Not since Sacha Baron Cohen duped Israeli Yossi Alpher and Palestinian Ghassam Khalib, into confusing Hamas with hummus has a Jewish comedian had as much fun by taking on the great divide in Middle East affairs.
Now Larry David ridicules the Mid East conundrum and the gulf between Palestinians and Jews with his “Palestinian Chicken” episode that aired this past week on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Cohen and David are part of an illustrious people (Jews) who have been able to point the finger at themselves and mock themselves, all while making the world laugh. From Mel Brooks’ number in The Producers, “Springtime for Hitler” to Sacha Baron Cohen singing, “Throw The Jew Down The Well,” Jews have an ability to mock their haters by pretending to be them.
Right at home, Larry David enters this fray by allegorically poking fun at the recent dispute in Lower Manhattan over a Mosque being built near the site of Ground Zero. When actual news of it being housed near the location where Muslim extremists flew planes into the Twin Towers, groups quickly banded together in protest and a firestorm took over the airwaves.
David has his Palestinian chicken restaurant, “named Al-Abbas” (sounds like Mahmoud Abbas) with chicken that’s so good LD says, “You know what? They should send this chicken over to Israel. Yeah, for the peace process. They''d take down all those settlements in the morning." I suppose he means Jews would lay down their weapons in exchange for a pulke!
Indeed in the episode, it’s so yummy the owners of Al-Abbas plan to open a second restaurant, this time next to a Jewish deli. Well, that’s just too bold a maneuver and sets off all of Larry’s entourage of Jewish friends to participate in a protest planned outside the new eatery.
But of course, it wouldn’t be Curb Your Enthusiasm or HBO without working in an “As The Bagel Turns,” sexual theme. While at Al-Abbas, Larry finds a Palestinian woman there very attractive and even says to his friend and agent Jeff, "You''re always attracted to someone who doesn''t want you, right? Well, here you have someone who not only doesn''t want you, but doesn''t even acknowledge your right to exist.... That''s a turn-on.”
After a roll in the sack with her and to the astonishment of his friend, re-born Jew Marty Funkhouser, we find Larry in the end, haplessly walking down the middle of an alley between the supporters of the new restaurant and the sensual Palestinian woman (offering herself to him on one side), and his Jewish friends shouting epithets at the Arabs, but enticing him to their side on the other.
Like Woody Allen before him, Larry David has become the face of the Jews. He has become the epitome of what Ruth Wisse called, “The Shlemiel as Modern Hero.”