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Palestinian leader files $110 million lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Bruno’

by Danielle Berrin

December 4, 2009 | 5:58 pm

The leader of the Palestinian nationalist militia al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades has filed a $110 million defamation lawsuit against the makers of “Bruno” (and incidentally, David Letterman) for portraying the group, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, Canada and the European Union, according to Wikipedia, as—wait for it—terrorists.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, who first reported the story but mislabeled the group the “Al Aqsa Bartyrs Brigade,” Palestinian Fatah leader Ayman Abu Aita is filing a libel and slander lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen and NBC Universal over his portrayal in “Bruno.”  Abu Aita is claiming Cohen misrepresented himself as a German filmmaker making a film about the Palestinian cause, and is angry over the film’s alleged portrayal of him as a “terrorist group leader,” writes THR.

David Letterman is getting caught in the crossfire as CBS will be named a defendant in the suit, since Letterman’s “The Late Show” featured the disputed scene during an interview with Cohen last July.

But Abu Aita is wading in rocky waters. He wants to be seen solely as a Palestinian political leader while disavowing his ties to the terrorist arm that is as close to the Palestinian state militia as there is.

Cohen told Letterman that Abu Aita was the leader of a “nasty group, the al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades the kind of number one suicide bombers out there.” He also claimed that he met Abu Aita in a secret location near the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in South Lebanon and that both parties had bodyguards.

Accordingly to the far left Marxist blog BermudaRadical, the account furnished by Cohen is “a complete lie” and, at least according to the writers, “Ayman Abu Aita is a well-known, respected activist in the West Bank who works with a non-profit organization and is affiliated with the ruling party Fatah. He is easy to find, travels freely and…asserts that the interview was held in Bethlehem, in a hotel popular among tourists… that there were no bodyguards, just Cohen, himself, a Palestinian journalist and a small camera crew.”

However, even Abu Aita’s Web supporters allow that, “In Palestine, every major political party has a corresponding military wing. Because the nation has been forged under conditions of violent occupation, no political party can be relevant without participating in the anti-colonial resistance. Al-Aqsa is the military wing of Fatah and has long been a major force in the Palestinian liberation struggle.”

That’s not exactly denying Abu Aita’s leadership in the group. And by the way, a group whose stated mission is to end Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through violent resistance. According the the Council on Foreign Relations, “[T]he group initially vowed to target only Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, [but] in early 2002 it joined Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in a spree of terrorist attacks against civilians in Israeli cities.”

Abu Aita is filing this lawsuit in the federal court in the District of Columbia, perhaps aware of the fact that it would never stand up in a town full of Hollywood Jews. But I do wish him luck proving his case to a court that has already declared his territory’s government militia to be a terrorist organization.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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