Arts, Culture & Media

A Hamas terror anthem is Israel's biggest summer hit

The recent, month-long war between Israel and Hamas showcased the militant group's new arsenal of tactics: Attack tunnels, longer range missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and even a Hebrew-language music video.

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The song, “Carry Out Terror Attacks," is actually a remake of a Hamas oldie named “Shake Israel’s Security. It came out in 2012 during the last war in Gaza. It was a big hit among Hamas supporters and garnered more than a million views on YouTube.

So when war broke out last month, Hamas released a updated version for the Israeli enemy. The video features masked militants, rockets and lyrics that are essentially battle cries — translated into Hebrew this time: “Try to make contact with the Zionists. Burn camps and soldiers. Shake the security of Israel.”

Israelis love it.

Palestinians have put out other war songs before, replete with Arabic lyrics such as "Hold Your Head High, That's Your Weapon" and “Strike Strike Tel Aviv” — but none have caught on quite like this one.

“The song is hilariously silly,” says Yagil Henkin, an Israeli military historian and reservist. During last month's military operation, he served at a divisional headquarters just a few miles from the Gaza border. He says Israeli officers there set the song as their cell phone ringtones.

“They tried to frighten us. To say, ‘We know your language, we know how to talk to you, and we will promise you death and destruction,’” Henkin says. “Of course, when you listen to the lyrics, they are quite awful. You have modern Hebrew with ancient Hebrew with some things that are not Hebrew at all. And all in very bad accent and extremely bad diction.”

At one point, Henkin said, “they shout in the middle of the song, 'vulcanim.' Vulcans, volcanos, what? No one has any understand[ing of] what they say.”

Even so, the Hamas single has improbably become Israel’s number-one summer hit. Israelis recorded a whole compilation of ironic covers, from a pensive piano version to a dance mashup to finger-snapping a capella.

Henkin says he was at a religious Jewish wedding the other day where the band played a Hasidic klezmer rendition.

“The Hamas band wanted to mock the Israelis, but it happened to create a tune that mocks Hamas and says, 'Those guys, they don’t have a clue,'” Henkin says. “If you don’t have a clue, you don’t have a strategy. And if you don’t have strategy, or it’s at odds with reality, your chances of getting to achieve your strategy are pretty slim.”

Hamas songsters did score one big achievement, Henkin says: Their tune was the one thing during a month of war that made Israelis smile.

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