Dancing Dispute: Soldiers stir controversy online

Recently posted video evokes mixed reactions.

IDF dance Hebron 311 (photo credit: YouTube)
IDF dance Hebron 311
(photo credit: YouTube)
The recently posted video of six soldiers from the Nahal Brigade conducting a Macarena-like dance in Hebron’s empty Casbah in the middle of a patrol has evoked strong emotions across the Web.
While some see the clip as a charming expression of the young men’s humanity, others are enraged that while the local Palestinians’ freedom of movement is denied in that part of the city, the soldiers can remain aloof and even playful.
Bertolt Brecht himself could have not created a more alienating effect, between the juvenile words, tunes and simplistic dance moves of Kesha’s “Tik Tok” on the one hand, and the soldiers – fully garbed in their battle vests, helmets on their heads and machine guns ready for use – in the heart of a hostile West Bank city, on the other. The question is whether there was an ulterior motive behind the clip’s making.
Delirium838, whose posting on Youtube had, as of press time on Tuesday, received nearly 32,000 views, asked comment writers to avoid politics and hatred.
“Just Enjoy :) ‘Palhod 50’ dancing in Hebron. We love you guys :),” Delirium added.
And indeed most of the comments listed were supportive of the IDF and the “cute” entertainment number. But not all.
One thoughtful viewer pointed out that “posting this video was a political act in and of itself (intentionally on your part or not).”
Another, Magi 1969, summed up the other argument: “This is funny, regardless of the context, and more so considering it. It’s good that they can relax a bit while keeping the Untermenchen in order in the super-ghetto. Halt! Hammerzeit!?” Another post insisted that “No1 understands what happens in the midle East... Look at those soldiers, dancing after killing a lot of innocent children...”
More sophisticated entries maintained that the video was an attempt by the IDF and Israel to improve its public standing by showing the cute, human side of its soldiers. But anyone with a knowledge of the Nahal Brigade will be far from surprised that the video was created in their unit, nor will they doubt its authenticity.
At the height of the first Intifada in the late 1980s, the joke circulating was that Nahal soldiers don’t deal with Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank and Gaza. The reason? If they encounter a burning tire – one of the means Palestinians used to block the roads as protest and as an ambush – the soldiers would sit around it, pull out a guitar and start singing in unison.
The Nahal used to be part of the pioneering movement in Israel, and the military service was part of a longer track in which the soldiers were part of gender-mixed groups involved in agricultural and social activities.
What is clear is that the Israeli soldiers didn’t come up with the idea, but were inspired by other Western armies in combat zones. The most famous example is the recent parody of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” filmed by American soldiers inside a military base in Afghanistan, which has been seen by over five million viewers so far. A British take of Madness’s “Must Be Love” is worth seeing, showing soldiers and officers in Iraq going about their routine.
The most striking video, however, would be the Marines in Iraq dancing and lip-syncing Haddaway’s “What Is Love?” That line in the song is followed by the lyrics, “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more.” The soldiers are filmed in their base, in the desert and also inside a house, apparently during a search. Smiling civilians also appear in the clip, including three cute Iraqi children.
The clip from Hebron is not a first of its kind; a video of female IDF soldiers dancing to Avril Lavigne’s ‘Girlfriend’ was uploaded already in 2007. It was reposted on Monday and even reported by Yahoo! News as a new clip, cited as an example that the IDF was being swept by a “dance fever.”
Judging by the above examples, the one clear conclusion is that the recent Nahal posting will be receiving nasty responses. Whether or not they are justified is a different question.