Eretz Nehederet is Israel’s most popular television comedy show. When its seventh season debuted last week, it climbed to the top of the ratings, watched by an astonishing 38.5 percent of the adult population. Among its skits was this sophomoric sketch of American college students on a Taglit-Birthright tour of Israel. It’s been making the rounds stateside.
To hear Israel’s comedy geniuses tell it, young American Jews come in three flavors. There’s the fat stoner whose vocabulary consists solely of the word “awesome!” There’s the fat and ugly girl, played by a man and sounding like a deflated dog’s chew toy. And there’s the hot JAP who brags about the fact that her home in the Hamptons is bigger than the entirety of the Jewish state.
At first, I attributed the whole thing to laziness: Stereotypes, after all, are the bluntest weapon in the joke writer’s arsenal. But then I got to thinking. There’s a reason Israelis still find JAP jokes to be the height of comedy, and it has nothing to do with Americans and everything to do with Israelis.
Once upon a time, Israelis saw themselves as khaki-clad toughs, the sort of people who could hop on a plane and fly to Entebbe and free hostages and kick ass. This time was called the 1970s. Since then, the same thing happened to Israel that happens to anyone who grows older and wealthier: It settled down, it got fat, it became better-known for its high-tech entrepreneurs than for its commandos. When it tried to assassinate Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal by injecting poison into his ear, it failed miserably and was shamed into handing Meshaal the antidote. It carried out an operation in Dubai that was more Fletch than James Bond.
So, rather than age gracefully, Israel went looking for someone to pick on. And American Jews are an easy target. They’re gullible—can you believe all the money those suckers are giving us?!? They’re soft, what with spending four years in college instead of three years at some silly desk job, which is what the majority of Israel Defense Forces soldiers end up doing. They’re Diaspora. Let’s make fun of them.
This dynamic, I think, explains the recent spate of insults emanating from Israel, which in addition to this sketch include those preposterous ads encouraging Israelis living in the United States to return home at once. Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance: When someone—a person or a state—holds strong beliefs and perceptions and then those beliefs and perceptions are suddenly and strongly negated by reality, one solution is to introduce a new idea that resolves the tension. In this case, the calming idea is this distortion of American Jews: It doesn’t matter, Israelis tell themselves, that we’re no longer as invincible as we would like to believe we are, because these soft suckers, our cousins from America, are downright laughable.
Meanwhile, it would be big of American Jews who care about Israel, in the face of this ridiculous ridicule, to find a way to help the Jewish state resolve its self-destructive neuroses.
Israeli Parody of Taglit-Birthright Propaganda Trips [Eretz Nehederet]
Related: Mixed Marriage [Tablet Magazine]
Murder in Dubai [Tablet Magazine]