Dutch TV says Eurovision Israel spoof not meant to be anti-Semitic

Sketch ‘questions Israel’s policy and is emphatically not an indictment against the Jewish community,’ BNNVARA says after Israel lodges formal protest

A Dutch parody of Israel's Eurovision winning song "Toy" that has been accused of being anti-Semitic (Screen capture/YouTube)
A Dutch parody of Israel's Eurovision winning song "Toy" that has been accused of being anti-Semitic (Screen capture/YouTube)

A state-funded TV channel in the Netherlands on Tuesday said a TV sketch that spoofed Israel’s winning Eurovision song wasn’t meant to be anti-Semitic, following a formal letter of protest by Israel’s ambassador.

The skit criticized Israel’s handling of Palestinian protests and riots on the Gaza border, but was also accused of peddling anti-Semitic cliches about Jews and money.

“In Sanne Wallis the Show, events of the past week are discussed in a satirical manner, and last week the winning song of Israel happened to coincide with the flaring conflict in the Gaza Strip,” Dutch public broadcaster BNNVARA said.

“The parody questions Israel’s policy and is emphatically not an indictment against the Jewish community,” it added.

Earlier, Israel’s Ambassador to the Netherlands Aviv Shir-On sent a letter to BNNVARA’s management, to the Dutch Foreign Ministry, and to the CJO umbrella group of local Jewish organizations.

“We can live with criticism,” he wrote, adding that Israel itself engages often in “intense” criticism, “but we do not cross the lines. You did.”

The parody of the song “Toy” by Netta Barzilai was aired Sunday on the first edition of a new television show “The Sanne Wallis Show” on the public broadcaster BNNVARA, starring comedienne Sanne Wallis de Vries. The lyrics included: “If your party’s crashed, make sure you cash on embassies, with your ka-ching, ka-ching and your ping-a-ping, with your dollars and cents and your funds, with your ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.”

The parody also featured anti-Israel elements, with films showing Israeli soldiers shooting rifles and injured Palestinians while the performer sang: “We’re giving a party, are you coming? Soon at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, it’s standing there empty anyway.” The Jerusalem mosque is the third holiest Muslim place of worship, standing on the Temple Mount — the holiest site for Jews.

“Look how beautiful, I’m throwing bombs, Israel again wins, 70 years already the party’s on,” the lyrics also said. And: “No way, no Palestinian’s coming in.” The sketch also had a Netta impersonator singing “I hunt Palestinians through the curtains.”

While the Israeli envoy praised the artistic elements of the sketch, calling the music and imitation of Netta Barzilai “good and well performed,” he said that “all the rest was very problematic.”

He said that while “freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and satire, are important elements of a democratic and pluralistic society… in that show you went too far.”

Israel's ambassador to Austria Aviv Shir-on (photo credit: courtesy MFA)
Israel’s ambassador to the Netherlands Aviv Shir-On. (photo credit: courtesy MFA)

“Israel has to defend itself since it was founded 70 years ago because the Arabs have rejected, to this day, every square centimeter of Jewish independence,” he wrote. “This is a sad and depressing situation that has lasted for many years. We don’t rejoice when Palestinians are killed. When people lose their lives, and it doesn’t matter on which side, we don’t laugh. You shouldn’t either!”

“In recent weeks Israel was defending itself once again,” Shir-On added, referring to a series of Gaza border protests and clashes in which more than 100 Palestinians were said to have been killed.

Israel has blamed the Hamas terror group — which rules the Strip and openly seeks to destroy Israel — for the violence, saying it co-opted the protests and has used them as cover to attempt border infiltrations and attacks on Israelis. The terrorist group has said 50 of the 64 Palestinians killed last week were its members; the Islamic Jihad terror group claimed another three.

“Again people paid with their lives and you made a joke out of it,” the Israel envoy told the Dutch broadcaster. “Showing sad and depressing videos in the background of the Israeli Eurovision winning song was not only bad taste, it was wrong and disgraceful.”

“It was not only biased against Israel, it included unfortunately also some anti-Semitic hints like mocking kosher food or referring to money in the old anti-Jewish way,” he added. “It is not only unacceptable, it is dangerous.”

Earlier, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, which monitors anti-Semitism and anti-Israel vitriol in Holland, slammed the sketch for featuring anti-Semitic tropes.

“You start with Israel and end with what? Jews and money. You made your point, BNNVARA,” CIDI wrote on Twitter. The watchdog also wrote that the sketch was “full of ‘hilarious’ jokes about Jews and money and so on. So funny.”

The Telegraaf daily’s headline on Monday about the parody contained the word “Jew-hatred.”

In 2012, the Vara broadcaster, which in 2014 merged with BNN, faced allegations of spreading “blood libels” when it aired a parody of a speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which had been manipulated to have him say in a seamless and realistic-looking speech: “We are trying to maximize the number of civilian casualties. We prefer that.”

Headlined “Netanyahu finally tells the truth,” the video goes on to show Netanyahu saying: “We are conducting these surgical operations against schools, mosques, hospitals, children. This is something I don’t have to explain to Americans.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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