I Can’t Believe It’s Not Israel
In times past the Forward newspaper celebrated the fast of Yom Kippur with a feast and in keeping with that tradition it celebrated Israel’s Independence Day by rewriting its anthem to remove the word “Jew” from it. The linguistic purge from the notoriously anti-Israel paper was meant as a way to help Muslims feel better about singing the Israeli national anthem.
The yearning of the Jewish soul becomes the yearning of the Israeli soul and the eyes turned east no longer long for Zion, but the generic “our country”. The proposal made by a self-proclaimed linguist seems rather devoid of understanding when it comes to the origin and meaning of words. Purging Jewish souls from the anthem and replacing them with Israeli souls doesn’t actually solve anything.
Jews are Judeans, dating back to the Kingdom of Judah, contrasted with the breakaway Kingdom of Israel and its tribes. The Jews are also Israelites, being sons of the patriarch Israel, a category that still does not encompass Muslims. Rewriting Jewish soul as Israeli soul still leaves one with Jews, and as the Forward has discovered, Jews are rather hard to get rid of. Shoot them, gas them and write them out of their own anthem and they still pop back up.
It will take more than a few switched words to write Jews out of Hatikvah. Even if we were to no longer call them Israelis, but perhaps Homo Sapiens or oxygen breathing mammals, so as to leave no one out at all, there is the eastern problem. Why were these carbon breathing lifeforms looking east, when most of the region’s Muslims look westward to Israel? And why were they longing for a country for 2000 years when the only Arabs around then were Roman mercenaries carving up Jewish refugees and searching for gold in their stomachs?
A proper post-Jewish anthem must also be post-Israeli. It must be generic, humanistic and tolerant. It must not be associated with anyone’s national striving, only the striving for social justice, complete equality and brotherhood. Fortunately such an anthem already exists and it’s called The Internationale and it happens to be quite popular among the sort of people who think Hatikvah is too Jewish.
There’s even a few Israeli versions, like “Nivne Artzenu Eretz Moledet”. The latter, with lyrics like, “We shall build our country despite our destroyers” has gone out of style and sounds too much like those right-wingers who insist on building houses and farms, instead of protesting over the cost of condos in Tel Aviv. Try strumming up lyrics like, “It is the command of our blood” or “The end to malignant slavery” in the wrong place at the wrong time and you might just be hauled in for incitement. These days the only ones building the country or “marching toward the liberation of our people” are the ones being kicked out of Migron and Hevron by the destroyers of the left.
Move over Abraham Levinson for Doron Levinson and “Lay Down Your Arms” with inspirational lyrics like, “Somewhere deep inside the soldier, There’s a dreamer dreaming of a world of peace, Lay down your arms, Let Time heal every wound, And Love will someday set us free!” It could easily do for the anthem, but sadly it doesn’t represent Muslims any better than Hatikvah does. The only people still dreaming of peace in the Middle East are the ones being ethnically cleansed from their anthem.
Love has yet to heal every wound, but someday it might. All we have to do is lay down our arms, purge ourselves of any selfish nationalistic traits and wait for the other side to return our love. It’s bound to work and if it doesn’t, at least we will know that we tried and died trying.
For those who find songs with more than one lyric too demanding too remember amid the clouds of pot smoke, there’s always the ubiquitous “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu” better known as “Shalom, Salaam”. The proper way to sing it is with an impassioned wail. Like “Lay down your arms”, it promises that peace is coming, but doesn’t specify a date, just hopeful optimism best expressed by national surrender and out of tune singing.
Peace songs are a cottage industry in Israel. Hardly any peacenik twenty-something wannabe with a pick, a dream and rich parents, or jaundiced professional musician still living down his disco days and his coke habit hasn’t produced his or her own peace song. Often more than one. If peace songs were oil, then Tel Aviv would outdraw Saudi Arabia in the energy market.
You don’t need to know much about music to write a peace song, just as you don’t need to know much about the history of the Jewish people to write them out of their own anthem. All you need is a cheerful message, vague hope and nothing else. Having hope makes you better than those awful people who seem to want war to go on forever, instead of laying down their arms and finding the beautiful dreamer floating in their bidet of hope.
Sadly despite the obligatory Salaams, the Muslims don’t particularly feel represented by all the peace song. The occasional Arab singer will join in a duet with an Israeli to the delight of the peace dorks against a backdrop of flying doves and clasping hands, but seem more energized by Fidai, the anthem of the Palestinian Authority, which like everything else about it shows its commitment to peace.
“Palestine is my fire, Palestine is my revenge,” Fidai shrieks angrily, “my fire and the volcano of my vendetta.” There is no talk of peace, of laying down arms or letting love solve things. Instead there is the eternal war. “I will live as a revolutionary, I will go on as revolutionary, I will expire as revolutionary.”
Back in 2004, Hamas held a contest to select an anthem, but it’s not clear if the contest yielded any results. It does however have plenty of songs, which you can recreate mentally by tossing words like “Death”, “Martyrdom”, “Jihad”, “Blood” and “Victory” into a pile and rearranging them in any order accompanied by various geographical locations and a disco beat. Take any pop album from ten years ago, throw something in about Allah and killing the Jews, and you’re all set.
While the Israelis Salaam, the Muslim Jihad, and while both sets of songs sound like bad Europop, they reveal the character of their respective peoples. Salaaming, in the pre-politically correct jargon, used to mean performing acts of obeisance. It is a pity that this definition has grown dusty as it would save us all a lot of time, trouble and bad music.
Aslim Taslam, Mohammed told his enemies, accept Islam and we will have peace. Singing Salaam to a Muslim without laying down arms and reciting the Shahada is a waste of everyone’s time. For the Israeli National Anthem to properly represent Muslims, it would have to lose the Jewish and Israeli stuff, throw in something about Allah, conspiracies of outside foes, a struggle for liberation and the wise leadership of our benevolent tyrant.
Take the Egyptian National Anthem whose singer proclaims that his purpose is to repel the enemy while relying on Allah, or the Syrian National Anthem which namechecks Arabism and mentions that its flag is written in martyr’s blood or the Libyan National Anthem, which fulminates about enemy conspiracies and boasts of marching with the Koran in one hand a gun in the other.
None of these anthems are concerned with inclusiveness or how non-Muslims feel while singing it and compared to them, Hatikvah is as pacifist as any peace song. Why it doesn’t even mention war, enemies or guns. And if anyone doubts that this attitude is representative of the region, they need only look to the Muslim Brotherhood goosestepping to power in Egypt.
Dejudaizing the Israel National Anthem fools no one, it only makes fools of those who do it. The best way for Israel to maintain the loyalty of those Muslims who have chosen to throw in their lot with the Jewish State is by being strong, not by being weak. In a region where alliances are based on strength, the worst possible message to send is the one that says you aren’t in it for the long haul.
Jews may give their allegiance to a Jewish State too weak to defend itself and too lacking in pride to assert itself, but Israeli Muslims will not. The most right-wing member of the Israeli cabinet is not Avigdor Lieberman, as Anti-Israeli pundits think, but Ayoub Kara, a Druze Muslim. Kara isn’t just right-wing, he makes every Likud Prime Minister look like a bleeding heart liberal. Those Israeli Muslims who do support Israel want it to be strong. Those who do not, will not be bought off by selling out the Jewish soul and the longing that built the state.
Some time ago, a series of radio ads for Baron Herzog wine dubbed it, “The wine that just happens to be Kosher”. There are some who would like to reimagine Israel as a state that just happens to be Jewish. Behind words like that lurks a shame at Jewish labels, the “ASHamed Jews” of Howard Jacobson’s Finkler Question, who are proud to be ashamed of being Jewish, proud to rewrite the anthem of the striving of their people until their striving, their hope and their soul are stricken from the page.
Israel is not an accident, it exists because of those who fought and strived for it, who built and labored for a Jewish State, who sang the Hatikvah because it represented their mission. A mission that is at odds with the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Israel” agenda of the left to hollow out the country, destroy its sense of purpose, its heritage and its identity, and leave it with a flag, an anthem and a state that no longer stands for anything at all.