The Israeli elections less than four weeks away and we, the voting public, are inundated with political promotion. Every day, a new campaign video is uploaded and shared across social networks with each one more clever than the last. The production values are high, the politicians are willing stars, and the videos have generated interest not only at home but internationally as well, with publications like the New York Times, Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor weighing in on the Prime Minister’s performance as the “Bibi-sitter”.
Hard to believe that only a few decades ago, our election videos were mostly local affairs, like this one from a party calling itself Zaam Tarshish, whose main goal seemed to be demanding that the government build a technical-vocational college in Netanya, and whose catchphrase “Noar, noar, noar” (“youth, youth, youth”) as an appeal to the young, was a comedy punchline for quite a while afterwards.
Israel began broadcasting election propaganda only a generation ago, in 1969, a year after television got started in Israel. Initially these were broadcasts of live campaign speeches, recounts Prof. Dana Blander of the Israel Democracy Institute in an essay [in Hebrew] entitled, “The history of the Israeli election broadcasts“.
“In fact, only in 1977 were parties to take advantage of the benefits inherent in the medium of television to transmit messages. so began the involvement of non-party sources such as advertising and media experts in strategizing election campaigns”. That year, the Likud came to power, ending the Labor’s almost 30 years of Knesset majority.
It was in 1981 that political campaigns began to make their mark on the public consciousness, as did the Likud anthem…
Israel’s sole TV station allocated airtime to each political party based on size, meaning small parties had to work hard to stand out — like then-newcomer Shas.
But by and large, broadcast electioneering still focused on politics, rather than singing and dancing. In a word: dull.
By the early 90s and with the launch of a second broadcaster, election campaign commercials became far more entertaining — even the Communists joined the party.
The National Religious Party co-opted popular singer Haim Moshe in 1999…
And who could forget the long strange trip with the Green Leaf party?
The elections are, as mentioned, a few weeks away — still plenty of time for more viral videos to worm their way into our brains. Will any of them achieve the iconic status of a “noar, noar, noar”? Only time will tell.