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Ben Gvir condemns skit as antisemitic

TV satirizes extremist Itamar Ben Gvir with ‘Springtime for Hitler’ takeoff

In ‘Eretz Nehederet’ homage to song from Mel Brooks’s ‘The Producers,’ Ben Gvir fills in for Nazi dictator, espousing policies against Arabs, gays and ‘lefties’

A scene on Israel's satirical "Eretz Nehederet" TV show featuring an impersonation of Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir, aired on Channel 12, September 21, 2022. (screenshot)
A scene on Israel's satirical "Eretz Nehederet" TV show featuring an impersonation of Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir, aired on Channel 12, September 21, 2022. (screenshot)

Popular satire show “Eretz Nehederet” (A Wonderful Land) aired a musical skit Wednesday night that implicitly compared far-right Israeli politician Itamar Ben Gvir with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

The song-and-dance number was based on the iconic “Springtime for Hitler” number from Mel Brooks’s 1967 film “The Producers,” which features actors in a staged musical, led by a flamboyant Hitler, singing joyfully about the impending Nazi occupation of Europe.

Though neither Hitler nor Nazis were explicitly mentioned in the “Eretz Nehederet” version, anyone familiar with the classic movie would pick up on the reference.

In the Israeli version, an actor impersonating Ben Gvir, filling in for the role of Hitler, is invited in by a downtrodden Benjamin Netanyahu, who asks rhetorically “Who will bring the votes and save me from the law?” in reference to Netanyahu’s ongoing criminal trial.

The goofy-looking Ben Gvir then steals the spotlight, framed by the fascist-like symbol of Kach, the once-banned and now-defunct political party of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, of whom Ben Gvir is a disciple. The character is surrounded by dancers and singers wearing large knitted head coverings associated with the religious settlement movement, and T-shirts branded with the logos of extremist organizations such as Kach, Lehava and La Familia.

Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party — now allied with the Religious Zionism party — holds extreme right views and calls for the expulsion of Arabs not deemed sufficiently loyal to the state. It is seen as the ideological successor to Kach, though it has been careful to keep its extremist views with the boundary of the law, to avoid being banned from Knesset as was the Kahane-led party.

Otzma Yehudit was established in 2012, but was unable to garner enough support to enter the Knesset until 2021, when Netanyahu mediated an alliance between the party and Religious Zionism in a bid to prevent right-wing votes from going to waste in that year’s election. Ben Gvir’s popularity has surged on the hard right since he entered the Knesset.

“It’s time for Ben Gvir… it’s time for Otzma Yehudit” and “Kahane for the whole family,” the Ben Gvir impersonator croons.

Ben Gvir has lately been said to have deliberately watered down his extremist beliefs in an effort to appeal to a larger swath of right-wing Israelis while avoiding anti-racism laws. Under Article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, “incitement to racism” is one of three actions that can disqualify a candidate.

A member of Otzma Yehudit recently said such purported new moderation was a “trick” to help Ben Gvir gain support in the elections.

In the “Eretz Nehederet” scene, Ben Gvir details his ostensible plans once he gains power, singing “We’ll throw the Arabs and the lefties out, we’ll turn Al-Aqsa into a parking lot, we’ll put the gays back in the closet.”

Supporting dancers mime a train as the group sings of putting “judges on the carriages” — another piece of imagery that for many Israelis will conjure up the Nazi transports taking people to their deaths in occupied Europe.

“I’ve calmed down, my friends, it’s no mistake — or you’ve just opened up a little to racism,” the Ben Gvir actor jovially sings, before proceeding to list a series of ministerial demands from Netanyahu.

After the scene aired, the actual Ben Gvir told followers on Twitter that he’d hitherto found “Eretz Nehederet,” which airs on Channel 12, to be funny despite its negative depictions of himself and Netanyahu.

“However, today, in light of the hatred against me and against former prime minister Netanyahu, it’s clear that we are talking about a program intent on preventing the right’s return to power.

“They depict [Ra’am party chief] Mansour Abbas as a cute teddy bear while I’m depicted the way antisemites would depict a Jew,” he said. “[They] should be ashamed.”

Polls have predicted Ben Gvir and his partner Bezalel Smotrich receiving 12-13 seats in November’s election, potentially making them the leaders of the Knesset’s third-largest faction following the vote.

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