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Israeli provides the theme song for Libyan rebellion

Posted: August 29, 2011 - 8:28pm

When Tel Aviv-based musician Noy Alooshe decided to create a remix of a speech by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, he never imagined it would become a huge YouTube hit in the Arab world.

Not only has the video attracted more than 5.5 million hits, television footage showed Libyan rebels advancing into the capital Tripoli being greeting by the locals chanting “zenga zenga,” the words of Alooshe’s remix.

The title “Zenga Zenga” comes from Gadhafi’s repetition of the Libyan word for “alleyways” in the speech used in the video clip.

When Alooshe, 32, first posted the video in February, he had no idea what to expect.

“The news reports from the revolution in Egypt stressed that this was a new world; that all the young people there are into Facebook and Twitter,” Alooshe said. “I was interested to see if youngsters in the Arab world really were so involved in the web and in its social networks.” At first, he sent the video to about 20 sites devoted to Arab opposition movements.

Within hours, “Zenga Zenga” had received more than 300,000 hits.

Alooshe was surprised at the massive response.

“Most viewers were in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Egypt,” he said.

Once news of the video was reported by mainstream Israeli media, viewership took off internationally.

Although Alooshe did not identify himself as Israeli when he posted “Zenga Zenga,” he noted that most viewers learned of his background by looking at his online profile.

“There were also many pleasant reactions: people who wrote saying how much they enjoyed the remix; Libyans who promised they would dance in the streets to this music when the country was freed; Iranians and Syrians requested such remixes of their own leaders,” he said.

“People even wrote that they disliked Jews and Zionists but liked the remix,” he commented.

Alooshe said he’s heard that the video was even shown on Libyan state TV until someone realized it was mocking rather than glorifying Gadhafi.

Alooshe says he’s learned much from the responses he’s received from Arab viewers.

“In Israel, the Arab Spring was depicted as a revolution doomed to be taken over by extremists such as the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “But then, I suddenly saw a totally different picture – one of people who are just like me.

“All these years we were told that there are these enemy countries whose citizens hate us,” he said. “And then you get to talk to people from Saudi Arabia and Iran and other Muslim countries and you simply grasp that it’s nothing like what we were told all of those years.”

• Levertov is a Tel Aviv-based journalist who writes for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict.

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