Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cultural Watch: Great Moments in Syrian Cinema; Qadhafi Meets the Real Cuckoo Clock

 By Barry Rubin

A MEMRI story arrives on the new government-controlled Syrian television series—also on Iranian and Hizballah television—showing how Jews plot world conquest while snacking on murdered children.

Although the MEMRI story doesn’t reveal the surprise ending of the new Syrian television series, my sources tell me that it’s this: The Zionists plan the atomic bomb attacks on Japan in 1945 as part of their murderous efforts. That’s not a joke.

In response to my telling him about this, an Arabic-speaking reader notes another Syrian film he once saw. Here’s the plot:

“The eldest son of the family died and everybody was heartbroken. Shortly afterwards the father of the family died and everybody was distraught. For a moment, they were directionless fearing that their enemies may destroy them.

“But then the second son took hold of the reins and everybody was happy again.

“Hmmmmm..... What could that mean............?”

Of course, my correspondent knew precisely how the plot was put together. The Assad family has ruled Syria for almost 40 years. The eldest son (Basil, not Sonny) ran his sports car into a bridge abutment (though in the other film, the rival mob got him at a toll both), the father (dictator Hafiz, not Vito), died.

But then the second son (Bashar, not Michael) came to power.

Or as the song in The Producers, “Springtime for Hitler” put it (slightly modified):

“[Syria] was having trouble
What a sad, sad story
Needed a new leader to restore
Its former glory
Where, oh, where was he?
Where could that man be?
We looked around and then we found
The man for you and me.”

And since then it’s been springtime for Bashar and Syria. But there was a controversy in the film: It was the first Syrian film to show an actual kiss. This set off a big debate. As my correspondent puts it:

“Apparently the local authorities were outraged. Jews drinking children's blood? No problems.

A kissing scene? Scandal! Outrage!”

And he concludes quite accurately: “True story. That's the thing about Syria. Anything you made up wouldn't be as bizarre as what actually goes on.”

Meanwhile, as aspiring Syrian filmmakers plan future productions of “Citizen Bashar,” “How the Golan Was Won,” and “West Beirut Story,” Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi continues to pack in the audiences with his Borad impressions.

The Libyan ruler, straight from his success at receiving Britain’s surrender--why should the murder of 270 people in the bombing of an airliner get in the way of an oil deal, that country’s prime minister seemed to say—is now conducting a battle against Switzerland. (Incidentally, anyone see a human rights’ group or trade unions calling for a boycott of Libya or war crimes’ trials for that regime?)

Seems that Qadhafi’s youngest son beat up two servants, an activity frowned on in Switzerland, where he was visiting at the time. Of course, that’s how they behave back home. One former foreign student in Libya told me how he returned to his dorm room early to find his Libyan roommate, leader of the campus secret police apparently, torturing another student.

But here’s the important lesson: Switzerland groveled and apologized. In fact, the Swiss president went to Libya to say how sorry he was for letting his government enforce the country’s laws. Qadhafi, however, reneged on his promise to release two Swiss businessmen being held hostage (obviously, he hasn’t learned about humanitarian releases from the British). There is some indication he will continue his assault on the Swiss.

What is the lesson for world leaders, including President Obama?: Just because you apologize doesn’t mean they still won’t come after you.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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