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Israeli comedy show satirises Gaza violence
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Writers highlight lopsided body count, scored as a macabre sports match

With nearly 800 Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed, four of the latter by so-called friendly fire, the Gaza war is no laughing matter, putting Israel's most popular comedy show in a delicate position. Eretz Nehederet (Wonderful Country) – the Israeli equivalent of the Daily Show – has nonetheless been highlighting the lopsided fatality count of the war raging in the Gaza Strip.

Last week's episode featured a warmongering military correspondent, played by actor Tal Friedman, repeatedly breaking in to the newscasts with updates on the rising Palestinian death toll as if the war was a sports match.

"It's 500 for the visitors, four for the home team," the correpondent says. "The result is good but we can't be complacent and we have to widen the lead." A moment later he announces "a direct hit on a fashion studio, we are up to 501". That may be in poor taste, but at least it constitutes a mention of the civilian casualties, something getting little coverage in the largely mobilised Israeli media.

In another sketch, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, also played by Mr Friedman, tells a spoof press conference that the next phase of the campaign is "untargeted artillery fire into Gaza", and later asks, "How are we supposed to know it was a kindergarten? They should put a sign on it in Hebrew". The show's chief writer Muli Segev says: "Our job is to balance and tell the public things it doesn't want to hear." But critics of Wonderful Country's wartime performance say it places ratings ahead of hard-hitting satire, something that can also be said about left-wing politicians who have muted their misgivings about the war in advance of next month's elections. It is true that Wonderful Country does also depict Hamas as an enemy worth crushing on the grounds that it causes and welcomes civilian fatalities.

Parodying coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest – in which Israel competes – Wonderful Country correspondents report from different capitals on how many Palestinians the Europeans will allow Israel to kill. From Italy: 800. From Germany: 6,000. The show then goes live to a Hamas commander who has set up shop in a kindergarten in Gaza. "We have cute children for human shields. If you are striking an area with civilians, inform us in advance so that we can bring cameras over there."

Such skits may make Israelis laugh but they are unlikely to really make them think, says Noa Yeblin, deputy culture editor at Maariv daily newspaper. If anything, she says, the show's wartime performance underscores the absence of hard-hitting satire at a time when it is badly needed. "Satire on television cannot be too sharp because of ratings considerations," she says.

And filming of Wonderful Country was actually cancelled this week because producers calculated it would be bumped off the air by real news about the ground offensive. But the writer, Segev, is adamant that the show will be back on Tuesday. His basic assumption, like that of the overwhelming majority of Israelis, is that launching the war was justified, given years of rocket attacks on southern Israel. He worries about some of his countrymen whom he believes are revelling in the war, like the military correspondent the show depicts. "Some people feel good from it. For us it is evil, perhaps a necessary evil."

By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem

Source >
  The Indipendent |  Jan 10

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