What's Wrong With a Dancing Soldier?

Last week, members of the Israeli Defense Force, who participated in a viral video dancing to Ke$ha’s “Tick Tock,” were reprimanded by military officials and sentenced to create an anti-dancing-in-the-military educational video to deter other soldiers with the urge to bust a move on You Tube.

The punishment, as explained in the media, misses the point of why reception to the boogying Israeli soldiers has been much different than what greeted the American military men who did a dance routine to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” Dancing isn’t the problem.

Dancing soldier videos are nothing new, but American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan sparked the recent video meme. Their video focuses mostly on a pair of soldiers, who appear to be off duty, clad in t-shirts and camo pants, executing an awkward choreographed dance in a supply room. Their routine is punctuated by cuts to other dancing soldiers in homemade Gagaesque costumes. Whatever our feelings about the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, most everyone acknowledges that the men and women who are serving their country in that war, face tremendous psychic stress and physical danger every day. We don’t begrudge our troops the opportunity to blow off a little steam in their limited free time, particularly if it involves something as benign as getting their Gaga on.

But the timing and chosen location of the Israeli troops’ video are not benign. And that, I think, is the problem. According to reports, these soldiers were on duty. Indeed, they are in full combat gear with helmets, flack jackets and guns. As the video begins, a Muslim call to prayer can be heard broadcasting into the streets. Then, a sextet of armed Israeli soldiers round the corner, sweeping their rifles as if on patrol. After their synchronized dance routine, they return to “patrol,” disappearing from the screen.

You can view it for yourself below. The tone is far different from the U.S. soldiers' video.

The sweeping guns, the uniforms, the empty street, the call to prayer -- they serve as a reminder of the tension between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in Hebron. One recalls that the movements of Palestinian residents are greatly curtailed. Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic writes, “The street in Hebron they were dancing on is restricted to Jewish settlers, who make up just one percent of the town's population. The Palestinians who live on the street cannot leave their homes through the front doors because the Israeli occupiers welded their doors shut in 2000.”

This makes all the difference. In this light, the actions of the soldiers are not harmless, but disrespectful and unnecessarily incendiary in an already volatile situation. It would be akin to uniformed American soldiers doing the cha-cha slide down a war torn street in Iraq, while Iraqi families peer from inside their homes. 

Commanding the Israeli troops to develop an anti-dance video is a pointless exercise. Again, dancing is not the problem. Disregard for a highly-charged political situation and disrespect for an occupied people is.

Tami also blogs for What Tami Said, Change.org's Race in America site and writes the column, Colorstruck, on PsychologyToday.com.


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