International Middle East Media Center
Former political prisoner and Christian peace activist from Beit Sahour, Ayman Abu Aita, has threatened to file a lawsuit against filmmaker Sacha Baron Cohen for misrepresenting him as a 'terrorist' in his new comedy film 'Bruno'.
Cohen is not immune to such controversy -- his last movie 'Borat' raised the ire of the government of Kazakhstan, when he represented the Kazakh culture as racist, anti-Jewish, sexualized and barbaric.
Abu Aita, now a grocery store owner, was imprisoned by Israel for a number of years on what he says were trumped-up charges of inciting violence. In prison, he was often isolated and beaten by the guards for organizing hunger strikes among the prisoners to lobby for better conditions.
Israel holds over 7,000 Palestinians in prison camps, and while it claims that most of them are there for 'terror'-related charges, those charges are often minor infractions like throwing stones or crossing a security barrier from one Palestinian village to another.
Sacha Baron Cohen has built his career as an 'actor' by impersonating stereotyped caricatures and setting up interviews and other engagements with people and groups who are made to believe that the caricature played by Cohen is a real person.
Cohen appeared on the Davide Letterman show last week and made a number of characterizations of Abu Aita that the Palestinian claims were untrue and libelous - such as the statement by Cohen that he believed Abu Aita 'carried a gun' to their interview, and calling him a 'real terrorist'.
Local residents of Beit Sahour who know Abu Aita laughed off such characterizations as absurd, saying that Abu Aita is a peaceful and respected member of the community who has never engaged in any wrongdoing. He is known as an advocate of non-violence and a Christian.
Abu Aita says he will seek monetary damages in the lawsuit he is filing against Cohen.