The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A satirical ‘history of the Jewish people’ released by the Israeli government offends just about everyone

Israeli government video: Welcome to the home of the Jewish people (Video: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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JERUSALEM — Israel’s Foreign Ministry made a little video entitled “Welcome to the home of the Jewish people.” It stars the characters Jacob and Rachel, a nice Jewish couple, living in a modern suburban-style house called the “Land of Israel,” which is invaded by Assyrians, Greeks, Arabs, Crusaders, the British and others.

The intended audience is clearly the outside world — it is in English, not Hebrew or Arabic — and is billed by Israeli diplomats as “a short history of the Jewish people.”

Cartoons and video like this are part of a new trend by Israel to conduct its public diplomacy — known as "hasbara" or explanation— via social media.

Lately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been giving conversational video chats at his desk and posting them on his Facebook page. In one, he claimed the Palestinians were guilty of ethnic cleansing. In another Netanyahu declared that he cared more about Palestinians than their own leaders.

Earlier this week, Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States and now deputy minister for diplomacy, released his own video where he warns of the dangers of “neo-paganism,” confesses he was a “weird kid,” and praises Israel’s wine, caviar and gluten-free pasta.

The latest video, released on Thursday, was directed by a member of the Foreign Ministry staff and produced by a Tel Aviv company. It is done in the broad Israeli style of their TV comedy shows and sitcoms.

The action begins with a knock on the door.

First a couple of bearded Assyrians with rolling eyes show up, speaking babble. They have swords and arrows.

“We ain’t spoiled. The Assyrians took over the living room and so we settled in the bedroom,” Jacob says.

On it goes. More knocks at the door, more invaders, more spears and swords.

“You need a lot of patience when the Hellenists and Romans pop up with no invite,” Jacob says.

A Macedonian soldier, claiming the Land of Israel for Alexander the Great, appears to speak with an Italian accent.

Then "early Arabs" come. They dance to the Israeli folk song “Hava Nagila.” Then the Crusaders. They stab the couch.

Jacob and Rachel are pushed from the living room, to the kid’s room, to the bathroom, to a tent in the back yard, where they are interrupted by Turks and others from the Ottoman Empire.

All the couple want is peace and quiet.

Finally the British arrive. “It didn’t take long for the nice Brit to realize this isn’t Europe.” They drink tea with raised pinkies and the English give the couple a state of their own after 3,000 years.

As Jacob and Rachel celebrate, there is a last pair of visitors: a Palestinian couple, who want in.

Early reviews of the video appear mixed.