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Israeli Army Radio Manager Posts Racist Joke on Social Media

Israeli racist Facebook post

Racist Facebook post by Galey Tzahal station manager

The evening of Israel’s Memorial Day, when Israelis commemorate the sacrifices made by its soldiers to protect the homeland (and generally ignore the pain suffered by Palestinians), the manager of the military base that houses Israel’s Galey Tzahal (Army Radio), posted a racist joke to his Facebook account.

Maariv published the original posting, which I translate:

An Arab asks a Jew: “Why do you stand when the siren [wails].” The Jew answers: “We stand silently in memory of the Jewish soldiers who were killed in Israel’s wars.” The Arab asks: “And what about our dead?” The Jew answers: “That we will celebrate tomorrow.”

The base commander, Master Sergeant Avi Ben Chamo, holds a critical role in managing both the base itself and logistical and operational functions of Galey Tzahal, one of Israel’s major media outlets, especially for armed forces personnel. As such, this racist statement serves as a reminder of the ignorance and hate that runs rampant not just in the typical ultra-nationalist settler circles, but within the media and senior IDF circles.

On one of the most solemn days in the Israeli calendar, a senior military figure saw fit to deride the suffering of the Palestinians and, in fact, promise more to come (“tomorrow we will celebrate that”).

Maariv interviewed a number of IDF soldiers for its story who were disturbed and even outraged by the comment. When asked for comment, Galey Tzahal circled the wagons and released this explanation that beggars belief. Ben Chamo, according to the statement, shares his Facebook page with his wife, who published the joke without his knowledge. As soon as he saw what she’d done, he removed it.

What’s ludicrous about this is that couples don’t generally share a Facebook account. Especially someone in as sensitive a military position as Ben Chamo. The notion that his wife uploaded the joke and he had nothing to do with it is so ridiculous it’s offensive.

H/t Ira Glunts.

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{ 24 comments… add one }

  • Max April 17, 2013, 12:07 AM

    Well, I think you somewhat missed the plot on this one: by “tomorrow”, he means Independence Day, which follows one day after Remembrance Day. So, this commander is actually admitting that Israel’s independence was bought at the price of killing its Arab citizens, which is contrary to accepted Israeli narratives, which tells of Arab countries invading Israel from outside (but it does tally well with the Palestinian Nakba narrative!). I think this joke has a radical undercurrent, which might upset this commander’s commanders more than anyone else.

    • Richard Silverstein April 17, 2013, 8:58 PM

      It would be nice if you were right, but you’re not. The Maariv story and all the IDF soldiers clearly understood this as a racist joke,not as you interpret it. Yours is a revisionist attempt to clean up the mess that Ben Chamo made.

      • Peter April 18, 2013, 3:00 AM

        This article is marked “H/t Ira Glunts”, but it was Ira Glunts himself who noted in a Mondoweiss article that “To understand the hook of this vile “joke,” … one must know that the day after Memorial Day is Independence Day, the day on which Israel celebrates its victory in its 1948 War of Independence.” Richard, your original post does not mention that fact, and even suggests that you are unaware of it, taking “tomorrow” to mean “promise more to come”. For pointing it out, Max deserves more credit than “It would be nice if you were right, but you’re not.”

        • Richard Silverstein April 19, 2013, 12:41 PM

          @Peter: Please don’t make assumptions about what I know or don’t. You’d be wrong as you are in this case. Ira told me about this story before his piece was published by Mondoweiss. My post is my own independent view and interpretation.

      • Matan P April 19, 2013, 3:47 AM

        Sorry Richard, I think you’re wrong on this one.
        As an Israeli, the punchline of celebrating Arab losses on Independence Day was immediately obvious.

        And it’s still a very tasteless, and at the very least nationalist if not racist joke. Note the wording of “celebrate” on the joke — in Hebrew, one does not generally “celebrate” Remembrance Day. Celebrating the fact that Arabs have died… That’s the “joke” here, and it’s not really funny at all.

        But as Max notes, it does agree with the Palestinian Nakba narrative, though that was obviously not Ben Chamo’s intention.

  • Daniel April 17, 2013, 2:40 AM

    Makes me think of Weimar Germany.

  • Stan Nadel April 18, 2013, 3:08 AM

    1. Since when is a Master Sergeant a senior officer in any army? You are greatly inflating the status of a non-com here.
    2. as neither Arabs nor Jews are races (nor are they mutually exclusive categories BTW) how does this count as a “racist” joke?

    • Richard Silverstein April 19, 2013, 12:38 PM

      @Stan Nadel: Read the linked article which explains that though he isn’t technically a senior officer that he has extraordinary executive responsibility and runs the base. His responsibilities are much greater than the average master sergeant.

      Are you claiming that Israeli Jews can never have racist attitudes towards Palestinian citizens? You couldn’t be claiming that because it would be a ludicrous claim. So are you?

    • Addison Bross April 20, 2013, 12:07 PM

      “as neither Arabs nor Jews are races . . . how does this count as a ‘racist’ joke?”

      The fact that neither of these peoples — Jews and Arabs — constitute races does not stop one of these groups from identifying the other as a race, then moving on to label that race as inferior, subhuman, etc. Anthropologists will tell you that races do not exist but are mere constructs, categories produced by the human intellect — often for purposes of imperialism or other forms of domination. The attitude or vision of the world called racism involves — necessarily — the construction of this notion, “race.” Racists typically don’t read deeply in the findings of anthropologists. It is this — a kind of “false anthropology” — that allows them to be racists.

  • Noga April 18, 2013, 2:36 PM

    “Chalalim” means dead soldiers, not citizens (a nuance that seems lost on Max) . The joke is hardly racist, merely crude and very much against the Jewish decree of refraining from joy when your enemy suffers or dies. The “translation” is pointedly directed towards misconstruction.

    “An Arab asks a Jew: “Why do you stand when the siren [wails].” The Jew answers: “We stand silently in memory of the Jewish soldiers who were killed in Israel’s wars.” “” So far so good.

    “The Arab asks: “And what about our dead?” The Jew answers: “That we will celebrate tomorrow”

    This is where it gets tricky. Because the “Arab” asks not “what about our dead” but rather: “What about our dead soldiers” (“chalalim shelanu”). Is the Arab an Israeli Arab or is he an enemy-of Israel?. This is important, since there are many Arab soldiers in the IDF, either Bedouin, Arab or Druze, and many of them have been killed in Israel’s wars. Remembrance Day is for all the fallen soldiers, Jews and non-Jews alike, provided they are ISRAELI:

    “”Three hundred and ninety two Israeli Druse have been killed while serving in the IDF; have served in all of country’s wars.” http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=309838

    So the Jew’s response hardly makes sense. It is a very silly, vulgar and even cruel joke, for the reason I mentioned above, the explicit Jewish injunction of “Do Not Rejoice at the Fall of Your Enemy”). But it is not racist.

    Have the Americans, Brits or Russians ever mourned for the many German soldiers killed in WWII?
    Have the Egyptians (who claim victory over Israel in 1973) mourned the many deaths they inflicted on the IDF?

    Are they all racists for being joyous at their victory over the Germans? Which means that they killed more German soldiers than German soldiers killed them.

    And I won’t mention who those are who do celebrate the deaths of little Jewish children.

    • Richard Silverstein April 19, 2013, 10:07 PM

      @Noga: Chalal can mean either a dead soldier OR a civilian who dies of non-natural causes.

      It certainly is racist, since it says that Israeli Jews will celebrate Palestinian dead. How is that not racist?

      The rest of your comment is, I’m afraid, nonsensical.

  • Noga April 20, 2013, 8:07 AM

    “@Noga: Chalal can mean either a dead soldier OR a civilian who dies of non-natural causes.”

    Can you provide some authoritative source in HEBREW for this interpretation? The term “chalal” in modern Hebrew usage by modern Hebrew users means only slain soldiers. If it has some arcane meaning that might fit in with your mistranslation then it is your responsibility to prove that the intention was to claim “civilian who dies of non-natural causes.” You can prove intention by providing some quotes from the Hebrew media in which the word “chalal” was used as a designation of a “civilian who dies of non-natural causes.”

    Can you make this little effort in the service of truth?

    The most famous quote with this word can be found in David’s lament, which is why the term “chalal” is always associated with Israel’s fallen soldiers:
    הַצְּבִי, יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַל-בָּמוֹתֶיךָ, חָלָל: אֵיךְ, נָפְלוּ גִבּוֹרִים. 19
    כ אַל-תַּגִּידוּ בְגַת, אַל-תְּבַשְּׂרוּ בְּחוּצֹת אַשְׁקְלוֹן: פֶּן-תִּשְׂמַחְנָה בְּנוֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּים, פֶּן-תַּעֲלֹזְנָה בְּנוֹת הָעֲרֵלִים.

    המשמעות בהקשר המקראי: ארץ אהובה, ארץ חֶמדה, בניך נהרגים עליך בקרב. The meaning in the biblical context: Beloved beautiful land, your sons have been slain in doing battle for you.

    http://www.mikragesher.org.il/titles/nivim/class9/12.htm

    • Matan P April 20, 2013, 12:59 PM

      Hey Noga, would this do?
      http://laad.btl.gov.il/Web/He/Default.aspx

      I wouldn’t exactly say that “chalal” is anyone who dies of non-natural causes. It’s more like died during a war, natural disaster, or terrorism attack. But it’s not exclusive to soldiers either.

      The firefighters that fell during the Mount Carmel forest fire are often referred to as “chalalim”, and I think that they have been officially recognized as such (In Israel, this is a status with benefits to the family of the deceased), but I can’t find anything conclusive.

    • Richard Silverstein April 20, 2013, 3:39 PM

      @Noga: Morfix’s online Hebrew English dictionary plus my own 50 year familiarity with Hebrew in general & that particular word. Mor fix is a contemporary dicyptionary. I’d suggest that the fact that you know of only one definition of the word attests to your own limitations linguistically & I resent your false claim of mistranslation. You are a chutzpanit to believe only you can be correct about such a matter.

      I don’t have to prove anything to you. And your claim that I must do this in service of the truth is offensive. Get out your dictionary and do your own homework. I’m not going to teach you your own language. That should be your job.

      And if you want to return here and publish another comment I’ll expect after you do so that you return and Oger an apology. I am not wrong. You are.

  • Noga April 21, 2013, 5:04 AM

    “”I don’t have to prove anything to you. And your claim that I must do this in service of the truth is offensive. Get out your dictionary and do your own homework. I’m not going to teach you your own language. That should be your job.”

    You have to prove to your readers that you have the credentials to make such judgments about Hebrew. THe fact that you can’t do that means that you probably do not have any real claims for those credentials. Do you think I would not check before I wrote the comments? These are matters that go directly to the reputation of a man and a people. You have to be very careful, before you make such allegations, that they are based on real facts and meanings, not just your personal inclination. The tone of your responses to me suggest that you do not really understand what it is , to submit truth to inclination.

    Are you a translator? Do you understand what ethics of translation means? Do you understand the responsibility that goes with it? If you are and you do, then you will have no problem proving the meaning you put forth about the word “chalal”. Let’s see you, then, follow your own righteousness with the same vigor you preach it to others.

    • Richard Silverstein April 21, 2013, 7:35 PM

      @Noga: Since you claim you’ve researched the word, you’re either a liar or completely inept researcher. Here is the definition on the Lexilogos dictionary site:

      חָלָל שֵם ז’
      slain person (refers to soldier in combat) ; dead person (refers to sudden, unnatural death)

      The word corresponds to the English “dead” used as a noun–as in the “Civil War dead” or the James Joyce story, The Dead. The word denotes death through tragic circumstances or heightened (patriotic or national) meaning. It may certainly be used to denote those serving in the military or civilians.

      So you owe me an apology. Since you haven’t offered it yet, your comments will be moderated until you do. If you don’t, I will determine whether your future comments respect me & the comment rules. If they do they will be published. If not, they won’t.

      Again, I don’t have to prove anything to my readers, even less to you. As for my credentials, I have one critical credential: I can moderate or ban readers who are nasty & disrespect the comment rules. That will be your fate.

      There are no “ethics of translation” except translating accurately. That’s something you clearly can’t do. YOu either don’t know English or Hebrew or possibly both. You’ve made it up.

  • Noga April 21, 2013, 5:17 AM

    Even the official title for Israel’s Remembrance Day recognizes the distinction in MEANING between chalalim and civilians who were exterminated in a terrorist attack
    יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה

    • Matan P April 21, 2013, 12:34 PM

      Hey Noga,

      Earlier I linked you to an official Israel Government site titled “אתר לזכר האזרחים חללי פעולות האיבה”, that is, civilian chalalim. It even has a list of chalalim, whose yahrtzeit is this month. The list includes 14-year-olds.

      “חללי מערכות ישראל” is a different thing, mind you. That particular term does refer exclusively to soldiers.

      But anyway, just to finally prove you wrong, here is a link to the Academy of the Hebrew language:
      http://hebrew-academy.huji.ac.il/sheelot_teshuvot/MivharTeshuvot/Pages/13061003.aspx

      It’s an answer to a question about the female form of chalal. It includes this line: “צורת הנקבה של חָלָל במשמעות ‘אדם שנפל בקרב או נהרג באסון’ אינה נקרית במקורותינו”, which roughly translated means: “The female form of chalal meaning ‘a person who fell in battle or was killed in a disaster’ is not found in the literature”.

      The Government of Israel uses chalal for non-soldiers (ref: link in previous comment). Israeli media uses chalal for non-soldiers (ref: Google for חללי אסון הכרמל). The Academy for the Hebrew Language’s definition for chalal encompasses civilians (ref: link above).

      Your facts are wrong. You may stop preaching about truth and righteousness now.

      • Richard Silverstein April 21, 2013, 7:37 PM

        Thanks for doing some actual research. Noga apparently either lied or did a piss-poor job of research herself. You proved that when you actually do the research you come up with facts rather than empty claims, as she did.

  • Noga April 21, 2013, 6:13 PM

    שנפל בקרב או נהרג באסון’ ”
    does not mean “a civilian who dies of non-natural causes”. If that were the case, then you would hear people call those who get killed in car accidents or any other accident as chalalim.

    In אתר לזכר האזרחים חללי פעולות האיבה”, the context is clear: civilians who were killed in hostilities, as in, by the enemy’s hand and with intended malice.

    The Carmel Disaster was considered an act of terrorism, at least early in the investigation. This may account for the use of the term chalalim in that context.

    The word Chalal has a strong emotional connotation with a very specific kind of victim. Silverstein attempts to dilute its meaning so that it would fit his fantasy about the “racist joke” that never was.

    I am willing to consider that some Hebrew speakers simply express themselves not very accurately. They don’t imagine their words will become the basis for slanderous allegations by some anti-Zionist zealot overseas who fancies himself a whistle blower or whatever..

    • Richard Silverstein April 21, 2013, 7:43 PM

      @Noga: Do you in actuality know any Hebrew? That Hebrew phrase means those who “were killed in a disaster” (probably a natural disaster). That means that someone who dies suddenly of non-natural causes can indeed be a chalal. Whether you say so or not.

      The Carmel fire was not a terrorist act. It was rumored to be one by a few right-wing, racist news commentators who never could prove their rumors & empty claims. Which is kinda like you, fully of empty claims.

      I am not only willing to consider that you express yourself not very accurately. In fact, I’m convinced of it.

      As for slander, your false claims about my credentials qualify for that designation, which is why you’ve been moderated. If you continue yammering along these lines you will be banned.

      Finally, poor moron, I’m not an anti-Zionist.

    • Matan P April 21, 2013, 11:53 PM

      Come on, you’re just grasping for straws now! Of course, that’s what you did all along by turning this into a semantic argument about the meaning of “chalalim”. I humored you just because your proposed semantics were incorrect.

      Anyway, even if “chalalim” was a term exclusively used for soldiers, the joke is still tasteless. Obviously you’re don’t have to mourn for your enemies (even though it would be nice if everybody did, cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia%E2%80%93Turkey_relations), but celebrating chalalim, as in the joke, is still very tasteless.

  • Noga April 22, 2013, 4:19 AM

    It’s a problem with you guys (anti-Zionists and other strange animals) that you are so i love with your own voices that you are limited in reading very simple statements that threaten it. In my very first comment here I wrote: “The joke is hardly racist, merely crude and very much against the Jewish decree of refraining from joy when your enemy suffers or dies. The “translation” is pointedly directed towards misconstruction. ”

    I believe you said the same thing, then, Matan.

    I put it to you that Silverstein, out of bad faith (since he insists he knows the insides and out of the Hebrew language and is aware of all its nuances) deliberately set out to mislead the message of this story: First, he misrepresented Maariv’s position as if it were supportive of the joke. Secondly, by confusing “dead”" and “chalalim” he misrepresented the purpose of this joke. The joke itself is not very coherent on that which makes it something of a failed joke, but any translation of it should have taken that into consideration. If S is the expert in Hebrew that he wants us to believe he is, he should have been honest about these factors.

    I stand by my statement that the term chalal , in Hebrew parlance, almost invariably designates those killed in battle. Perhaps in more recent years it has accrued also to those victims of terrorism.

    _________

    Silverstein: What I wrote was: “The Carmel Disaster was considered an act of terrorism, at least early in the investigation. ” ((and the first one to suggest it was a Druze Member of Knesset. ). If you can’t be relied on to represent what is written here, in the comments, in English for all to see, how are you to be trusted to deliver a message from an unknown language?

    If you are not an anti zionist what are you, then? A lover of Israel? Of Jews? Of Mankind? You are actively working by slander, lies and innuendo to undermine the ethical standing (criminalize, and whip up loathing for) of the Jews of Israel. I don’t know what that makes you. Pathetic, perhaps? Terribly needy? Treading clouds of glory, in your own fantasy?

    • Richard Silverstein April 22, 2013, 2:09 PM

      You have violated several comment rules in this and earlier comments. So you move from being moderated to banned.

      Both Matan & I have provided definitive translations of chalal that agree with our contention about its expansive meanings. Yet you continue to claim those translations are wrong without offering any proof that they are other than your own apparently limited knowledge of Hebrew (or at least the uses of this particular term). Though I do note that you have moved from an absolute claim that chalal only means what you claim, to using the term “invariably” in saying what the term designates. But in that, as Matan & I proved, you are still wrong. You also feebly concede that the meaning of the term may’ve expanded beyond what you originally claimed was an incorrect translation.

      What I can’t stand more than anything else is a hypocrite. Someone who is holier than thou until their errors are pointed out to them. And who then proceeds to move the goalposts in order to accommodate their error and argue it wasn’t really the error it clearly was & is. You are a hypocrite.

      I never claimed that Maariv “was supportive of the joke.” In fact in my post I noted that Maariv included the comments of IDF soldiers who derided the joke as tasteless. Clearly Maariv’s story was written to criticize the joke. Also, the use of the term gizani (“racist”) in the headline indicates the paper’s disapproval. So you have lied in this point. You have lied in smearing me with the term “anti-Zionist,” and violating the comment rules by accusing me of “bad faith.” These are all impermissible terms of discourse regarding characterization of my views in comment threads here.

      You claimed that the term chalal was only used in connection to the Carmel fire victims because they were considered victims of terror. I proved that such claims were never accepted in any way as mainstream or definitive. These dead were always victims of a natural disaster (hence the definition Matan offered of someone who dies by ason ["disaster"]. So once again yr claim that chalal can only refer to those who die in battle or as terror victims falls on its face.

      You spoke of the “ethics of translation” earlier. BUt it is YOU who is being false to the Hebrew language, to yourself, & my readers. YOu’ve wasted enough time of myself & others & proven yourself unworthy of further participation here.

      Yes, I am a lover of Israel. Hard as it may be for you of little brain to conceive. Which indicates the absolute narrowness & insularity of your own politics.

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