Time Out Tel Aviv created a video, ‘Jews and Arabs Kiss,’ to protest the banning of an Israeli-Palestinian love story in Israeli high schools. Through creating dialogue, this video served the dual purpose to demonstrate ideology and protest censorship.
The Palestinian and Israeli conflict permeates every sector in Israel, including education. In December 2015, controversy erupted after Israel’s Ministry of Education (MoE) banned the novel “Borderline” in secular high schools’ advanced literature curriculum. “Borderline” or “Gader Haya,” by Dorit Rabinyan is the story of a Palestinian man and Israeli woman falling in love. At the request of many teachers “Borderline” was reviewed and approved for advanced literature classes’ curriculum by a professional committee. The MoE’s head of literature studies, Shlomo Herzig, supported this decision.
However, fearing young people would romanticize cross-border, cross-religious relationships, senior officials barred “Borderline” from being taught in schools. They believed “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity.” Many view this censorship as an affront to freedom of information and step back in discussions of tolerance.
In response, Time Out Tel Aviv, a media outlet, created a video entitled “Jews and Arabs Kiss.” This video brought together pairs of Arabs and Jews, women and men, gay and straight, strangers and couples to do the “‘forbidden deed’ and express love in front of [their] camera.” Similar to the original strangers kissing video, “First Kiss,” by Tatia PIlevia, the video begins with couples awkwardly receiving directions and tense introductions. As the music builds, the couples kiss passionately. The video ends with the phrase, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” The on-camera connection between couples shows the power of “love” can overcome religious and political divides. The full article includes short individual bios and quotes, highlighting each person’s common humanity over their religious differences.
The video was posted on Facebook, receiving over 100,000 views in a day. Time Out Tel Aviv encountered a minor challenge when the video was removed from Facebook by an unknown actor. However, it was shortly thereafter reposted with the slogan “Love Wins.”
With this video, the MoE’s ban on “Borderline” backfired: book sales dramatically increased, online support poured in for multi-faith couples, and more youth read the novel than ever before. Most importantly, it opened up dialogue on acceptance and tolerance.
New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.
This tactic simultaneously mocks censorship and highlights the power of human connection over prejudice, opening up dialogue. Strangers kissing could be used in other movements specific to ‘forbidden romance’ (i.e. LGBTQ rights, inter-racial marriage). Using video to mock censorship could be used in a variety of contexts. It should portray the banned action in a relatable way, so viewers will empathize with the cause. The tactic of bringing together strangers from “opposing sides” to share in universal action, even without kissing, could be adapted for mending relations between other conflicting groups.