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Anti-Semitic Homage, Hapless Hipsters, and a Drumming Cat: Watch Israel's Weirdest Election Ads

Israel's election is less than week away. VICE News takes a look at some of the strangest campaign videos, also including the 'Bibi Sitter' and animals bleating the names of politicians.

by Harriet Salem and Shira Rubin
Mar 11 2015, 4:00pm

Image via YouTube

Featuring keyboard cats, hapless hipsters, the hook-nosed "Jew," Islamic State fighters en route to Jerusalem, and, of course, Iran's tentacles of terror, Israel's election campaigns are in full swing ahead of the vote there on March 17. 

In case you've missed out, here's a selection of the best of the worst video ads.

Jewish Home leader dons a beard and glasses to play a hipster apologist.

In this election ad Naftali Bennett, the leader of the far-right, religious "Jewish Home" party, dons an oversized ginger beard, glasses, an "evil eye" ring, and a baseball cap to play the role of a bumbling leftist apologist accompanied by a pug dog in a patterned sweater.

The hapless hipster played by Bennett, who is currently Israel's minister of the economy, visits cafes and goes for a drive but is roundly mocked by everyone he meets because he apologizes for everything when it's not his fault.

Jewish Home's election campaign has focused on portraying previous generations of politicians as weak and apologetic for Israel's current situation. Bennett, a prominent proponent of expanding Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories, once told a Palestinian MP: "When you were still climbing trees we had a Jewish state here… we were here long before you." 

On another occasion, he compared a two-state solution to a friend who had shrapnel lodged in his buttocks but couldn't have it removed without risking being left disabled. 

Bennett's party's official slogan featured at the end of the campaign ad is: "Stop apologizing. Love Israel. Join Jewish Home."

The Eternal Jew? — an anti-Semitic homage by a far-right settler group.

Titled The Eternal Jew? in homage to 1940 movie commissioned by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, this short animation features a hook-nosed man, known only as "the Jew," who hands over dubious information to a German called Herr Stürmer — a reference to the Nazi-era magazine Der Stürmer — in exchange for gold coins marked with a euro sign.

Against the dramatic orchestral soundtrack of In the Hall of the Mountain King the informer passes on intelligence that allows his "master," who sits at a desk flanked by a bust of Julius Caesar and a flag of the European Union, to place stories in a newspaper called Hasmol (Hebrew for "The Left"). These include headlines such as "Boycott Israel" and "Israel kills innocent 20 years old Palestinian babies."

After handing over several rounds of information Herr Stürmer tells "the Jew" to "now take care of yourself", which he duly obeys by hanging himself. Against a backdrop of the logos of various left-leaning NGOs, the voiceover then informs the viewer: "Europeans may seem different to you, but to them you are exactly the same."

Widely panned as anti-Semitic, bizarrely the video was in fact produced by the Samaria Settler Council (SSC), a far-right Jewish non-profit organization that is partially funded by taxpayers. After the video's release, the leftist Meretz party and Peace Now NGO asked the attorney general to open a criminal case into the advertisement on the grounds of incitement. 

While the SCC is not an overtly political group the advertisement has been widely interpreted as so due to the timing of its release and content. The video also caused particular outrage because attacks on Israel's former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's involvement in peace negotiations with the Palestinians — including posters depicting Rabin as a Nazi — are held to have helped create the hostile environment that led to his assassination in 1995. 

Nonetheless the video has found support within the mainstream. Speaking on Army Radio, Bennett called the clip "inappropriate" but added that the message was "very true."

The Bibi-sitter is here to protect you against the Islamic State, and Iran.

Israel's incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting a neck-and-neck election campaign against the Zionist Union (a center-left merger of Labor, led by Isaac Herzog, and Hatnuah, led by Tzipi Livni). One of Netanyahu's campaign techniques appears to be belittling his rivals and reminding Israelis who often call him by the nickname "Bibi" that if they don't vote for him they're all going to be killed by terrorists, and soon.

In this clip, the 65-year-old leader of the center-right Likud party leader sports an impressive blue-rinse and shows off his paternalistic prowess by adopting the role of kindergarten teacher bringing into line an unruly and riotous classroom of children, each of whom represent an opposition party.

If you're not yet convinced that Netanyahu is the man for the job, then the next clip is sure to convince you. Deploying a cringe-worthy play on words, Israel's prime minister is a surprise arrival at a young couple's door as the "Bibisitter" for their kids. When he offers the parents the services of his two main rivals Livni and Herzog (referred to by his nickname "Buji" in the clip) the couple quickly decline, retorting that they're not up to the job. 

All's well that ends well though, and by the time the couple get home the children are tucked up in bed, and Bibi's watching a movie under the blankets.

When he's not looking after children, Netanyahu is single-handedly protecting Israel against terrorists. In another video, posted to the prime minister's Facebook page, a pickup truck full of masked men waving the flag of the Islamic State blare Palestinian rap music before rolling down the window to ask another driver: "How do we get to Jerusalem bro?" 

The response comes, "Take a left." The ad finishes on a background riddled with digital bullet holes and the slogan, "The left will give into terror." The ad has since been removed after the Palestinian rap group whose music is used in the video threatened legal action.

Bibi is also the only one who can save us all from Iran. In a now infamous speech to the US Congress on March 3, the Israeli prime minister mentioned Iran a whopping number of times. Littered with phrases such as "Iran is busy gobbling up countries," "lackeys in Lebanon," "goons in Gaza," and "tentacles of terror," the address was delayed by five minutes on Israeli television channels to stop overt electioneering. 

Yet it still gave the prime minister in a bump in the polls, and clips of the speech are expected to feature heavily in Netanyahu's campaign in the last few days before the election. Panned by critics as factually inaccurate in places and lacking in substance, the speech nonetheless won 26 standing ovations from a hollering Congress. 

To spare you watching the whole thing, Noy Alooshe, an Israeli musician and journalist of Tunisian descent, has made Stand Down a tongue-in-cheek remix of Netanyahu's speech, which starts as it continues: "Ladies and gentleman we must always remember three things. First, Iran. Second, Iran. Third, Iran."

A keyboard cat and random farm animals — this is self-parody, we hope.

This campaign video by Israel's fledgling Green party starts with the sound of digitalized machine gun fire before cutting to a series of random sheep and goats that bleat the name of Israeli politicians, including "Bibi" and "Bennett."

This is followed up by some footage of polluting industrial plants and heavy trafficked streets accompanied by some cancer stats. 

Not wanting to leave the viewer too down in the dumps the video quickly veers back to the absurd, finishing with cat who plays a miniature keyboard and drum, whilst singing about how "we the animals going to vote."

Not bored yet? You will be soon.

Bucking the trend of going for short and over-the-top declarations of brilliance — which is kind of the point of election campaigning — Yair Lapid's Zionist Yesh Atid party thought it would make a advert that no one would actually watch.

In a three hour-long, anti-viral video a man sits and lists all the achievements of the party since it entered the Knesset in 2013, while an artist paints a mural entitled Fighting for the Nation in the background. 

Quite what the achievements are we can't tell you as we didn't watch it. Worryingly the party's slogan — "See what we've done in a year and eight months. Imagine what we'll do in four years" — hints that the video could be more than seven hours long next time round.

Follow Harriet Salem on Twitter: @HarrietSalem