Tags: humor | israel | hezbollah

Billboard Lampooning Hezbollah Leader Shows Israeli Humor at Its Best

Billboard Lampooning Hezbollah Leader Shows Israeli Humor at Its Best
A billboard shows Hezbollah militant leader Hassan Nasrallah above a major highway in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, as the face of an eye-catching, satirical recycling campaign. Above Nasrallah's finger reads the caption: "I don't recycle bottles." and beneath him, the poster says: "Nasrallah has been stuck in a bunker for 12 years. What is your excuse?" (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

By Tuesday, 19 February 2019 03:29 PM Current | Bio | Archive

One of the coping mechanisms that Israelis use to deal with the constant threat presented to them by their enemies is humor.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is the leader of Hezbollah, the sworn enemy of Israel. And last Thursday a huge billboard was put up on a building overlooking the Ayalon Highway, one of Israel's most traversed roads and the highway that cuts through Tel Aviv. Ostensibly, the billboard beckons Israelis to recycle their plastic bottles. With a twist.

What you see is a large image, immediately identifiable to every Israeli, of Nasrallah's white beared head. On top, next t to Nasrallah's head, the caption reads: "I don't recycle bottles." Under the image of Nasrallah is the caption: "Nasrallah has been stuck in a bunker for twelve years. What's your excuse?"

Humor has always been an essential component of Israeli life. Because the risks are so high, Israelis, throughout the years, have used humor to obviate tension. There is a famous joke about a group of men who gather every day in a Tel Aviv cafe and bemoan the crisis de jour. They are afraid of the terror. Of the economic state their country is in. Of corruption in leadership. Of traffic accidents. Even of the weather and flash flooding that has killed hikers and school children.

Finally, one day, Moshe, one of the members of the group, shouts: "Enough! This is so depressing. Every day we talk about this crisis and that crisis. From this moment on I am an optimist!" The next morning, as usual, the friends gather in the cafe. First to arrive is Moshe. After everyone has gathered David asks Moshe. "What's wrong, why are you looking so sad? We all thought you were an optimist?" And Moshe responds, "Do you think it's easy being an optimist with all these terrifying issues surrounding us!"

Freud gave some very important insight. According to the Austrian, Jewish neurologist and the father of psychoanalysis, humor is actually critique that is sometimes insightful and always truthful, guised as a joke or a funny story.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, the Israeli public makes fun of the crises and the pressures under which they live. They make fun of their enemies, even their arch enemies. Laughing and poking fun at the expense of Sheik Nasrallah is nothing, you should hear how they joke about Iran.

Of course humor can sometimes fall flat, or be in poor taste, or politically incorrect. It pushes the envelope. In order to survive, societies need to be open to humor even when it is not exactly their favorite form of humor. Even when it appears to push the boundaries of politically correct discourse. That is when it is crucial to remember that political humor is not discourse — it is critique and commentary. Humor — political humor specifically — is rhetoric, most often one-sided rhetoric. It is born because someone, some party, some society or constituency, has an ax to grind. Without all that, humor fails and what could have been laughed about becomes insulting.

When humorists rely on foul language it overshadows the content and the critique of the message. That's when the delivery and the medium become the message and the true message is lost. That's when the delivery becomes primary and the message is secondary.

In our world today, humor is an essential tool for society. Political humor is a wonderful release. Young people involved in the sphere of new media learn more about politics from humor sites and humor YouTube videos and Comedy Central than they do from more traditional news websites or news broadcasts. Print news no longer even enters the equation.

Americans thrive on humor. So do the British — but one country's humor is often lost on the other. It's integral to be seeped in a culture or society in order to poke fun at it or to be amused and impressed when someone else pokes fun at it. Interestingly and very importantly, we do not hear a lot of humor coming out of Islamic extremist groups. You can scour the internet looking for Al Qaeda and ISIS humor and you will come up empty. That's because the punishment meted out for making jokes about ISIS is death. Seriously, I kid you not.

So Israel drew a link between Nasrallah and the environment to promote recycling. That piece of humor is a double entendre. It is funny precisely because Nasrallah is trying to wipe Israel off the map and Israel is using that to remind people how important it is to keep the earth clean and protect the environment for future generations.

Nasrallah wants to destroy Israel while Israel wants to save the world. That is not just humorous, it is truthful. Humor at its best.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.

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One of the coping mechanisms that Israelis use to deal with the constant threat presented to them by their enemies is humor.
humor, israel, hezbollah
Tuesday, 19 February 2019 03:29 PM
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