A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

history repeating itself, as tragedy and as farce

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 12, 2007

My friend R sent me this link with the very kind subject line “I’m sure you already know this”. I did not – and passed a gripping 9 minutes watching this video when I ought to have been editing a piece on electricity in the Mandate-era Levant.

The video is called “Planet of the Arabs”, and it is an assemblage of film clips, most from the late 1970s to mid 1990s, of or about Arabs. Unsurprisingly, the Arabs portrayed are violent, dark, speak with terrible accents, eat bad food, and lust after Western women. They carry guns and talk about Palestine, hating Jews, and dying for Allah.

The subject of this film is not new – Elia Suleiman did a brilliant, longer version more than fifteen years ago, Introduction to the end of an Argument (muqqadima li nihaya jidal). If you can find it, I suggest watching it after Planet of the Arabs – the cinematography and the argument are sophisticated and deeply compelling.

My favorite moment in Planet comes during a break in the film clips, when a (I presume faux) movie review blurb passes across the screen, saying “”Planet of the Arabs is even more racist than the New York Post” – New York Post“. I wonder what the Post thought of that – or whether the film even registered on its cultural radar.

Planet‘s creators describe it as based upon – or perhaps created in homage to – Jack Shaheen’s Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, a groundbreaking characterization of Arab depictions in American film published, felicitously, in 2001.

And since I have no connection to Hollywood I will end by mentioning the one small tie I (might) have to the world of Arabs’ American film critiques. Decades before Jack Shaheen began writing about Arabs in the media, I believe he knew my aunt and uncle when they all worked in Amman, Jordan.

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4 Responses to “history repeating itself, as tragedy and as farce”

  1. but that’s just normal, that person who did the video didn’t make a new point to the western society, I say waste of money and creativity if that movie was well done.

  2. a7layn spontaneousnessity – thank you for visiting my site (and thanks to my aunt for providing the link :-)!).

    I see you and I spent the summer in the same place :-). poor you with that syrian bus – honestly the country is exponentially better than its sh3abi transport suggests.

    you are quite right that the film’s point is obvious … to us. However, I can see every non-Arabic-studies friend I know – all well-educated, well-traveled professionals and careful thinkers – watching this with widened eyes. My objection to the film is that it is too heavy-handed to reach the audience who could most benefit from it – they will be turned off by its pedantry and unreceptive to its message, making the whole exercise all the more pointless.

  3. Intlxpatr said

    What I loved about Jack Shaheen was that he could live and breathe this terribly discouraging and depressing subject – the Arab image – and still remain an optimistic, delightful, very funny and engaging man. I’m glad his life work finally got published.

    Loved the draft post, Little Diamond.

  4. tee hee hee ya khalti – I only wish that I had been the one to write such a brilliant piece.

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