Balad – also knows as al-tajammu or the National Democratic Assembly, currently has three members in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and was founded by the now exiled Palestinian intellectual Azmi Bishara in the mid-1990s.
Last month Israel’s election commission forbade one of its members, Haneen Zoabi, from running for re-election in the 22 January national election, a ban that was later overturned by the Israeli high court.
Behind the gag a serious message
At the beginning of the ad, an animated Lieberman puts forward one of his notorious loyalty laws, including the requirement that Palestinian citizens sing the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva.”
Palestinian citizens of Israel generally do not identify with “Hatikva” because it is an explicitly Zionist and Jewish supremacist song that contains the words:
As long as in the heart, within,
A Jewish soul still yearns,
And onward, towards the ends of the east,
An eye still gazes toward Zion …
But, the cartoon Lieberman says, “I have become convinced of the need to change the anthem a bit so that the Arabs can learn it and sing it.”
The gag is that the altered version Lieberman and other right-wing politicians perform is simply the same Zionist lyrics to an Arab beat. The result is quite catchy and hilarious as it is performed to the tune of the dabke “Daq Almani” or “Ti Rash Rash”.
Justifying the ban on broadcasting the ad, election commission chair and high court judge Elyakim Rubinstein said, according to Times of Israel that “the Arab party’s campaign ad ridiculed the national anthem and that insulting national icons is unacceptable in election campaigns.” However the ad does not alter any of the lyrics of the anthem. It only puts them to a typically Arab tune and rhythm. It does however ridicule Israeli politicians.
Rising abstention rates among Palestinian citizens of Israel
At the end of the ad, the narrator says “Are you done laughing?” and makes the argument that for Palestinian citizens of Israel the upcoming election is no joke.
The ad urges Palestinian citizens of Israel to vote so that Balad can act as a defense against racist laws and loyalty oaths of the kind Lieberman and his ilk push. The turnout rate among the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, which once peaked at over 90 percent, fell to just 53 percent in the 2009 election.
The plummeting turnout perhaps reflects a growing sense that there is no way for Palestinian citizens of Israel to push back the rising tide of racism and incitement within an Israeli political system that is rigged against them.
Other ads by Balad can be seen on the party’s YouTube channel.