Ritstjóri Herðubreiðar 07/03/2019

My Israeli friends – we need to get our facts straight

Shalom, my friends.

שלום חברים

We need to talk about stuff.

Iceland is sending – well, shall we say an unusual entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv this coming May?

But it´s fun. It´s full of youth and energy, and more creativity than I could encompass in my simple mind.

Also, it´s a blast. Finally someone revitalized the so obviously dying and mind-demolishing techno-scene with punk. Good ol’-fashioned punk. With a bit of welcome BDSM in between.

Obviously, there are references to violence and fascism. Some people find them offensive.

That´s strange, to say the least. Every single day we are inundated with news of violence and the new rise of fascism, not least in Europe and America. Not on stage, but in real news, with the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, often mainly children, at the whim of people in power.

That is the real offense, insult and injury to humanity.

And how could one not react to that? How could one just accept the show going on without saying what needs to be said?

The message is simple: Hate will prevail if we stand by and do nothing. You, my friends, unfortunately know that more painfully than most other people.

I will not even venture here into the conflict that concerns us most in Israel and Palestine. Too complicated? Yes. Too many children killed? One child is always one too many and may shame be upon us all.

Too difficult an issue? Yes. As we all know. So I will leave it there for now.

Anyways, I have digressed and lost sight of the important points.

The young and free-thinking people of Hatari have challenged Bibi Netanyahu to a match of Icelandic wrestling.

The sport is called glíma. (Be careful when you google the word. Some of the images may appear to be homo-erotic.)

In their statement, Hatari called this „trouser grip“ wrestling, which is a very loose and perhaps misleading translation.

Consequently, some of the international media turned the concept into „trouser wrestling“, which is also a hitherto little-known sport. Except perhaps in Switzerland, from where The Times of Israel screen-grabbed this picture off Youtube.

Looks like fun, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Icelandic glíma. You don´t grab your opponent´s shoulder. Or even his arm, for that matter. You just grab him by the belt and use a few clever foot- and hip-maneuvrings to bring him to the ground.

There is no violence and most importantly – always unconditional respect for your adversary.

As evidenced by the fact that you always shake your opponent´s hand firmly before a match and no less afterwards, whatever the outcome. It´s almost Japanese, except that no one falls on his sword after a defeat.

Another feature of the sport is the notion of drengskapur – which Hatari has also emphasized. It´s akin to ´sportsmanship´, except that it doesn´t only refer to sports. In glíma, no bullying is permitted, no dirty tricks. You have to stand up straight and follow the rules.

You basically have to conduct yourself like an honest and decent human being, keep your word and do the right thing. That´s drengskapur.

But why I am going on about all kinds of obscure wrestling? Because there is always stuff.

In the weeks and months to come our two countries are going to have an interesting conversation. Not as such, of course, but as individuals expressing helpful and not-so-helpful ideas and concerns. As usual, the not-so-enlightened ones will probably get the most attention. And give occasion to others even more destructive and – well, yes – stupid.

So we need to get our facts straight.

Upon fair and objective reading, Hatari are not an anti-Israel act, and very far from being anti-semitic. They are very probably in favor of the Palestinian cause, but that does not by any means make them anti-Israel or an adversary of the Jewish people.

Some people have a tendency to think along those simple lines, because they are easier to handle than trying to fathom a more complicated picture and situation.

Hatari are first and foremost an anti-fascist act, and that´s where we could and should definitely shake hands in a common cause and drengskapur. For reasons we need not elaborate on.

However, Hatari are also most definitely anti-Bibi and against many of the policies of Israeli governments of the past decades. So are many Israelis and probably a growing number of people around the world. There´s yet another reason to welcome them to Tel Aviv.

They may be unique in their appearance and act, but they are not unique in their message. They are a very loud and creative echo.

As for Bibi, he should accept the challenge for a match of glíma. He is smart and the rules are simple. (I know, because my only medal in sports I obtained for my superior performance in glíma. I got the bronze. There were three contestants.)

If Bibi loses, it shouldn´t even hurt. The first thing you learn in glíma training is how to hit the floor without injuring yourself. But Mr. Netanyahu already knows that first-hand.

That said, I foresee a most interesting conversation ahead. As in all conversations, it´s important to keep the facts straight and our heads cool.

In our case, my only worry is the dummkopfs, but I guess we have more of them than you do.

Even per capita.

Karl Th. Birgisson

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