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ISRAEL: IDF soldiers step on toes while dancing in the streets of Hebron

July 6, 2010 |  3:00 pm

On the day the army announced the indictment of several soldiers for actions carried out during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza -- including one for manslaughter -- a number of Israeli soldiers were found guilty of another transgression: goofin' around.

Six soldiers filmed a clip showing them in full gear patrolling the streets of Hebron, the Muslim call to prayer audible in the background. The soundtrack changes to Kesha's pop hit "Tik Tok" and the soldiers break out -- weapons, flak jackets and all -- in a choreographed dance, a spoof on a long-since-viral Israeli television skit.

Soldiers have been in trouble before for offensive photography, including trophy pictures taken over corpses. In this case, there were no casualties -- except perhaps some national and institutional pride.

The video was uploaded to YouTube for all to see. Army officials saw and weren't impressed. The soldiers' commanders have been informed of the stunt and will deal with it, media quoted an army statement as saying. The troops could face disciplinary action.

Reactions to the video ranged from amusement to outrage.

"Harmless fun, leave them alone," an Israeli named Racheli commented on a news website. "Civilized people do not do this," Tony from Denmark wrote on another. The clip had been removed earlier in the day from YouTube but reappeared later in several new  versions, now pushing 200,000 viewers. One replaced the original title, "Battalion 50 Rock the Hebron Casbah," with "It's Easy to Laugh at the Occupation When You're the Oppressor (and a Douchebag)."

A few months ago, U.S. troops in Afghanistan covered a Lady Gaga song. But the Israeli soldiers weren't copycatting that; they were probably just doing what dozens of other Israelis have done this year: making  video spoofs of a comedy routine that ran for months on the satirical TV show "Eretz Nehederet." The skit features two salesgirls at a clothes shop who start off giving begrudging service but then go ballistic when shoppers mess with the folded clothes, forcing the offenders to fold with them in moves synchronized to the "Tik Tok" tune. 

The bit, known as hamekaplot ("the folders"), featured celebrities and politicians as the violators and was a huge hit, as were the countless clips made by Israelis applying the idea to everything from rolling joints to preparing sushi. Even Peace Now made a version, "starring" Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak folding T-shirts bearing inscriptions such as "two-state solution," "civil rights" and "settlement evacuation."

So maybe the soldiers were just keeping up with pop culture. Maybe they were blowing off steam. Maybe they were doing what guys their age would be doing anywhere else. And maybe they were dangerously reckless and caused Israel unwarranted embarrassment. Depending on how angry the army is, the next ticktock they'll be hearing might come from doing time in the military slammer.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Video: Israeli troops "Rock the Hebron Casbah." Credit: YouTube