Or to give this song its Arabic name Ana bakrah Israel.

'I hate Israel' is the name of a song that became an instant hit when it was released in Egypt in 1999, selling over five million copies. It is sung by Shaaban Abdel Rahim, a middle aged ironer who has given a voice to the anger many Arabs feel towards their neighbour. Shaaban has become a celebrity in Egypt, although many of his songs have been banned from the airways by the Egyptian censors, this act obviously can only heighten his appeal. The song was actually written by Ismail Khalil, a writer and schoolteacher. Here is a translation from Arabic of part of the song

I hate Israel
I’ll say it if asked
Even if I die or if I’m imprisoned
I hate Israel, I love Hosni Mubarak1 because of his broad mind
I hate Israel, and I hate destruction, it loves destruction
I love Yasser Arafat and he is very dear to me
Egyptians are sad
I hate Israel and I love Amr Mousa2
I hate Israel and Shimon and Sharon
Why should the children suffer why should they die everyday
People carrying weapons and others carrying slingshot
I hate Israel, and we all do
We are all mad, Al Quds matters to us
I hate Israel and Ehud Barak because no one can stand him
Egypt puts up and stands till the end but when it got mad it pulled back the ambassador
I hate Israel because of south Lebanon, Al Quds, Iraq, Syria and the Golan?
I hate Israel and I say it even if I will be arrested

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of these sentiments, there can be no doubt that they are shared by many Egyptians, and indeed other Arabs, and is an important reflection on the present climate and culture prevalent in the middle east. Israel has used the fact of the songs popularity to demonstrate the difficulty they still face to feel secure in their position, and indeed it is worth saying that if an Israeli singer had released a song called I Hate Egypt then the news would spread through the world like wildfire.

Shaaban himself has enjoyed immense media interest and his albums have been selling constantly. McDonalds even hired him to star in an advertisement for their new McFalafel, but the advert was never used after the Jewish lobby complained.

Shaaban had another song capture popular feeling in the Arab world in early 2003 with Al Darb Fil Iraq or Hitting Iraq (with lyrics again provided by Ismail Khalil), which was released prior to the 2003 war, and contained a chant of 'enough, enough, enough' as its chorus. The sentiments of the song were that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction but also criticism of Saddam Hussein. The story briefly flicked around the Western media agencies but once the war started interest died down although the song and video remained popular in the Arabic arena.

1 - President of Egypt
2 - former Egyptian foreign minister, now head of the Arab League

General disclaimer about not hating any persons anywhere, regardless of race, colour or religion.....

CST Approved

The “I hate Israel” song (catchpole’s wu) gives a surprisingly good pointer to more than one reason why Arab populations, in Egypt and elsewhere, hate Israel. Some of this is explicit, and mentions the blame attributed to Israel (often correctly) about what’s happening to the Palestinian people, and some other middle-eastern events. The implicit content is, however, more interesting:

I hate Israel… I love Hosni Mubarak because of his broad mind…

I don’t know what went through the mind of Ismail Khalil, the writer of this song, when he wrote praise for Egypt’s president (and elsewhere, praise of the foreign minister). Keeping in mind that the Egyptian president is the head of a government that has a peace agreement with Israel, I still think he wasn’t being cynical, but was simply protecting himself. In Egypt openly criticizing the government would generally lead to arrest, and Khalil didn’t feel like going to prison. Other civil rights aren’t exactly upheld in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world, either. If you’re an Islamic fundamentalist in a secular Arab state, if you’re a homosexual in any Arab state, if heaven forbid you’re a woman – odds are you have few rights if any. Most people in Egypt earn less than 400$ a month, and the center of Cairo is one of the most populated regions on earth. Are the governments blamed? Occasionally. Rarely. Everyone knows who’s to blame – Israel.

The “broad mind” of president Mubarak, that of president Assad, and many others, have caught on to a simple fact. People who feel bad need a person or group of people to hate, and Israel can easily play the role. This is not to say that Israeli policy is right, or that everyone outside Arab nations loves Israel. I’m simply stating that the interest of the oppressive Arab leadership in many of these countries is to encourage hate of Israel.

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