Israeli soldiers dance to Kesha
In a case of viral videos going very wrong, six Israeli soldiers are facing investigation. Their crime? Performing a dance routine to Kesha’s “Tik Tok” in Hebron’s Old City (above).
Hebron, in the West Bank, is one of the most volatile cities in the region. Inside Hebron itself, 600 Israeli settlers following a stridenty nationalist-messianic ideology live surrounded by 160,000 Palestinian Arabs. The settlers enjoy the protection of the Israeli army and both Jews and Palestians regularly enage in violent harassment agains each other.
Hebron’s Old City is divided into a patchwork of Israeli- and Palestinian- controlled neighborhoods marked by a profusion of automatic rifles, shuttered stores and nationalist murals that recall 1980s Belfast.
It’s a hell of a place to make a viral video.
The clip has been pulled from YouTube, but numerous copies are circulating around the internet, as shown above.
The soldiers, members of the Nahal Brigade’s 50th Airborne Batallion, wear full combat gear as they pretend to patrol Hebron’s famous casbah to the strains of the Muslim call to prayer. Then the call to prayer ends and the soldiers start dancing to Kesha.
For the Israeli Defense Forces, the video has prompted a PR fiasco. Hebron is one of the West Bank’s primary flashpoints and the military there has long avoided any unnecessary publicity, whether positive or negative.
Adding to the complications is the fact that Hebron is one of the holiest cities to both Judaism and Islam. Just as non-West Bank Israelis are familiar with Hebron from field trips to the gravesites of Abraham and the Patriarchs, Muslims around the world venerate Hebron because of the very same graves.
In other words… a geopolitical minefield with religious connotations that has gone up in flames over very silly things in the past. Not the kind of place to do a goofy dance to pop music in. Given Israel’s current PR troubles, these soldiers should have been aware of the video’s risk of backfiring.
Now, here’s the thing. I recently wrote a piece on US soldiers making homemade music videos for Slate that celebrated the profusion of troop-produced viral videos on YouTube. However, these Israeli soldiers violated a cardinal rule of new media in the military: They messed things up for their fellow troops by posting the video.
Hebron has a unique style of building and, even without the video’s captioning, the clip was easily identifiable of having been built there. The city of Hebron, one of the holiest on earth to followers of the monotheist faiths, isn’t an anonymous FOB in the Afghan mountains or an Israeli barrack in the West Bank.
In short: Hebron is a profoundly piss-poor place for filming humorous viral videos.
The soldiers in the Nahal Brigade who filmed this clip are currently facing disciplinary hearings.