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September 14, 2005


Dave L

Now, now, Aardvarksvater - you're right to ridicule, but you're also being a bit disingenuous.

The threat posed by Lebanese pop babes is obvious: they are spanners in the works of the Arab demonization engine. Fighting the Arab world's political message is easy when the messengers look unattractive, frightening or unbalanced. When the messengers resemble Nancy, Haifa and Maria, one is forced to fight the message itself, a more difficult and perilous undertaking.


Imagine what would happen if Shaba3n 3bd il-Rahim would just lose a few pounds!

John Penta

Hmm. Has anyone tried to confirm this in, say, Israeli publications?

Avshalom Rubin

I didn't read the original al-Ittihad story (and I assume that this is the Arab-Israeli al-Ittihad, not the UAE paper), but I haven't seen a single story that's corroborated this in the Hebrew press, not in Ha'aretz, Ma'ariv or Yediot Ahronot. This doesn't mean it's necessarily untrue, but it seems pretty doubtful.
Urban, secular, Christian pop stars are generally not thought of as the "political forces in Lebanon hostile to Tel Aviv." The Lebanese political grouping that really worries Israelis, Hizb Allah, is not known for its love of Nancy, Haifa, and their ilk. It seems pretty far out; I would want further verification on this one.

the aardvark

Are you all suggesting that al-Arabiya isn't 100% reliable? Dang it... someone better let Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed know.

It does have the ring of "too good to be true" to it... but it also seems too demented to be made up. I mean, who would make up something so wacky? Wouldn't you want something more credible?

Anyway, heck if I know - a cursory google search didn't turn up anything, but it wouldn't catch Hebrew sources.

Avshalom Rubin

Indeed. An interesting side note - the Algerian rai star Cheb Khaled is actually pretty popular in Israel; both "'Aisha" and "Didi" got a lot of airplay on Israeli radio. He also did a few duets with Noa, the Israeli pop singer. So, someone tell 'Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed that Israelis might actually welcome a pop-tartlet invasion.

Martin Kramer

I've seen no report on such a document. I'm not even sure what the "General Agency for Israeli Cinema and Arts" might be. Abu Aardvark, I expect more from you when it comes to sourcing a story.

Tom Scudder

There was some controversy when Sheb Khaled came to Lebanon a few years ago (2002, maybe?) due to his having toured with Israeli musicians or something. Didn't stop the Lebanese from turning out en masse for his concert.



The sourcing is to al-Arabiya, which is the second most widely viewed television station in the Arab world (the identical story ran in Elaph, and both sourced it to al-Ittihad). Their airing of the story *is* the story. If they aired a broadcast which is untrue, poorly sourced, or distorted, then that's a story in and of itself.

John Penta

Yeah, AA. Al-Arabiya's airing is a story.

However, it's also a bit of a yawner. I mean, ludicrous stories re the other guy are kinda par for the course in most places.


I take this as a hidden encouragement of the 'destructive' effect these 'babes' are posing on the Arab mentality: praise them and picture them as 'fearful national heroes' so that they get more popularity and ensure the effect of their fake bodies so that Israel can put its mind in rest. Aren't we used to that trick yet?

Jonathan Edelstein

I'm not sure how much light I can cast on the provenance of this story, but I can state categorically that there's no such thing as a "General Agency for Israeli Cinema and Arts." Such an agency, if it existed, would come under the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, and a check of the ministry's web site reveals no evidence of one. I've also never seen any mention of such an office in articles about Israeli art and film, and indeed one common complaint of Israeli filmmakers is that they get virtually no support from the government.

The Israeli Arab paper al-Ittihad unfortunately doesn't have a web site, but the Arab Association for Human Rights in Israel puts out a weekly press review that summarizes the major articles. Neither the September 2 nor the September 9 editions had any mention of Lebanese pop tarts. That isn't necessarily conclusive, because the AAHR review tends to concentrate on domestic political and social issues, but they usually do mention any particularly nutty Israeli government actions that affect Arabs.

Has there been any mention of this in the Lebanese press? Given the subject matter of the alleged report, I'd figure that at least one Lebanese paper would have picked it up. I haven't seen anything in any of the English-language Lebanese media; has anyone heard of it in the Arabic-language press.

In conclusion, while I can just about imagine Limor Livnat coming up with something like this, I don't think it's a true story. If I had to make a wild-ass guess, I'd say the odds are that al-Arabiya picked up a humorous column in al-Ittihad and took it a little too seriously.

Jonathan Edelstein

Actually, the more I think about this, the more plausible it seems that the original source might have been a satirical column. Until 2002, the full name of the Israeli counterintelligence agency, the Shin Bet, was the "General Security Service" or "General Security Agency." Some al-Ittihad columnist might have satirized the Shin Bet's tendency to see threats around every corner by positing a "General Culture Agency" that worries about Lebanese pop singers. Israeli Arab readers would see the satire, but Arab journalists unfamiliar with Israel might not.

Again, without access to back numbers of all-Ittihad, all I can do is guess. But there's been some very good satire in the Israeli Arab press, and I think the idea is more plausible than the Culture Ministry actually being involved in intelligence and threat assessment.


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