Watch: Banned Balad election ad has Israel’s racist politicians dancing to Arab rhythm

Balad, a party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, has released an election ad that shows some of Israel’s most notoriously racist politicians, including recently resigned foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, dancing to an Arabic rhythm.

The ad was banned from radio and television broadcast by Israel’s election commission.

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.




Also note that the Israeli pop band Teapacks released a Mizrahi (=Arabic-influenced) version of the same anthem several years ago, in collaboration with Sarit Haddad, an über-popular recording artist who recently appeared at a Likud campaign event and sang "you are a cannon" (Hebrew slang for 'you're fuckin' awesome') to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Here's Teapacks & Haddad's version:

While I have no direct knowledge of what Teapack and Haddad's intentions were in releasing their recorded version of the anthem at the time, my educated guess is that it, too, was a form of social protest.

The original song has a very European tune to it, resonating with Israel's Jewish Ashkanazi privileged elite. The melody is most commonly attributed to the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, although it appears to have older roots in Italy (

The members of Teapacks and Haddad are of North African and Middle Eastern descent, and the instrumental and vocal arrangement in their recording is more in line with the traditions of the regions where their families originated, and – frankly – where Israel is situated geographically. It also more closely resembles the arrangment in the Tajammu3 ad that Supreme Court Justice Rubinstein has recently banned from being broadcast on Israeli TV.


I don't generally agree with your political views, but this is hysterical as showing the absurdity of Lieberman's argument. It's no more offensive than a skit I once I saw on Israeli TV of dancing rabbis doing a conga line, in honor of Aryeh Deri of Shas coming back to politics after several years in prison for corruption. And I've seen worse on Eretz Nehederet (the Israeli answer to Saturday Night Live).

As for Tipex and Sarit Hadad, if there was a message to their version, it was in response to the Second Intifada and the collapse of the peace process, as it was released on the Tipex "All the Hits" CD circa 2003.