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Idol Chatter

Israel has a difficult relationship with American culture. On the one hand, Israel creates its own culture and doesn’t want to be an America’s clone. And then there’s the other hand, the celeb-obsessed, hypersexualized American pop culture-consuming hand that resents and consumes at the same time. So it should be no surprise that recently Israel sought marketing help from the people who know what sells:

“The Israeli consular official based in New York approached Maxim six months ago. His proposal: The government and other pro-Israeli groups would fly a camera crew across the Atlantic in an effort to remake the Jewish state’s public image. Israel’s reputation had suffered after last summer’s war with Lebanon; in a recent BBC poll taken in 27 countries, 56 percent of respondents considered Israel a “negative influence” in the world, higher than both Iran and the United States. But Israel’s real PR problem, according to Saranga, is that Americans–particularly men aged 18 to 35–either associate the country with war or holy relics, or don’t think of it at all. ‘We have to find the right hook,’ he says. ‘And what’s relevant to men under 35? Good-looking women.’ (Newsweek/MSNBC)”

Israel? Good, holy even. Exploitation of women? Um, not so holy. Leave it to America to defile the Holy Land via the bikini. The only surprising note about this story is that I’ve not seen any reports of religious opposition reported in the media.

But what if the exploitation is not about marketing the Israel brand, but instead is a new attempt to solve the crisis in the Middle East? Since diplomats seem unable to make headway without a conflict erupting, maybe what the world needs is a place where piece is the primary goal. That’s right, “piece.” According to their mission statement:

Mideast Piece aims to unite people around the world through shared adoration of that most sacred and bronzed of species, the Middle Eastern man. Whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Druze, these desert men are more valuable than any Saudi oil well. As greater appreciation for the Middle Eastern male develops, we are confident the international community will intervene to preserve and protect this endangered species from destroying itself (and, on occasion, others). There are too many unattractive, pale people on Earth for the world not to make the entire Middle East a natural reserve of hot men, complete with admission fee, monorail, and–of course–petting zoos.

As Ha’aretz reports, Mideast Piece is the brainchild of two gay Americans currently living in Israel; it regularly posts cheesecake style photos that celebrate the men of the Middle East and blog posts that reflect their values, like this one: “Soldiers are hot. They should not be killed in war. They should be trained–strenuously–and put on display for all to lust after. That’s Mideast Piece.”

A site with humor, and the occasional naughty picture, is great for the international psyche. But is it good for the Holy Land? I’m pretty traditional, but I have to admit that traditional doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe it’s time for a land that houses three influential world religions and the resultant internal conflict to show a little skin, at least metaphorically. I think we’re at the point where we have to try new things. Hey, whatever works.

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