'Rock the Casbah in Hebron,' a video of Israeli soldiers doing a choreographed dance while on patrol in the West Bank's second largest city, has gone viral on YouTube. It's also offended Palestinians.
Getting their groove on, of course.
An absurd YouTube video of Israeli infantrymen on patrol and suddenly breaking out in a choreographed dance to American pop singer Kesha's "Tik Tok'' has gone viral with more than 1.6 million hits just days after being uploaded last weekend.
And at a time when Israelis feel helpless to stem growing international isolation and war crimes accusations, the amateur video has created a buzz: Does the project help humanize the military that killed nine pro-Palestinian activists in the recent Gaza flotilla raid, or does it reflect callousness toward the hardship of the Palestinians amid Israel's four-decade occupation of the West Bank?
"We're talking about 18- or 19-year-old kids in an unimaginably stressfull environment. They are trying to lighten up," says Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University. "They are not expressing a hostile message. It displays a lack of discipline, but it's understandable in the environment in which they have to live."
The video clip, at just under two minutes and titled "Rock the Casbah in Hebron," begins as six soldiers turn onto a deserted street in a two-by-three formation amid the morning muzzein call to prayer. Suddenly they stop and kneel as if readying for an assault.
Then the song "Tik Tok" begins to play as if coming from a mosque's loudspeakers. The solders look around, drop their guard, and begin spinning, dancing, hopping, flapping their arms like chickens, and finally skipping hand in hand. In 40 seconds it's over, and they return to the patrol with guns pointed in the direction of the surrounding buildings.
Writing on Israeli news website Nana, critic Nimrod Tzuk praised the artistry of the unknown director for juxtaposing tension and cathartic dance.
"It's difficult to accuse the soldiers, who weren't asked by anyone about their opinion before being sent to defend settlers in Hebron, and like many other soldiers in Israel and the world we're trying to defuse the tension of service by a filming a tribute to a popular video,'' he wrote.
"On the other hand, the uncomfortable feeling that the soldiers are allowing themselves to goof off like occupiers at a time when the surrounding Palestinians might not be allowed to go out, makes the repeated viewing a surreal experience that isn't so nice.''
An Israeli army spokesman calls the video a soldier "joke.''
"The matter has been brought to the attention of their commander… from a disciplinary point of view,'' says the spokesman, without commenting further.
The news website Ynet located Palestinian Hebronites who described the bizarre display of soldiers signing and dancing with rifles at 4:30 in the morning. While soldier patrols have become part normal life, the dance was a first.
"We were amazed… it looked like a dance group in uniform,'' says 15-year-old Rima Sultan. "At first I laughed, but its not entertaining at all. It shows their ridicule toward us."