The Israeli Pop Song That Captures the Mood of a Country at War

The Israeli singer and songwriter Shlomi Saban gave an unusual, and moving, performance recently on the border with Gaza, as Matti Friedman recounts:

The parents of one of the hostages seized by Hamas in the October 7 attack, a young musician named Alon Ohel, had the idea that their son would hear the songs and draw strength to hold on. They invited three of his favorite singers, one of them Shaban, to play here, at one of the deserted communities along the border, and of course he came. Performing for people engulfed by the current tragedy, like soldiers and evacuees, is what Israeli artists do now.

Shaban is, in Friedman’s view, “the only genius currently active in Israeli popular music.” It is his biblically themed song “Canaan” that, although written three years ago, has come to be most associated with the current war:

Echoes from the Hebrew Bible and prayers are common in Israeli pop music in a way that would seem strange to American ears outside the quarantine zone of Christian rock. But Shaban goes further here, punctuating the verses of “Canaan” with a haunting nigun—a wordless hasidic melody, a return to a diaspora sound that the old Zionist anthems would never have considered.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Israeli music, Israeli society

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security