Jordan-Based Rap Group Sues Netanyahu Over Campaign Ad

2-18-15 Netanyahu ad rap
An Israeli election campaign ad says the left will show ISIS the way to Jerusalem, and uses a song by the rap group Torabyeh. Benjamin Netanyahu/YouTube

A Jordan-based rap group called Torabyeh has sued Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political party, Likud, for using one of its songs in a campaign video titled "Us or Them: The ISIS Version," Reuters reported. The song was sampled without permission, according to an injunction filed by Firas Shehadeh, founder of the group, in Haifa's district court Monday.

"They were stunned by Likud's shamelessness and outright theft," Torabyeh's Israel-based attorney Iyad Jubran, told Reuters.

The 40-second video, released Saturday on Netanyahu's YouTube channel and viewed nearly 200,000 times as of Wednesday, depicts a white SUV with two men in the truck bed flying ISIS flags. They pull up next to another car and honk to get the driver's attention. One of them asks, in Hebrew with a heavy Arabic accent, "How do we get to Jerusalem, my brother?"

The man in the neighboring car responds, "Take a left." Immediately, the words, "The left will surrender to terror," are stamped out in red on the screen, laden with what look like bullet holes.

With the Israeli elections coming up on March 17, Netanyahu has released several campaign videos that depict him and his party as the smart choice over opponents like Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Camp, which falls center-left on the political spectrum. "It's us or them," reads the recurring tagline.

During the latest video, the song "Ghorbah" by the Jordan-based rap group Torabyeh plays in the background.

On the day of the video's release, Torabyeh posted a statement on its Facebook page in response to the "propaganda video released by the Israeli Likud Party which is headed by the criminal Benjamin Netanyahu (Zionist right-wing)," it wrote. The statement continued:

The use of the song in the particular context cannot be considered anything but deliberate propaganda of the Zionist right for the purpose of electoral propaganda and attacking the so-called Zionist "left wing". Furthermore, it implicates the Torabyeh group by containing serious accusations of terrorism and association with ISIS which is consequently putting the group's members [sic] lives at risk.

We strongly condemn and reject this ruthless infringement of intellectual property rights and the distortion of the reputation of Torabyeh. What is more, we reject all forms of cooperation with the Zionist enemy (right and left) and the fascist expansionist colonial entity. Torabyeh group will take all necessary legal action against those responsible.

Victory for the Palestinian people and the Arab against colonialism, Glory to the martyrs.

Three of the group's four members are descendants of Palestinian refugees, Reuters reports, and the song in question is about "political alienation and longing for a return to their Palestinian homeland." The injunction they filed in court claims that people could interpret the ad as saying the rap group is aligned with ISIS—which could put its members in danger—or that it supports the Likud party, which could cost it fans.

"I was shocked, it was craziness," Shehadeh told Reuters. "We are against ISIS and against Israel."

Several outlets reported that the Likud party had not yet commented on the accusation or petition. In the meantime, the ad got heat within Israel as well for its claim that the left would succumb to terrorism and that therefore Netanyahu's right-wing party was the better choice in the March 17 elections.

Yuval Diskin, former head of Israel's Security Agency, the Shin Bet, made scathing statements on his Facebook page Saturday (the link is in Hebrew). "The left will bring ISIS into Israel, said Netanyahu…the man who released more than 1,000 terrorists, some of whom have already resumed carrying out attacks during his times as prime minister…the man who got dragged into the longest war since the War of Independence against a terror organization," he wrote, referring to the war in Gaza this past summer. "He's lost his sense of shame. That's for sure."

The Zionist Camp slate, which includes Netanyahu's opponents Livni and Herzog (the latter often referred to with the nickname "Bougie"), was just as furious.

"Netanyahu lives in a fantasy if he thinks we've forgotten his colossal failure in the area of security," they said in their own response. "He released more than 1,000 prisoners with blood on their hands, strengthened Hamas, Iran became a nuclear threshold state on his watch and the personal security of Israelis is compromised daily. There are films in which there is no reason to make a sequel, Netanyahu's term is a good example of this."

Netanyahu, who is often called by the nickname 'Bibi,' previously released a campaign video that depicted his opponents as out-of-control kindergartners. It was banned by the Central Elections Committee for violating rules prohibiting the use of children under the age of 15 in ads. He later starred in another ad, without children, presenting himself as a better baby-sitter—or "Bibi-sitter"—than Livni or Herzog.

"In the upcoming elections, you're choosing who will care for our children," he says at the end of that ad, before the same tag line appears on the screen: "It's us or them."