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Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno hits Jerusalem

by michael July 04 2008
Municipal newsNews
bruno70308.jpgNow that he's unmasked what seems like every racist, reactionary, hick and homophobe in the English-speaking world - and plastered his face on billboards from London to LA - British uber-comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, in order to keep his incognito shtick alive, has been forced to take his brigade of comic caricatures to the (alarmingly few) countries where the words "Is niiiiiiice!" never became the irksome refrain of an era. And Israel has not been spared.

Of course, Baron Cohen is no stranger to Israel; the son of an Israeli mother and a Welsh-Jewish father, he spent much time in the country in his youth, including a year on a kibbutz as part of left Zionist youth movement Habonim-Dror's Israel program. His last film, the inescapable Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which centered around the travels of the titular character, a bumbling, anti-Semitic and misogynistic Kazakh reporter, received a wide release here - although with little previous exposure to Baron Cohen's semi-documentary brand of comedy, the thrust of the movie's central joke seemed to go a bit over the local audience's heads. The fact that Baron Cohen's "Kazakh" dialogue was actually Hebrew doubtless added to the confusion.

But with his face still mostly unknown, the Holy Land has become a ripe target for Baron Cohen, and he arrived in the country a few days ago in the guise of flamboyant gay Austrian fashion devotee Bruno, hoping to inject some trenchant political commentary into his new film project, Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt, which continues the trend of confusing pitches with titles. Among Bruno's targets were two Jerusalemite academics, one Jewish and one Palestinian, brought together to explain the Conflict at an unnamed meeting place just outside of Zion Gate:
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."
No word on to what extent he messed with protesters and participants at the recent gay pride parade. Just remember, if you should see that lovely fauxhawk bobbing down the city streets, say hello and tell him Jerusalemite thinks he should swing by Ta'ami - it's the best Hamas in the city.
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