Europe has gone gaga for Netta Barzilai. Raking in over 22 million hits on YouTube, Israel’s eclectic Eurovision entry is a hot favourite to win the continental kitschfest on Saturday night. “Toy” has been celebrated as a statement of female empowerment. But listen more closely, and this spunky, defiant number is clearly a Zionist power anthem. It’s also a musical two fingers up at the Europe that could vote it to victory.
Watch the news, and Israel might look like a permanent warzone, viewed through the lens of its conflict with the Palestinians and treated as Europe’s compensation for the Holocaust. Not so, says Netta to her Middle Eastern beats: “Look at me, I’m a beautiful creature.” Israel is a vibrant, assertive, attractive place that wants to flaunt its achievements to the world.
What’s more, Israel doesn’t care for outsiders who preach morality to it or want to to be something it’s not. David Ben-Gurion dismissed the United Nations as “oom-shmoom”. For Netta: “I don’t care about your ‘modern time preachers’”. Back off, Mr. Kerry. No touching.
“Welcome boys, too much noise, I will teach ya,” Netta will sing to a global audience of over 200 million viewers, entertaining them with chicken noises and other erratic gobbledygook. They will be blissfully unaware that her message is that Israel makes no apologies for being completely incomprehensible to its critics—it also has a thing or two to teach them.
Israelis often accuse Europeans of hypocrisy and a supercilious “do as I say, not as I do” attitude, believing that Israel is judged by double standards and treated unfairly. Or in Netta’s words: “Hey, I think you forgot how to play.” Israel wants Europeans to back off with this unearned criticism: “Hey! My ‘Simon says’ leave me alone.” And while Europe continues to deny Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and promote the Palestinians’ claims there, Israel stubbornly insists on keeping what rightfully owns: “I’m taking my Pikachu home.”
For all their culture and sophistication, Europeans fail to truly understand Israel. And Netta will rub in the irony: “You’re stupid just like your smartphone. ”
Israeli actress Gal Gadot has become a national cultural icon since her debut as Wonder Woman: A sassy, no-nonsense heroine determined to make the world a better place even when others talk her down. “Wonder Woman, don’t you ever forget,” Netta will sing. “You’re divine and he’s about to regret.” In other words: Watch out, Europe. Israel is a technological and cultural powerhouse. Boycott us, and you’ll rue it.
And then, with a rousing, clucking-clad crescendo, Netta will deliver a blow more painful than Krav Maga: “I’m not your toy, you stupid boy.” Israel isn’t the West’s plaything. It isn’t a puppet that will do as it’s told, the Jews are no longer live at the whim of manipulative, entitled regimes. Israel is a dynamic, hyperactive fusion of culture that demands to be loved and respected on its own terms. And whoever won’t play along, well, is just a stupid boy.
Israel is hotly tipped to win the Eurovision, but as with every year the spectre of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias threatens to stand between Israel and Europe’s hearts. Even if Jerusalem doesn’t begin planning on Sunday to host Eurovision 2019, it will have taunted Europeans with a subversive lesson—which they won’t get out of their heads for weeks.
Eylon Aslan-Levy is an Israeli news anchor and political commentator. He is a graduate of Oxford, Cambridge and the IDF.