Viral Israeli air rage video casts light on ingrained anti-Arab racism

This astonishing video of an incident that occurred on an Israir airlines flight from Tel Aviv to the seaside resort of Varna, Bulgaria, last weekend has become a social media sensation among Israelis.

Although all involved in the incident are apparently Israeli Jews, it is nonetheless very revealing and symptomatic of endemic anti-Arab attitudes.

This is a transcript of the video from Israel’s Walla! News, translated by Israel expert Dena Shunra. Be warned, it contains very foul language:

Passenger A: You’re gonna sell me chocolate, do you understand that? You work for me, I paid money for you.

Flight attendant: I don’t work for you. You wish I’d be working for you.

Passenger A: I want the chocolate. What reason do you have not to sell me the chocolate? I want the chocolate. What is this? I want the chocolate.

Flight attendant: If you think that if you’ll raise your voice and be a little more violent – then you’ll probably not get what you want.

Passenger B (A’s sister, shouting from the other side of the plane): Sell her the chocolate, what is she, an Arab? Kuss rabak [Arabic expletive], sell chocolate! Do you hear? She paid the flight price, sell her chocolate! Yalla! Tone it down quick! Sell her chocolate quick! You piece of garbage. What do you mean he’s not selling her chocolate? Piece of garbage. You are not going to sell my sister chocolate?

Flight attendant (to Passenger B): mark my words. Varna? You’re not going to get there.

Passenger seated near passenger A: I put my dick on you, and on Varna, your mother’s mother’s cunt, you maniac, you son of a whore, you fucker, you piece of a son of a thousand…

Meanwhile his companions, including passengers A and B, move to stop his outburst. The passenger later grabs onto the flight attendant’s elbow. The flight attendant warns him: “Watch out.”

Thuggishness and sexual harassment

Walla! News provides additional context about the incident: the flight attendant had been selling duty free items in order of seat rows, and Passenger A did not want to wait until he reached her row.

An airline spokesperson said that the incident “is not something that I can call unusual, but we’re glad to say that it does not happen exactly every day” and that “the phenomenon of disrespect to air crew, verbal thuggishness, and aggressive conduct with the crew is a phenomenon we identify as increasing, not only in ours but in very many airlines.”

Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Israir also said that “a security officer on the flight declined to intervene in the argument because it was not a security incident.”

If several Palestinian or other Arab passengers had behaved in the same manner, is it possible to imagine they would not have been deemed a “security” threat?

A female flight attendant with the Israeli state airline ElAl is quoted by Walla! News about the harassment workers routinely experience: “There’s a custom of addressing the flight attendant not by pushing the call button but by touching her buttocks or pulling the crease of her trousers or the hem of her skirt. He [the passenger] doesn’t do this thinking sexually, but you get off a flight after quite a few passengers have touched you or pulled your trousers or skirt. It is definitely unpleasant.”

“What is she, an Arab?”

“The question asked by Passenger A – ‘What is she, an Arab?’ – touches some very core issues inside Jewish Israeli society,” Shunra observes.

The phrase is extremely colloquial, Shunra says. It rarely appears in writing – but can be found often in online comment threads.

Shunra points to it being used in a number of ways – for example to denote bad taste, to assert normativity and belonging to the mainstream and to assert being well-behaved and civilized in supposed contrast to Arabs.

The phrase briefly made its way into the American mainstream days after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

Benjamin Emanuel asserted that Obama’s appointment of his son, Rahm Emanuel, as White House chief of staff would be beneficial to Israel.

“Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” the elder Emanuel, a former member of the Irgun Zionist terrorist group, said. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”

What all of these usages have in common is an assumption that the speaker of the rhetorical question “What is she/am I, an Arab?” occupies a superior position, while Arabs are clearly inferior.

One sarcastic Twitter user subverted the question to highlight Israel’s systematic discrimination, writing, “Connect her village to a sewage line, why not, is she an Arab?”

This is an apparent allusion to the fact that Israeli authorities refuse to provide basic services to dozens of so-called unrecognized villages inhabited by Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The question evokes the casual contempt captured last year when a couple of Israelis filmed themselves shoving an Arab woman into a lake just for the fun of it.

The woman was pushed into the water precisely because she is an Arab.

And lawmaker Haneen Zoabi was again banned from running in Israel’s upcoming election for precisely the same reason: she is an Arab who loudly challenges Israel’s official racism and discrimination. The decision was later overturned by Israel’s high court.

Brutalization of Israeli society

In a series of tweets, Zion Nanous, a journalist with Israel’s Channel 2, drew connections between the air rage incident and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

“Everyone is horrified this morning at the movie where passengers attack the … air crew. Few people noticed the moment when one of the passenger shouts ‘give her chocolate, what is she, an Arab?’” Nanous writes.

“The curses and beating of the flight attendant continues. Anyone who doesn’t understand that the occupation, the way Palestinians are treated, have a direct link to the brutalization of Israeli society is simply closing their eyes,” he continues.

“You can’t occupy a civilian population for nearly fifty years and remain a model society, a light unto the nations,” Nanous concludes.

What even Nanous apparently doesn’t see is that Israel’s ethnic cleansing and dehumanization of Palestinians didn’t start with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip nearly five decades ago, but was built into Zionism from the start.

With thanks to Dena Shunra for assistance with research and translation.

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Comments

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it is how israel is changing from Apartheid into Nazi state

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Not to defend Israel, but you claerly have no clue about nazi-ism. Israel is not (yet) planning to systematically gas the Palestinians to extinction. And besides, our fight against zionism will not benefit from your unwise comparison.

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Before the gas chambers there were Nazis and an influential Nazi movement. Many people recognized nazi/fascism for what it was and many people died for that long before the extermination camps (remember the international brigades in Spain). While the situation in Palestine is not comparable to1944 Germany, in many aspects it is worse than 1938. In this sense the comparison is right, insightful and important. One lesson that I learned from nazism is that some trends can very quickly get out of control and this certainly appears to be happening in Palestine.

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Let's call a spade a spade here. If you don't then I can only conclude that you are afraid of the zionists .I don't blame you though but intimidation is the name of the game aimed the rest of us which is why the butchers have been getting away with their crimes for well nigh 70 years now.
Genocide is genocide whatever the methods used to kill may be.
As the powers that be are standing silently by then it is up to the people who wish to live in a just world to act. Boycott Israel!

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Apparently you do not know what Nazism is and can't understand that ideas and actions don't necessarily need to come at the same time. Nazis didn't just one day exist and on the same day start gassing people.

And what is the difference? Israel might not have gas chambers, but they do have drones flying constantly making noise, keep Palestinians in ghettos and open air prisons, arrest (administrative) for decades Palestinians without reasons and when treat them like garbage, act racist against them, try to eliminate all traces of culture and heritage in the land, steal their property, and kill them whenever they want in most cruel ways i.e. white phosphor. Same crap Nazis did before gassing people.

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If the video goes viral, the mainstream will use the defense the person was "drunk". This always seems to be the trump card that allows them to dismiss everything that was said and done as innocent inebriation.

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No the zionists are not the exact Klones of Hitler's Third Reich, but they share a disturbingly similar "world perspective" to it.

The targets/victims may have changed but "the view remains the same." Is it any surprise, as Ralph Schoenman writes in the "The Hidden History of Zionism," that they had such a cozy relationship with the NAZIS?

It is time to send those cowardly racist would be desecrators and defilers of Torah, Talmud, and everything Jewish to the ash bin of history.

It is time that they stop hiding behind the mantel/cover of Judaism and come out into the open, so the World can get a good look at them, in all their freakish ugliness and hideousness.

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Israel has already done its genocide. What it is doing now is the post genocide. Israel was founded on the extermination and deportation of the Palestinians who were there first. 80% of Palestinians were exterminated or expelled to make the Zionist Fatherland.

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It would be better described as frustration of jews from arab origin against the ashkenazi zionism. If you could read the hebrew comments for that video at Haartz, Ynet or Walla, you would probably publish them here to show how racist is the israeli society.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.