is an issue in Israel. Stolen for use, parts or occasionally by specific order, an overwhelming majority of cars stolen in Israel wind up on the Palestinian side.

The separation barrier Israel put up in recent years has managed to put a dent in the industry, but it's still a pretty big problem that, like everything else, is scrambled up into a political-security omelet.

Authorities take the matter seriously.

Boy, weren't people surprised to see that MTV's "The Vice Guide to Everything" recently tackled the subject familiar to many Israelis -- but from a rather unexpected angle.

"Like bored kids across the globe, Palestinians enjoy street racing, doing doughnuts and otherwise driving like lunatics," says one of video's narrators. "Unfortunately," he says," Israel's 40-year-old occupation of the West Bank makes getting a decent car close to impossible."

Israel controls everything, say Ramallah street racers, including car and car-parts imports. An Israeli can import an M3 BMW, says one, but not Palestinians.

To film "The Vice Guide to Ramallah Street Racing" (note: Video includes profanity) the production crew brings "Adam" out of retirement. The self-described former car thief takes them on a quick ride from Ramallah into Israel and back, with more cars than they left with. Crossing the West Bank into Israel "is a security nightmare," the narrator observes -- but no one cares who's going the other way.

After stripping everything worthwhile at the chop shop, the car bodies are discarded atop a metal mountain of car remains.

So they race with what they've got -- or what they've otherwise obtained -- speed testing and drag racing  outside Ramallah on the huge asphalt expanse of the Ofer Transit Terminal (also the Bitunia crossing), under the eyes of Israeli soldiers across the fence.  Or, as the narrator puts it in the beginning: We're in the West Bank, Israel's right there -- and "we're about to do some sick burnouts right in their face."

Sami Elsheikh, one Ramallah racer, credits Israeli race drivers as pretty good but says if they only had the superior gear, the Palestinians would be better. "In our religion, everything dies -- so our driver doesn't fear to push down on the gas,"  he says in the video.

As word of the video started making the news and cyber-rounds in Israel, some reacted with anger over what they saw as encouragment of crime as well as anti-Israeli politics. A Hebrew daily claimed in a report that the MTV producers had paid the car thieves for the stolen goods in advance. Others questioned the authenticity but were generally entertained, noting that no one would make a big deal if the story took place anywhere else. The police, according to a television news report, were not amused and called the production a show of "poor taste."

A look past the politics of cross-border crime shows the West Bank has quite a car scene going on, with local racing practice throughout the year and peaking in the summer "Speed Test." This summer, there were new spearheads among the gearheads too, as the all-female Speed Sisters team entered for the first time.

But the British Consulate were behind the Speed Sisters' show, not MTV.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Video: "The Vice Guide to Everything" features "The Guide to Ramallah Street Racing." Credit:

Comments () | Archives (14)

@So Cal Mike.......

Your statement expresses a real delusion about the Times. You have an agenda as such which makes it next to impossible for you to see the truth. Yet there are others who happen to think the Times is too anti Palestinian. Both sides are equally delusional.

Glorifying criminals is nothing new, nor is leftist media elevating Palestinians to some sort of "hero" status any surprise.

The LA Times has always hated Jews and the state of Israel.

No one should be surprised by this perfect example of an American media organ promoting Jew-hatred.

They've been doing it for generations already.

Where are the stories on Pine Ridge?

Since the LAT and Liberals see the Phillistines as the heroes and victims, this must be righteous civil disobidience.

MTV reality Shows have been the worst influence on our children.

Music videos were great, but VIACOM has an agenda pushing all sorts of crazy irresponsible things onto our children from drinking and driving to now stealing cars...

since i live in ramallah that's not true
Israelis gives those people there cars to get money from the insurance company's,
in other hand stolen cars is a problem all over the world not in Palestine. its something weird here if you hear that someones car have been stolen.
thx MTV but u should be more honest , we don't need fake news

"not just guilty of 'aiding and abetting', as they participated in a felony", did they? They just joined the later fun! And where is "but also"? They did not steal it and it seems to be some desinformation anyway.

That's what happens when Cousins won't share fairly. The one with the shorter end has to role this way to get a slice of the pie.

Purchasing Vice to revive the MTV brand was the best business decision that Viacom could have ever made. Not only are these stories being picked up by mainstream media, but CNN even entered into a partnership to air some Vice produced videos on their site. Not bad for a bunch of former coke heads from Montreal.

they did not steal the car, they bought it and let the guy act like if he stole it for the show! MTV is not stupid, they just wanted the publicity that this behavior gained!

VICE kicks ass.

I love the show, congrats to MTV.

They have the cajones to go places tv cameras normally ignore. This controversy will blow over, great pub, congrats to Vice Mag as well.

Seems clear that the MTV host and producers are not just guilty of 'aiding and abetting', as they participated in a felony (at least it's a felony here; anyone know the penalty for car theft in Israel?).


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