Bibi, the cat, the parrot


 I’m ancient enough to remember the younger Benjamin Netanyahu warning audiences to pay attention to what Yasser Arafat says in Arabic, as opposed to his relatively moderate pronouncements in English.

Such warnings are passe, with the onset of the Internet and a multilingual, wired world — if a leader says something provocative/embarrassing/saber-rattling in his or her native language, it’ll be out there in English, guaranteed, within minutes.

Even in those days, Israeli leaders were not immune: Yitzhak Shamir got into trouble for likening Palestinian attackers to grasshoppers in 1988. In that case — and one suspects in many others involving Arab leaders — the hyperbolic condemnation of Shamir was overstated. Language is the most primal expression of a culture, and one uses different referents in different tongues.

Bringing us back to Bibi and his two totally different Independence Day messages, one geared to Israelis and one to Americans. In the former he looks forward to hanging around the "mangal" or barbecue grill tomorrow, and he lists priorities for next year: A fence separating Israel and the Egypt, expanding Iron Dome, free education for kids from age 3 and reducing the cost of living (in that order.) He extols Israel’s advances in high-tech.

For Americans and other English speakers, his cast is "Israel is unique." He emphasizes "restoring sovereignty" for a powerless people, and also becoming a "global technological power" (although here he qualifies that with a "despite threats"). He extols a "vibrant liberal democracy" where women are equal and says Israel is especially unique for the "tens of millions" of supporters it has, Jewish and non Jewish.

Nothing at all wrong with this: Two different constituencies, two different messages. Happens everywhere.

What throws me off, though, are the cat and the parrot singing "Hineh mah tov" at the end of the Hebrew version (which features Arabic subtitles). The cat is miserable, and apparently paw-cuffed; the parrot appears ready to hop into the blender standing alongside it.

What message are these unhappy creatures meant to convey?

Why are Israelis guided, unprepared, into this 20-second nightmare?

Here’s the Hebrew version:

And here’s the English version:

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