Sacha Baron Cohen exploits Americans' fetishization of Israel

'Who is America' shows how little some of Israel's biggest supporters know about the Jewish state

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July 23, 2018 15:00
4 minute read.
Sacha Baron Cohen in his new Showtime series Who is America

Sacha Baron Cohen in his new Showtime series Who is America. (photo credit: SHOWTIME)

 
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Would you listen to all the instructions of a purported Mossad agent? What if the “Mossad agent” was wearing a T-shirt where the Hebrew was printed backwards – and he told you the agency’s motto is “if you want to win, show some skin”?
And, I should add, you’re an American politician. The answer – at least for a disturbing number of elected or former US officials – appears to be yes.

The second episode of Sacha Baron Cohen’s buzzed-about Showtime series Who is America returned Sunday evening, and it was no surprise to see the return of the character “Erran Morad.”

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After duping a slate of elected and former officials in the first episode, this time “Morad” spent time with not just the already-ridiculed Georgia State Rep. Jason Spencer, but also former vice president Dick Cheney.

Morad, the tough-talking IDF colonel and/or Mossad agent, depending on his apparent mood, somehow convinced Spencer to bare his ass and scream the n-word; Cheney to sign a “waterboarding kit” and at least two current GOP congressmen to advocate arming toddlers.

But these clips reveal much more about many Americans’ deep misunderstanding of Israel than they do anything about the Jewish state.

Take the first episode, in which Morad convinced at least six adult men to read from a teleprompter endorsing the training of three and four-year-olds to handle and shoot weapons in schools.

Would the idea of “Kinderguardians,” as he called it, pass muster in Israel? The answer to any Israeli – and just about anyone with common sense – is abundantly clear: Of course not.

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And while practically no Israeli would ever endorse bringing firearms near children, American representatives have repeatedly shown – and continue to show – a fundamental misunderstanding of Israeli gun laws. Israeli gun permit applications are carefully and tightly reviewed, and practically never granted to those who did not serve in the IDF. While multiple US companies sell “children’s rifles” aimed at minors, such a concept would cause a shocked uproar in Israel.

Many of those who appeared in the “Kinderguardians” promo were reportedly lured to an event honoring them for their pro-Israel stances. But it’s clear they have little to no understanding of the Jewish state – or its strict gun laws.

Spencer, the state representative humiliated on the second episode, was already an easy target for Cohen. The outspoken lawmaker has drawn attention in the past for attempting to ban burkas in his state, and for threatening a black lawmaker who spoke out about Confederate statues. So should we be surprised he was willing to bare his ass in an attempt to scare ISIS members away from turning gay? Or that he screamed the n-word and mimicked a Chinese tourist in an attempt to take an under-burka shot with a selfie stick?

The fact that Spencer’s antics were none too surprising likely says more about the state of political discourse in 2018 than it does about Israel.

But what of our expectations of Cheney? The former vice president – who also served as secretary of defense for four years – visited Israel twice, in 2002 and 2008. Cheney also hosted top ranking Israeli officials in the White House on multiple occasions.
But the former vice president didn’t seem to blink an eye when he was asked “How does it feel to be the king of terrorist killers?” or to name the favorite war he started (the answer: Desert Storm).

Should we expect Cheney to realize that the man referring to himself as an IDF colonel is wearing the insignia of a staff-sergeant? One would think that an interviewer claiming “my neighbor in Tel Aviv is in jail for murder, or, as we call it, enhanced tickling” would raise a red flag for the former vice president.

But, in the video aired on Showtime on Sunday evening, Cheney appears fairly comfortable with all the questions thrown at him, and merely chuckles when Morad tells him he had to once waterboard his wife to check for infidelity.

To close out the interview, Cheney gamely signs Morad’s “waterboarding kit,” which he proclaims already has the signatures of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and Demi Lovato.

While I can’t speak for Lovato, I can tell you that the chances either Netanyahu or Sharon (who died four years ago after being in a coma for eight years, something Cheney should undoubtedly know) would sign such a thing are basically zero.
As just about every Israeli knows, if someone tells you they were in the Mossad, chances are they were not in the Mossad.
But that’s a lesson that too many American officials – blinded by the need to endorse purported Israeli machismo – seem to have never learned.

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