שנה טובה לחיילי צה"ל. עם ישראל אוהב אתכם! pic.twitter.com/XwgjQ6FmA1— אביגדור ליברמן (@AvigdorLiberman) September 4, 2018
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s show “Who Is America?” has taken the world by storm for tricking American politicians and celebrities into voicing their most outlandish aspirations. The Showtime series has become so popular that the Israeli defense minister did a parody of it —one that was sexist, misogynistic and abusive.
The spoof was based on a couple of Baron Cohen’s segments in which he disguised himself as a fictitious Israeli counter-terrorism specialist, Col. Erran Morad. The character appeared in episodes featuring the disgraced former Alabama judge, Roy Moore and Georgia state Rep. Jason Spencer.
During the Moore episode, Baron Cohen waved a fabricated Israeli technology that can accurately identify sex offenders, over Moore, causing it to beep, implying Moore is a sex offender.
During the Spencer episode, the Republican thought he was shooting an anti-terrorism training video meant to teach elected officials how to protect themselves from such threats. However, the segment soon devolved into Spenser yelling racial and homophobic slurs, stabbing at imaginary terrorists and holding up a shield to keep away gays. In an earlier segment, Baron Cohen also instructed the conservative politician to act like a Chinese tourist in order to peek up a Muslim woman’s burqa to detect bomb.
The “Who Is America?” skits purported to show the bigotry and the sorry state of American lawmakers. However, Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman turned it into a joke.
In the Israeli defense minister’s parody skit, the role of Erran Morad was played by real-life counterterrorism expert Matan Gavish, whose square-jawed face bears a striking resemblance to Baron Cohen’s character. The video starts with Gavish showing Lieberman some “techniques to fight terrorism” that also appear in “Who Is America?” in Rep. Spencer’s segment.
Gavish later also showed Lieberman what seems like a regular metal detector — similar to the “pedophile detector” in Moore’s Baron Cohen used on Moore — and said the machine can detect “terroristim.” He then taught Lieberman how to use a selfie stick to take under-skirt pictures of a burka-clad woman, “to identify terrorism under a burqa.”
The video finished when Lieberman faced the camera and told the viewer in Hebrew, “Who needs this silliness? We have the Israel Defense Forces, the best soldiers in the world. Happy New Year to all the soldiers and the people of Israel.”
Activists have condemned the video, claiming it promotes sexual harassment of a suppressed minority in Israel.
“Defense Minister Lieberman’s decision to show an act of sexual humiliation of Muslim women as a New Year’s greeting is perverse and distorted,” said Orit Sulitzeanu, executive director of The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. “Lieberman presents the humiliation and degradation that women suffer during security checks as something funny. Photographing under a dress is a criminal offense, but this video encourages sexual harassment and turns it into a joke.”
She also demanded the defense minister issue an apology and immediately remove the video.
“This is another old man who doesn’t understand the new reality he is in,” Bracha Barad, executive director of the feminist organization Kulan said. “There is a big difference between a comedian presenting a program in a funny way, and a minister who is responsible for the security of the citizens of Israel.”
Zionist Union lawmakers Merav Michaeli and Ksenia Svetlova and member of the Knesset for Meretz Michal Rozin have also called on Lieberman to take down the video. Michaeli also pointed out how the burqa segment was not remotely funny considering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former aide Natan Eshel, was accused of taking under-skirt pictures of a female colleague.
“One may wonder whether Lieberman would take a photo under the skirt of a religious Jewish woman. Mr. Lieberman, all women wear skirts, and it’s forbidden to take a picture under a woman’s skirt, no matter the length of the skirt, or the religion of the woman,” she said.
Lieberman has not removed the video as of yet. Instead of apologizing for the insensitive skit, he responded to critics by saying, “This is a humorous video for the New Year and should be treated as such.”
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Amir Cohen