The Nazi salute in prime time: double standards in Israel?

It was an almost unimaginable sight.

This weekend, a Jewish contestant from the reality TV show “HaAkh Hagadol,” the Israeli version of “Big Brother,” walked into a room, gave the Nazi salute, and said, “Heil Hitler.”

Unsurprisingly, calls immediately poured in for the contestant, Netanel, to be kicked out of the game, along with his companion Shahav, who had given the same salute several days earlier, inexplicably, without any comment. The pair seem to be joking, with the former making the move after seeing another contestant apply a drop of wax to the center of her upper lip.

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The producers of the show, which airs on Reshet 13, chose not to fire the contestants – despite violating the show’s rules – saying that after having “lengthy discussions” about the issue, they felt the situation was better through an internal discussion.

In a statement, the producers said firing the duo would be the “least complicated decision” and that they were instead looking to “tack the issue differently and address the root causes.”

So on an episode that aired Saturday night, Richet waited until the last 15 minutes of a 90-minute show — complete with the usual drama, backstabbing, screaming, and tears — to grapple with events, and bring in Orna Ben-Dor, the daughter of the Holocaust. A survivor and filmmaker who explores Holocaust memory through her work, to moderate the discussion.

Not everyone liked this approach, with many viewers and observers accusing the show of using the incident to gain ratings. After all, the show could have fired the two men involved and set up a specific discussion about the significance of the incident.

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“Big Brother” is the biggest watchdog for otherwise struggling Reshet, and it’s the most-watched show in the country on most nights aired.

Just last season, a contestant named Yehuda was fired after a verbal altercation with another contestant. During the show’s fifth season, which aired in 2013, two contestants were fired by the producers for racist and homophobic comments they had made about the other contestants. Others were disqualified for violent incidents or for repeatedly breaking the show’s rules.

But the contrast is perhaps more pronounced when compared to the approach taken in other countries. Last year, a contestant on Portugal’s “Big Brother” program repeatedly gave the Nazi salute in an effort to get humor. He was immediately fired from the show, who said he could not tolerate such behavior.

At that time, the Israeli Embassy in Portugal chirp Quote from an article about the incident congratulating the decision and saying the candidate’s behavior “damages the millions of lives lost during the Holocaust.”

In 2016, a contestant on the popular British version of “Big Brother” was fired for playing a holocaust joke on a Jewish roommate. The move was praised at the time by the House of Representatives of the umbrella group of British Jews, which on Twitter endorsed the decision to confront “sectarian ideas” in a show watched by “millions of young people across the country”.

In Israel, by contrast, the two men barely received a slap on the wrist.

Is there a double standard policy? Do Israelis tolerate behavior at home that they find unacceptable in other countries? Is it legitimate for Jews to refer to the Holocaust and humor when they are offended when non-Jews do the same?

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There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with insensitive, aggressive, and traumatic situations, whether on TV or elsewhere. And not all incidents are created equal – questions of intent, questions of context, questions of the culprit. It makes sense and makes sense to impose higher standards on politicians and elected officials than on reality TV contestants and comedians.

A 2016 documentary, “The Last Laugh,” explored the taboo about Holocaust humor, featuring a wide range of Jewish comedians. Famous comedian Mel Brooks, who wrote and directed the comedy ‘The Producers’, said in the film that mocking Hitler was his ‘revenge’ on the Nazis and that I ‘don’t mind. In good taste’.

Mel Brooks draws a sketch of Hitler during an interview with The Last Laugh, a documentary about the humor of the Holocaust by director Verne Pearlstein. (Credit: Tangerine Entertainment via JTA)

But it is undeniable that the humor of the Holocaust is widely accepted in Israel, even if it is often condemned abroad. Comments and behavior that would attract condemnation abroad often go unnoticed in the Jewish state.

When interior designer Moshek Galamin famously toured the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem in 2015 alongside Sarah Netanyahu, he joked as he made a large dresser in the dining room “I think Anne Frank should hide behind it.”

The comment did not raise eyebrows in Israel, where all attention was focused on the still controversial wife of the former prime minister. But several years later, videos of this scene appeared on the HBO show “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver.

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“So obviously no one at any point in the editing process, whether in the Prime Minister’s office or anywhere else, has ever said, ‘This all sounds great, but maybe we need to cut [au montage] Anne Frank joke,” Oliver wondered.

In 2018, the popular Israeli show “Eretz Nehederet” broadcast a fee Titled ‘International’ It’s Not Holocaust Day.’ In a noteworthy gag, the show mocks both people who compare things to the Holocaust and those who say nothing comparable to the Holocaust.

In an episode of the satirical program “The Jews Are Coming”, which was broadcast by the public broadcaster Kan earlier this year, the show mocked the popular Israeli version of the reality show “Married at First Sight”. In the funny and scary clip, the show imagines what would happen if one of the participants of the show – where couples meet for the first time at their wedding – were unexpectedly married to… Adolf Hitler.

No doubt some would say that if anyone had the right to tell Holocaust jokes, it was the Jews. But this does not mean that Jews have a permit for such behavior, or that anything said as a joke cannot be considered transgression.

Israeli officials and envoys have been known to joke about anti-Semitic jokes they make abroad. But when it comes to such behavior within the Jewish state, the voices are noticeably quieter.

so we We call it anti-Semitism A strange attempt at humor by a Portuguese contestant on “Big Brother” with a Nazi salute, how would one describe the same gesture by a contestant on the Israeli version of the show?

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About the Author: Aldina Antunes

"Praticante de tv incurável. Estudioso da cultura pop. Pioneiro de viagens dedicado. Viciado em álcool. Jogador."

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