Sacha Baron Cohen is loose in the middle east

The Forward reports:

We were then kept waiting for an hour, a delay for which we were given a variety of production-related excuses. The interviewer disappeared. We had other engagements and were beginning to study our watches and complain. By the time the interview began, we were preoccupied with our scheduling problems. We were told that, considering the nature of our audience, the questions would focus on the most basic issues.

And they were, indeed, basic, relating to our expectations for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Then one of us mentioned Hamas, and the exchange that ensued went something like this:

“Vait, vait. Vat’s zee connection between a political movement and food. Vy hummus?”

We exchanged astonished glances. “Hamas,” we explained, “is a Palestinian Islamist political movement. Hummus is a food.”

“Ya, but vy hummus? Yesterday I had to throw away my pita bread because it vas dripping hummus. Unt it’s too high in carbohydrates.”

The Hamas-hummus confusion went on for several minutes. Then, the interviewer declared: “Your conflict is not so bad. Jennifer-Angelina is worse.”

We probed our limited memory of Hollywood scandals: Was he comparing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to some sort of tension between Brad Pitt’s former and current wives?

Now, I’ll admit that I’m not comfortable with the misrepresentations suggested in the article (although really, how else would he be able to get anyone to consent to this sort of chicanery?) but I have to admit, I might find that kind of funny in spite of myself.

And I understand the discomfort involved in anyone making any kind of joke about the intifada, and why many probably wouldn’t find it funny, but making really uncomfortable jokes is inherent to the Jewish tradition – none of the jokes, for example, about the Nazis in the 1930s were “ha-ha funny”, to quote Ralph Wiggum, but existed to make a very bitter pill to swallow at least a fraction more palatable or tolerable. And certainly, there are elements of this that are potentially or almost definitely exploitation, but in the most hopeless of situations what else can be done?

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