[-empyre-] of interest below

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sat Oct 27 09:59:28 EST 2012

Hi - I wanted to post this to the list; it applies to this month's topic. 
Dehumanization is a common technique in the military of course; it places 
within the abstract and virtual, that which is abject and concrete. Songs 
like this can tunnel through.

I'd like to all the guests this month to comment on this. Part of the 
original theme for the month, dealing with pain, suffering, and death, 
emphasized the virtual - and I'd like to return to this, wondering if, for 
example, the song itself might be considered as opening into the virtual; 
I remember Mikel Dufrenne talking about the world of the book, which 
relates of courses to diegesis, etc. It's a short step from this world to 
the text-based worlds of MOOs and MUDs etc., and from there to the audio- 
visual worlds of Second Life, Open Sim, etc. The next step would be the 
Holodeck of course.

So where, within all of this, is the location of the body's pain? I keep 
returning to this on one hand, and Diane Gromala's work on the other.


Thanks, Alan

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2012 23:03:34
From: Portside Moderator <moderator at PORTSIDE.ORG>
Subject: Israeli Song About Learning to Kill and Dehumanizing the Enemy is 
      Viral in Israel - Banned From Army Radio

Israeli Song About Learning to Kill and Dehumanizing the
Enemy is Going Viral in Israel - Banned From Army Radio

1. Israeli Protest Song Banned from Army Radio (Richard
Silverstein in Tikun Olam)

2. Song critical of the IDF goes viral after being banned by
Israeli Army Radio (Annie Robbins in Mondoweiss)


Israeli Protest Song Banned from Army Radio

by Richard Silverstein

October 15, 2012
Tikun Olam
(Promoting Israeli democracy, exposing secrets of the
national security state)


There was once a time when Israeli songs like A Matter of
Habit were routinely written, aired and became hits.  These
were songs of political commentary or protest, songs of hope
and idealism.  They represented the aspirations of Israel's
secular liberal (generally Ashkenazi) elite.  But that was
long ago.

Which is why the popularity of A Matter of Habit is so
extraordinary in today's political context.  The song, sung
by Izhar Ashdot and written by Alona Kimche, speaks of how
an Israeli soldier begins slowly to become degraded to his
own humanity and that of the Palestinians among whom he
patrols.  It's not only a powerful political and social
statement, it has those infectious pop "hooks" that are the
mark of a lasting hit.  As we used to say way back in the
1960s when such music was popular here: it's got a message
and you can dance to it.

The song's popularity will no doubt be amplified by a ban
that Galey Tzahal, Israeli armed forces radio, slapped on
the song for "degrading" the IDF.  I'm always amazed that
whenever the misdeeds of the IDF are documented and
criticized that doing so somehow in itself becomes an
inhuman or degrading act.  So goes the logic of the
oppressor who never knows or understands his own power and
oppressive acts.

Here's a peek into the mind of the military oppressors:

     The radio station announced that "Due to the song's
     contents, which debase IDF soldiers, the station
     commander decided that there is no room on Army Radio to
     publicly celebrate a song that denigrates and denounces
     those that have sacrificed their life for the defense of
     the country."

     The statement continued, "the artist Izhar Ashdot is
     held in high esteem by Army Radio. In this specific case
     however, we believe with the artistic leeway afforded to
     artists by this station, Army Radio, as a station of
     soldiers, where many soldiers perform their military
     serve, should avoid celebrating a song that demonizes
     those soldiers."

It appears that the soldiers of the IDF are so fragile that
they cannot withstand even a bit of scrutiny or
introspection without collapsing into a morass of self-doubt
and moral paralysis.  God forbid that any such soldier
should question himself or his comrades.  The entire
military order might collapse leaving Israel defenseless
before the massing hordes of Arab enemies.

Here are the lyrics translated into English:

     Chorus: Learning to kill is a matter of a push
     It begins with something small, then it comes easier

     Patrolling all night in the Nablus casbah
     Hey, what here is ours and what's yours
     The beginning is an experiment
     A rifle butt banging on the door
     Fearful children, a terrified family
     Then a closure, there's already danger
     Death lies in wait around every corner
     You cock your weapon and your arm trembles
     Your finger tightens around the trigger
     Your heart goes crazy, beats in fright
     It knows that the next one will be a lot easier.
     They aren't men or women
     They're only things and shadow
     Learning to kill is a matter of routine.

     Portents from heaven fall upon the streets
     There's no chance of life going on
     The end is near
     Prophecies of terror
     Like the cries of ravens
     Lock the shutters
     Seal yourself in your homes
     We're but a handful
     And they are so many
     A tiny country consumed by enemies
     In their hearts there's only hatred, evil intent and
     Learning to fear is a matter of habit.

     Learning cruelty is a matter of a push
     It begins with something small, and then gets easier
     Every boy is a man thirsting for conquests
     Hands behind the head, feet spread apart
     It's a time of danger, a time of terror
     A solder who weakens isn't worthy of mercy
     Your cousin is like an animal
     He's used to seeing blood.
     He doesn't feel any pain
     He's not a human being.
     A field uniform, a jock itch, fragility and routine.
     The distance between stupidity and evil is short.
     The land of Israel is ours and ours alone
     Learning cruelty is a matter of habit.

     Little boy, little boy stop
     Little boy, little boy come back
     Come to me sweetheart
     Come to me my baby
     The skies are threatening and it's gloomy outside
     Your tin soldiers are still here under your bed
     Come on home little boy
     Come home
     Come home.

     Learning to love is a matter of tenderness
     With a careful step
     And a gentle cloud
     We hesitate and melt
     Become soft and round
     Learning to love is a matter of habit.

     Being a human being is a matter of a push
     Conceived like a fetus and then it's delivered
     For a moment to be only here, only today
     And to be on the other side of the checkpoint
     But our heart's already become coarsened
     Our skin thickened
     Deaf and blind in a bubble of this existence
     In wonder we'll watch the falling angel
     To be a human being is a matter of habit.

The images in the video don't just represent the lyrics,
they expand upon them visually and reinforce them. They're a
work of art in themselves. The last image, as Ashdot sings
of a falling angel and being a human being, shows the
bruised back of a tortured Palestinian prisoner. It's an
ironic twist on the lyrics that brings home the message that
we Israelis have become these torturers, but we must strive
to be human beings instead.

That such a song, summoning Israelis to return to their
innate humanity and turn away from the brutes they've
become, should be censored by Israeli media is the crowning
commentary on what latter-day Israel has become. Interesting
also that the song has 460 "Dislikes" and only 330 "Likes."
It's apparently hit a very raw nerve.

For those seeking similar wonderful Israeli songs of
protest, read my posts on David Broza's B'Libi
http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2005/03/24/david-broza-wis/ and Chava 
Alberstein's Chad Gadya

[Richard Silverstein has been writing Tikun Olam, one of the
earliest liberal Jewish blogs, since February, 2003.  It
focuses on Israeli-Palestinian peace and includes commentary
on U.S. politics and human rights. Technorati ranks this
blog 21st of all world politics blogs and a member of the
Top 100 in that category.

He attended Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia
University, earning a BA and Bachelor of Hebrew Literature,
has an MA in Comparative Literature from UCLA and studied
toward a PhD at UC Berkeley. My languages were Hebrew and
Yiddish. He spent an undergraduate and graduate year
studying Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University and co-
founded of the Bay Area Jewish Music Festival.

"I have been interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
since I was a teenager in 1967 and have worked all my adult
life to promote dialogue and mutual recognition. I am a
progressive (critical) Zionist. I support Israeli withdrawal
to pre-67 borders and an internationally guaranteed peace
agreement with the Palestinians."


Song critical of the IDF goes viral after being banned by Israeli Army Radio

by Annie Robbins

October 17, 2012


[Video and audio of A Matter of Habit sung by Izhar Ashdot
http://youtu.be/q-NRrB9pbKs ]

An Israeli song about learning to kill and dehumanizing the
enemy is going viral in Israel. After Israel's Army Radio
canceled a live broadcast of the song and banned the song from
the station it was thrust  into the national (and
international?) spotlight.  A Matter of Habits, the title
track of popular Israeli rock band Tislam's new album has
everybody talking. Tislam's co founder, Izhar Ashdot, is
husband and life partner to Israeli novelist Alona Kimhi (both
legendary artists in Israel). Kimhi wrote the lyrics after a
Breaking the Silence tour of Hebron a few years ago.

Thus far the song has 2,174 'dislikes' on youTube, if that's
any indication of the  controversy it's generating. Some
critics are literally fuming about the content while others
are clearly more offended by the fact it's been censored by
Army Radio although it's still getting play on Israel radio.

It's not a shoot and cry -- it's corpse-like cold in it's
directness which is why it is threatening: "The cousin like an
animal/Used to blood/doesn't feel suffering/Is not human."

Uri Blau at Haaretz writes people do not want to know, they
don't want to think about it:

     Under Dekel's baton, the Army Radio station introduced a
     new slogan to its broadcasts: "What's happening now."
     Until this week the slogan sounded simply hollow, but the
     censorship of Ashdot's song proved that it is also the
     opposite of the way Army Radio operates. In his decision,
     Dekel did exactly what the public wishes, as reflected in
     the responses to the song's banning. What's happening now
     is that many people don't want to know, don't want to hear
     and don't want to think about what's being done in their
     name and what happens to their children when they don a
     uniform and are transformed from boys into an occupying

     But Dekel is a journalist rather than Army Radio's public
     relations agent. He is supposed to report to his listeners
     what's happening on every patrol by soldiers and at every
     checkpoint manned by Border Police. "Our heart is already
     coarse and our skin is so thick, deaf and blind in the
     bubble of the present," sings Ashdot. By imposing
     censorship on the song, Dekel proved that every word is
     true, and chose to conceal the truth, to whitewash the
     reality and to pat ourselves on the back. That's a mistake
     and it reinforces an image of what's happening that is
     definitely not what's happening now.


     The song was welcomed by liberals as a protest of Israel's
     actions in the West Bank but fiercely criticized by
     others, who defaced Ashdot's official Facebook page last
     month, with one angry reader referring to Ashdot as a
     "draft-dodging dog" - though he didn't evade mandatory

     Army Radio stuck by an advance invitation that Ashdot
     perform in its studios but expressly vetoed the playing of
     this song. The station later issued a statement saying
     there was no room on the military station for a song that
     "denigrates and denounces those who have sacrificed their
     lives for the defense of the country."

     "I am worried when songs are banned for broadcast in a
     democratic country," Ashdot told Israeli media, adding he
     was shocked by the "incitement" against him that the
     statement encouraged. The decision and statement were
     issued by Yaron Dekel, a veteran journalist appointed to
     be the station's military commander in February. ......

     Michael Sfard, an activist attorney who represents
     Breaking the Silence, called the decision a "sad instance
     of political censorship" and wondered if an interviewer
     speaking, not singing, the same critique would be
     censored. ....

     The political party Meretz, which opposes Israel's
     continued occupation of the West Bank, used its social
     media platform to recommend the song and ushered its
     supporters to YouTube to 'like' "Ashdot's courage and
     Kimhi's uncompromising text."

Jerusalem Post:  One song our soldiers won't be marching to

And these words caught my attention:-

They translate as

"Hey, what here is ours and what belongs to you?"

Who is he singing to?

Who is the "we" and who the "you"?

Is the Arabic-styled font intended to suggest Arabs are the

Is this a political song?

But to the point: IDF soldiers learn to defend and to do that,
they must be trained in warfare and how to kill.  There is no
room for pacificism here.


For background on the origins of Kimhi's Breaking the Silence
tour check out - A song was born: The tale of a controversial
tune by Yuval Ben-Ami at 972+ . He offers a translation of the
lyrics below.

     Learning to kill
     Is a matter of momentum
     It starts small
     And then it comes

     Patrols every night
     In the casbah of Nablus
     Hey, what here is ours
     And what is yours

     At first just a drill
     A rifle's butt bangs on the door
     Children in shock
     A family terrified

     Later - closure*
     There's danger already
     Death is lurking
     Behind every corner

     Cocking the weapon
     Arm shaking
     Finger is firm
     Against the trigger

     The heart goes wild
     Beats, terrified
     It knows - next time
     It will be easier

     They are not a man, not a woman
     They are just an object, just a shadow
     Learning to kill
     Is a matter of habit

     Learning to fear
     Is a matter of momentum
     You start small
     And then it comes

     The news from above
     Reaches the street
     There's no hope of living
     The end is so near

     Prophecies of terror
     Like the crow of a raven
     Close the shutters
     Close up in the homes

     we're just a few
     And they are so many
     A tiny country
     Devoured by enemies

     They have only hate in their hearts
     Evil, dark urges
     Learning to fear
     Is a matter of habit

     Learning cruelty
     Is a matter of momentum
     It starts small
     And then it comes

     Every boy is a man
     Craving victory
     Hands behind the head
     Legs spread

     It's a time of danger
     It's a time of destruction
     Soldier, toughen up
     There's no good in compassion

     The cousin like an animal
     Used to blood
     doesn't feel suffering
     Is not human

     Field uniform and chafing
     Exhaustion and routine
     From stupidity to evil
     The route is short

     All ours, all ours
     Israel's land
     Learning cruelly
     Is a matter of habit

     Son, son - stop
     Son, son - come back
     Come to me, sweetheart
     Come to me, my baby

     The sky is so gloomy
     Outside, already dark
     Tin soldiers still
     Under the bed

     Come home, son
     Come home

     Learning to love
     Is a matter of tenderness
     A careful step
     In a cloud of gentleness

     We will hesitate, we will come apart
     We will soften, we will round out
     Learning to love
     Is a matter of habit

     Being human
     Is a matter of momentum
     It grows like an unborn child
     And then it comes

     For just one minute
     Just now, just today
     To be on the other side
     Of that same checkpoint

     But our heart has hardened
     And our skin is thick
     Deaf and blind
     In the bubble of the present

     We will observe in amazement
     The falling angel
     Being human
     Is a matter of habit

     *"Closure" is a military term referring to a situation in
     which inhabitants of a village or town are prevented from
     traveling outside it.

Mondoweiss contributor Ira Glunts had this to say which about
wraps it:

A country raised on "purity of arms" and all this other crap
is reacting like a cornered animal to charges of cruelty and

Ben-Ami predicts the song will be legendary and all we need to
do is be patient. I'm sitting back and grabbing the popcorn.
This isn't going away anytime soon.

[Annie Robbins is Writer at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a
human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the
SF bay area. ]



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