Skin succeeds where diplomacy has failed

Can porn succeed where politics has failed?

An Israeli porn site is proving surprisingly popular with Web surfers in a number of Arab countries, some of which don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Ratuv, Hebrew for “wet,” specializes in producing skinflicks with topical political themes, typically featuring scenes involving female soldiers, Mossad agents and members of the military.

After installing software that could detect where users are logging on, managers of the site found they were receiving thousands of hits a week from folks in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, even though the Israeli net domain .il is blocked from some of these countries.

“We were amazed to find a huge amount of our users from these countries,” says Nir Shahar, who manages the site. “We cannot accept money from many of these countries, so they can’t download the films. They can only look at the pictures.”

To make up for the lack of local download access in those countries, Shahar decided to translate the entire site into Arabic, with detailed descriptions of each scene and plenty more pics. Traffic went up tenfold, with the site receiving up to 100,000 hits a week from Arab auds.

The most popular movie on the site is “Code Name: Deep Investigation,” an X-rated parody of the arrest of dissident Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu, who spilled the beans on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. He was eventually caught by Mossad agents, who sent a beautiful female agent to trap him.

“Arab people usually see female Israeli soldiers in a bad situation, so there’s a lot of curiosity to see what Israeli girls look like without any uniforms,” says Shahar. “We don’t make regular porn films. Our films parody the situation in Israel, so we look at issues like the elections here and Mossad. There is a lot of relevance to the Arab-Israeli situation.”

Given that Israeli law precludes Shahar from accepting credit card payment from some Arab countries, he plans to set up a site registered in either Europe or the U.S.

“We are also interested in making films with Arabs and Israelis in them,” Shahar says. “It’s something we can do to speak about the connection between the two people, but its not going to be easy.”

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