The Land

By Razib Khan | October 5, 2012 7:39 pm

Nina Paley is at it again.

H/T Scott McConnell

  • John Emerson


  • Paul Givargidze

    RIP Andy Williams.

  • Dwight E. Howell

    That about sums it up for now.

  • qohelet

    1. Some wonderful depictions of Iron Age native northern Semites.
    2. Hasidim as Israelis? I shuddered.

  • Sniffnoy

    This video autoplays on loading the page; is there any way you could turn that off? Thank you!

  • Onur

    The “Ottoman Turk representation” looks like a South Asian or a significantly Negroid-admixed Arab or Berber in complexion. Only a Gypsy can be so dark in complexion in Anatolia and the Balkans. Several other representation complexions, too, are terribly chosen.

    Another issue is that there is no mention of Persians.

  • Onur

    There are other inaccuracies as well: it was not Arabs who acquired what is now Israel/Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, it was the British, during the WWI. Arabs had almost no role in the British and French success over the Ottomans during the WWI. The overwhelming majority of the Arab armed forces of the WWI fought on the Ottoman side and as regular Ottoman soldiers. The large scale Arab revolt against the Ottomans during the WWI is a post-WWI myth created by both Arab and Turkish nationalists to justify their post-WWI nationalisms in their newly founded nation states.

  • Onur

    The large scale Arab revolt against the Ottomans during the WWI is a post-WWI myth created by both Arab and Turkish nationalists to justify their post-WWI nationalisms in their newly founded nation states.

    and, more importantly, to justify the very existence of their nation states


    I second the lack of mention of Persians, especially considering that Ahura Mazda makes an appearance (as the god of the Assyrian guy!)

    Of course it’s just nitpicking though – the cartoon is awesome!

    (And yes, could you please turn off the autoplay if possible?)

  • Darkseid

    that. was. awesome.

  • John Emerson

    I don’t think that the cartoonist really was trying for close historical accuracy. The fact that she got close enough to be criticized for not being completely exact is to her credit, though. With pop culture you’re lucky if you don’t see African animals in South America and Charlemagne in the Renaissance.

  • Justin Loe

    I believe that Europe, per capita, has had more wars and deaths from warfare than the middle east, over the past 500 years. If I’m wrong, please correct.

  • RedZenGenoist

    The whole thing is a linear progression. Yet she suddenly shies just short of showing who killed British soldiers to get the Brits out.

    Ah well.

  • Isabel

    That was amazing. gave me chills…beautiful work.

  • John Emerson

    I was wrong. Here’s her guide.

    The Persians may have been left out because they were not enemies of the Jews. They were the ones who permitted them to return to Jerusalem.

    Who’s Killing Who? A Viewer’s Guide Because you can’t tell the players without a pogrom!

    Early Man
    This generic “cave man” represents the first human settlers in Israel/Canaan/the Levant. Whoever they were.

    What did ancient Canaanites look like? I don’t know, so this is based on ancient Sumerian art.

    Canaan was located between two huge empires. Egypt controlled it sometimes, and…

    ….Assyria controlled it other times.

    The “Children of Israel” conquered the shit out of the region, according to bloody and violent Old Testament accounts.

    Then the Baylonians destroyed their temple and took the Hebrews into exile.

    Here comes Alexander the Great, conquering everything!

    No sooner did Alexander conquer everything, than his generals divided it up and fought with each other.

    Greek descendants of Ptolemy, another of Alexander’s competing generals, ruled Egypt dressed like Egyptian god-kings. (The famous Cleopatra of western mythology and Hollywood was a Ptolemy.)

    More Greek-Macedonian legacies of Alexander.

    Hebrew Priest
    This guy didn’t fight, he just ran the Second Temple re-established by Hebrews in Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile.

    Led by Judah “The Hammer” Maccabee, who fought the Seleucids, saved the Temple, and invented Channukah. Until…

    ….the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and absorbed the region into the Roman Empire…

    ….which split into Eastern and Western Empires. The eastern part was called the Byzantine Empire. I don’t know if “Romans” ever fought “Byzantines” (Eastern Romans) but this is a cartoon.

    Arab Caliph
    Speaking of cartoon, what did an Arab Caliph look like? This was my best guess.

    After Crusaders went a-killin’ in the name of Jesus Christ, they established Crusader states, most notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

    Mamluk of Egypt
    Wikipedia sez, “Over time, mamluks became a powerful military caste in various Muslim societies…In places such as Egypt from the Ayyubid dynasty to the time of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, mamluks were considered to be “true lords”, with social status above freeborn Muslims.[7]” And apparently they controlled Palestine for a while.

    Ottoman Turk
    Did I mention this is a cartoon? Probably no one went to battle looking like this. But big turbans, rich clothing and jewelry seemed to be in vogue among Ottoman Turkish elites, according to paintings I found on the Internet.

    A gross generalization of a generic 19-century “Arab”.

    The British formed alliances with Arabs, then occupied Palestine. This cartoon is an oversimplification, and uses this British caricature as a stand-in for Europeans in general.

    The British occupied this guy’s land, only to leave it to a vast influx of….

    European Jew/Zionist
    Desperate and traumatized survivors of European pogroms and death camps, Jewish Zionist settlers were ready to fight to the death for a place to call home, but…

    ….so were the people that lived there. Various militarized resistance movements arose in response to Israel: The Palestinian Liberation Organization, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

    Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/TerroristState of Israel
    Backed by “the West,” especially the US, they got lots of weapons and the only sanctioned nukes in the region.

    Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/Terrorist
    Sometimes people fight in military uniforms, sometimes they don’t. Creeping up alongside are illicit nukes possibly from Iran or elsewhere in the region. Who’s Next?

    and finally…

    The Angel of Death
    The real hero of the Old Testament, and right now too.

  • jb

    Nina Paley is at it again.

    When was she at it before? I vaguely remember her cartoons from the 90’s, but that’s it.

    I do see that she is now a big “copyleft” advocate — good for her!

    And yes, do turn off autoplay; as much as I enjoyed the video I don’t want to have to pause it every time I visit your blog for the next week. Looking at the page source I can even see where it’s set:


  • dorian

    I’m sure the Rabbis will issue a fatwah and put a price on Nina’s head, and the Israelis will certainly attack the American Embassy… and kill the ambassador.

    Oh wait. Wrong country.

    I hope to see Nina continue and not choose soft targets like Nepalese Buddhists or something either. Political satire is something many people enjoy seeing, and moreso if there are actual stakes involved.

  • Razib Khan

    #17, i didn’t think it was a particularly anti-israeli thing at all. then again, i don’t frankly give a shit about the israeli-arab conflict (something jews and muslims find incomprehensible because they are the special snowflake people of the world), so i might not see the cues intended….

    i found the topic cliche, but the execution pretty impressive.

  • qohelet

    Agreed with Razib. Now my grievance goes back to when those J-carriers took over the land from us E-M34 folk…

  • Simon

    Gotta admit, the song has a nice tune to it.

  • John Emerson

    I’ve heard that song a million times before this, and with that voice of his Andy Williams has always made it seem mellow and harmless. But it’s effectively bloody-minded and could be sung by any colonialist, guerrilla insurgent, or nationalist ethnic cleanser anywhere.

    A lot of militant songs are sentimental and pure, emphasizing the innocence and beauty of your own side rather than the violence of war or the evil of the enemy, and imagining a wonderfully peaceful future. “Tomorrow belongs to me” is an extreme example. But then you have the Marseillaise or the Maryland state song: “let their impure blood fertilize our fields” and “Avenge the patriotic gore That flecked the streets of Baltimore, And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland!” (That’s why Marylanders are so fierce and savage.)

  • jb

    But then you have the Marseillaise or the Maryland state song…

    Or this:,17691/

    In the early 1960’s a purely orchestral version of This Land Is Mine played on the radio a lot. I was in elementary school at the time, and I remember that I just loved the tune, and that I would stop and listen whenever it came on. I didn’t know anything about the movie though, and until now I didn’t even know there were words. Knowing what I know now about the history of the Middle East, the lyrics come as a bit of a shock!

  • John Emerson

    Google tells me that “Tomorrow belongs to me” is fictional, Nazi-like at best but not Nazi. Oddly, neo-Nazis have adopted it.

    So forget I said anything.

  • dorian


    Generally yeah- but its the last hot potato theory of culpability isn’t it? Who has it now? :) Also: she doesn’t cover Jordan, which forks from the same British mandate. Why do Hashemites get the pass?

    Not that it was any severe sort of criticism, certainly. Which was my sole point- if you are going to do this much production value, hit a good target or go altogether tangental, an Onion like spoof.

    The nearby history of Sicily is just as interesting, as is Iraq and Egypt. By stepping into the Arab-Israeli conflict, which no one should care about aside from Arabs and Israelis, Nina is beating a dead horse at best. Is it only because it’s in the news that she chooses it?

    If the MENA is an interesting thing to satirize historically, look at trends not counter trends… Iraq and Egypt both have had “veneers” of invaders. It’s more of a global sort of commentary. Either one could have generated death threats, which in satire cartoonist realm should be a Golden Globe.

  • John Emerson

    By stepping into the Arab-Israeli conflict, which no one should care about aside from Arabs and Israelis

    This is silly. The Arab-Israeli conflict plays a major role in American foreign policy, and many non-Israeli Jews have some degree of identification with Israel — an identification which is encouraged by the Israelis and supported by Israeli law.

    “In the news”???? It’s been a big deal for 65 years or so.

  • Dakrseid

    John – “It’s been a big deal for 65 years or so.”
    well, yeah, that’s kinda the point. it’ll never end so who cares? i have a filter on my browser the omits entries about israel, etc. Just enter key words like intifada, hezbollah, etc. and you never even have to see it!

  • BDoyle

    This cartoon has been bugging me since I saw it a couple of days ago, for reasons I couldn’t really put a finger on squarely. Maybe it’s the implication that Palestine has been fought over by for thousands of years by religious zealots desperate to possess that special sacred ground. That’s not true of most of the empires depicted, but they are all reduced to the stereotype. No mention of co-religionists fighting each other over it, and someone mentioned the conspicuous absence of the Persians. When someone presents a historical overview, but leaves out the parts that don’t fit the narrative, I guess it sets off my alarm bells. It is well made, though.

  • Razib Khan

    i think that this conflict isn’t that special…but people seem to think it’s special. *shrug* even secular leftists now carry a special torch for the palestinians because the israelis are now viewed as neo-colonialists or whatever. so as an artist i can see why nina focused on this, rather that the pygmy-cannibalism in the democratic republic of congo. leftists and christian right zionists could operationally care less how many congolese are killed next to jewish and arab life & property. just how it is.

  • RedZenGenoist

    We wouldn’t care about it either, if it wasn’t on TV non-stop.

    It’s special, in the sense that it uniquely sucks us in. Congo is powerless to envelop us in their nonsense.

  • John Emerson

    The Israeli Palestine conflict may not be different than others, but for various reasons various individuals and groups feel a strong personal involvement. We also have a major foreign policy commitment and $3 billion dollars of foreign aid. You can say that in the universal big picture it’s no different than the Azeris v. the Armenians, the Sinhalese v. the Tamils, the Circassians v. the Russians, etc., but people don’t think according to the universal big picture, and why should they?

    I do not see that the cartoonist claims that these struggles are religious or even ethnic. For example, there are four categories of Macedonians / Greeks included: Alexander’s army, his warring generals, the Seleucids, and the Ptolemies. She seems to think of these battles just as elite power struggles or struggles for lordship (sometimes with an ethnic component, not always). That interpretation doesn’t seem far different from the interpretations expressed in several posts above, except that there is an Israelicentric focus and also a pacifistic feeling, sort of the idea that “we should be better than this”.

  • dorian


    Thanks for jumping on the band waggon.

    First- You are offering a potentially circular argument. Amounting to: The Arab-Israeli conflict is important because the Arab Israeli conflict is important for a number of people… do you reduce this to patchwork motivations further*? or just leave it as that and keep it circular?

    Also*, as a non theist but canary in the coalmine juif of sorts, there are ways we immediately know about people with particular chips on their shoulder. Here is one: identifying $3b in aid to Israel (no doubt dwarfed by the actual taxes collected from the non Israelis Jews in the US, whom you’ve identified as caring about Israel), while completely disregarding the fact that Arab and Muslim States (like Pakistan and Egypt) receive aid many times that. I dont care to have a discussion about what the US gets in return for this variety of money- but you are running a clear stormfront, however implicit, polemic- something that Nina *is not* implying in her satire.

    Razib: many of us interested in just following your blog other than this crap, and not going into the correlate of Godwin’s law: If Israel is ever mentioned a shit storm will follow. But if someone throws chum in the water, it’s up to responsible people to address it I figure.

  • omar

    Since chum is already in the water, I will copy and paste a comment to add to the shit storm:
    Dorian, the world is like that. Sometimes unfair perceptions can works in your favor and sometimes they turn against you. Israel, after years of being on the “unfairly favorable” side of the propaganda universe in America, is starting to feel the adverse effects of years of illegal occupation. Matters have just about reached that inflection point in the liberal blogosphere (but not yet in traditional media in the US, where Israel continues to enjoy extremely positive coverage). but in time, even the traditional media will become somewhat hostile.
    “Facts on the ground” will ensure that occupation will remain physically sustainable for years to come, but at some point losing the “battle for hearts and minds” in the US may have real world effects (money, armaments, that sort of thing).
    Israelis would probably be better off looking for a reasonably fair peaceful solution now rather than later. Of course, in the end its up to Israelis and Palestinians. They will make their choices and mostly likely, neither will make choices that satisfy some faraway Gandhian or codepinkista or American Evangelical fanatic or whatever. But an outsider can always give his (distant, irrelevant?) opinion.

  • Razib Khan

    #31, every comment before yours with the likely exception of #13 (i don’t think most people understood what he was getting at, because most americans don’t know this history, though i do, because i care about history, even if i don’t give a shit about the principals) was pretty nerdy, and onur’s asperger on display was actually pretty funny. it didn’t really go into the politics aside from a broad meta aspect (i don’t think anyone would have picked up #13’s implication). so you brought it up brass tacks details, at least in allusion. it’s fine, as i said, i don’t care much. but don’t make shit up, you fucking chumed up the water. you can waste your time arguing about whatever you want, but don’t start making shit up for why we’re here at this point of the thread (yes, it was going to happen; you nicely hastened it). don’t try and go lawyer on me and deny your role either by re-litigating my description in follow up comments, homey don’t play that game.

    in any case, keep on arguing if you think it’s productive.

  • Onur

    onur’s asperger on display was actually pretty funny

    As a non-native English user (not even speaker), my English may be atypical, but that does not justify your attribution of it to Asperger. Besides, above I pointed to a common mistake (not among historians but among common people) about recent Arab history. That alone is enough to render my above posts worthy of note.

  • RedZenGenoist

    #34: I believe Razib did not mean to insult, but rather that it was funny how mercilessly attentive to detail your posts were, stretching as they did over several hours of analysis. “Worthy of note” indeed.

    #33: Likewise noteworthy attention to detail.

  • Razib Khan

    #34, onur, you pattern of comments and engagements with people on the internet are quite similar to people who DO have asperger. what of it? there is no shame in that. if you persist in claiming you don’t have asperger…well, perhaps you do then!

  • John Emerson

    Onur: Razib is asperger-friendly. I myself agree with the aspergies who argue that there are aspergy traits which others would do well to emulate.

    Dorian: just in self defense against the Stormfront accusation I will answer, though probably it will end badly.

    I was responding to your puzzling assertion that no one should care about the Arab-Israeli conflict aside from Arabs and Israelis. I explained why Americans care more about the Arab-Israeli conflict than they do about three similar conflicts which I named. Their reasons may not please you but support for Israel is deeply rooted in American life and central to American foreign policy. You seem to think that I am obliged to justify this American concern for the Arab-Israel conflict, but I was just noting that it isn’t just a quirky individual obsession but a national committment. You were acting as though there was something peculiar, weird, and wrong about Paley’s choosing this topic, but there isn’t. It just offends you for a reason which you have explained very poorly.

    Foreign aid: Israel ranks #3. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, where we are fighting wars, rank #1, #2, and #4. Egypt is #5. Aid to Egypt is explicitly a bribe for remaining at peace with Israel. I doubt that anyone in the world envies the Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis.

    I very rarely post about Israel-Palestine questions and was surprised that this thread lasted as long as it did. My ideas about this question are not well-developed, since the historical process seems locked in and there are no players in the game who would have any interest in my opinion.

  • Onur


    This is not real life, this is blogosphere. For some months I am not writing in the blogosphere as much as I once wrote; I am mostly writing in times when I feel necessity and not paying much attention to blog writings (including yours). So most of my recent blog comments are quite serious in nature. But that certainly does not mean I am so serious in real life. I just don’t look at blogs, especially those in a foreign language for me, as good media to socialize; real life is enough for me.

  • Razib Khan

    #38, you’re a NERD!!!

  • Onur

    you’re a NERD!!!

    LOL! Now the topic of the thread has switched from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to guessing my personality. Who else wants to guess my personality?

  • Razib Khan

    #40, since you are an aspie nerd you don’t comprehend that it’s more fun to make fun of u than talk about The Conflict Between the Two Most Self-Important Peoples of the World.

  • Onur

    since you are an aspie nerd you don’t comprehend that it’s more fun to make fun of u than talk about The Conflict Between the Two Most Self-Important Peoples of the World.

    Good attempt to provoke me on your part, but I won’t be tricked, no matter how hard you try.

  • Onur

    My views are disturbing for today’s politically correctist masses. That is why they are trying to marginalize me and people with similar views to me by various slurs and name-callings in public. I have been banned from several blogs and discussion groups due to my politically incorrect views, so I know their methods. They try to “tame” people like me with various tricks, and when they realize that they can’t they drop their masks and turn aggressive.

    At first I treated Razib’s name-calling of me as if he was serious and sincere and replied him accordingly in #34 and #38. But he persisted in his name-calling, so I replied him this time more sincerely (#42). I had previously read about Razib’s slur tactics at the majorityrights website, so I am not surprised at how he treated me.

  • Sandgroper

    #43 – You mean, somewhere in the stupid blogiverse, there’s a special place where people compare notes on how they’ve been treated by Razib?

    That’s too funny for words.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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