Israeli Protest Song Banned from Army Radio 1 Favorite 



Oct 15 2012



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 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."

by Richard Silverstein

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