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Zenga Zenga!

In his recent hour-long screech on a Tripoli balcony, Muammar Qaddafi vowed to hunt down his own rebellious people “inch by inch, house by house, room by room, alley by alley” and to wipe them out “to the last drop of blood”. An Israeli musician and journalist named Noy Alooshe — who is of Tunisian descent, by the way — caught the speech. He noted the rhythmic repetitions, the zany clothes, and the trippy way Qaddafi kept raising his fists, and said to himself: “Classic hit!”

Noy cranked up Auto-Tune and remixed Qaddafi’s speech as a mash-up with “Hey Baby,” a song by American rappers Pitbull and T-Pain. He overlaid the video with footage of a scantily-clad young woman apparently dancing to Qaddafi’s words, tossed it up on YouTube, and put the word out about it on Facebook and Twitter.

It went viral across the Arab world.

Some Arab viewers were put off to discover the video’s Israeli provenance, but the vast majority, it seems, think it’s terrific. In Libya in particular, young revolutionaries are loving it. Many of them contacted Noy to request a version minus the dancing girl so they could show the video to their parents (he quickly obliged). The New York Times says the video has become a “popular token” of the Libyan uprising.

I don’t want to overstate the significance of this, but I can’t help but find it cheering. I love the thought of protesting Libyans getting a desperately needed laugh at Qaddafi’s expense — and that they’re not inhibited in their enjoyment by the fact that the joke was delivered by an Israeli. I love the publicity this little incident gives to what I believe is one of Israel’s most valuable strengths — the ability of so many of its people to take the sting out of something that looks unrelentingly grim, and in the process to diminish it and make it mentally manageable. That’s a talent that’s hard to explain to people abroad; this video is a perfect example of it. I love the characteristically Israeli, off-the-wall, impromptu creativity of the idea. Most of all, I love the thought of young Arabs and Jews uniting, however briefly and remotely, over two minutes of ridiculous trance music.

In this neighborhood, anything that gets us to see one another as human beings — particularly human beings with the same sense of humor — is pure gold. Kol hakavod, Mr. Alooshe. Well done.