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If Variety Covered the Middle East

A review of this summer's miniseries, Mid-East Civil Wars.

LEBANON, PA SUMMER SERIES STRUGGLE
Israel the Missing Piece?

No one can forget how last year's "Lebanon War" dominated the summer ratings. Everywhere you went, the news seemed obsessed with coverage. So it was no surprise when both Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority decided to green light two new projects for production this summer. Like last year's Lebanon War, the two projects are unscripted reality shows involving shelling and shooting with murky moral questions and no clear strategy. But despite increasing certain controversial elements -- such as Lebanon's indiscriminate bombing of civilians to get at Al Qeda cells -- the two "Summer Civil War Series" have garned little attention in the press and not much critical buzz.

"It's sad," said Hakim Killemall, a producer for the popular al-Qeda franchise. "The Lebanese and the Palestinians are really trying. But no one seems to care. It's a sorry day when this Paris Hilton slut (may Shaitan take her!) gets more press than a government bombing its own people. But that's the West for you."

Israel: The Missing Ingredient?

Predictably perhaps, both Palestinians and Lebanese blame Israel for the failure of this summer's Civil War series.

"If Israel would just get in the game, we'd have press crawling around like flies on day old hummous," said a confidential Hamas source. "Neither Europeans nor Americans care about Arabs shooting Arabs. It's a classic 'dog bites man' and nobody knows who to root for. U.S. and european audiences hate that 'moral ambiguity' crap. They want easy to identify heroes and villans."

BBC Mideast Critic and NILF Lisa Wasp agreed that Israel's lack of involvement makes the series difficult to sell:
"Westerners can identify with Israelis and project their own feelings on them. If you have a 2000 year history of hating Jews and still feel guilty about your own history of colonialism [like the Europeans], you know you hate Israel and root for the Wogs. If you think Muslims are evil pagans and want to see more white guys running the world [like the Americans], then you root for Israel to smash the Wogs. But it's not like Europeans or Americans actually care about the wogs themselves." (Wogs is a respectful European term for indigenous people, similar to "nappy headed ho" in the U.S. as a term of endearment for women's basketball players.)

A Fox News NILF speaking on condition of anonimity agreed. "Love 'em or hate 'em, Israel is a huge draw. It's like celebrity coverage, but high-brow. How many people in this country get killed by DUI's [driving under the influence]? I don't know either and I don't care, because who gives a #$@! about those people? But if it's Paris Hilton, or Mel Gibson, or some other high-rpofile celeb, then suddenly DUI is news. Israel is the Lindsy Lohan of foreign policy. Everyone wants to watch, the question is just do you hate her or do you want to be her?"

The lackluster ratings and lack of news coverage of this summer's Civil War series seem to bear these experts out. Last summer, when "Lebanon War" ran, every news outlet in Europe wanted Israel strung up for some war crime or other while most U.S. coverage applauded Israel for getting tough on terrorists and pushed the U.S. government to pressure Syria. But this summer, despite shoot outs in hospitals in Gaza and massive bombings of civilian homes in Lebanon, the press and the public remain uninterested.

Other Projects

Both Hamas and Hezbollah, the creative team behind last year's Lebanon War, still hope to get Israel engaged. Hamas has pretty much puled out the stops in its shelling of Israeli civilians, hoping that they can repeat the magic that got Israel to rush into last year's summer reality show smash. But, so far, Israel remains uninterested in a repeat engagement.

"Frankly, we were not very happy with the way Lebanon War worked out," said an Israeli spokesman for Ehud OutofOfficeSoon. "It started well, but we just felt it dragged on endlessly after the creaive team ran out of ideas. We've decided to focus on in-house projects this summer so we can maintain creative control. OutofOfficeSoon did leave open the possibility of future projects involving either Lebanon or Hamas, provided the parties can come to terms. In the meantime, tho, OutofOfficeSoon pointed to a number of ongoing domestic projects -- midterm labor elections, constitutional reform, econmic issues -- that were occupying his and Israel's broader attention.

"I really couldn't handle a new project like 'Lebanon War' right now," OutofOfficeSoon said.

But the dish around town is that the Israeli government feels burned over last summer. "We were told this time would be different," fumed one source. "This time we would get to play the hero and none of this 'war crimes' crap. But after the first week, despite Hezbollah invading our border and kidnapping our troops, it was all 'restraint' and 'innocent civilians' and blah blah. Who needs that crap? We got other projects." Other sources point to the fact that the sides still can't agree on either revenue sharing or release of staff from 'other projects' in Israeli jails or somewhere in Syria. When asked if the failure to return prisoners had influence his decision to sit this summer on the sidelines, Ehud OutofOfficeSoon simply said "my lawyers advise me not to talk about ongoing negotiations. It's all NDAed." NDA stands for "non-disclosure agreement."

What Next?

With Israel on the sidelines for now, it's unclear what either Hamas or Hezbollah can do to draw attention for their summer projects. Creative teams claim to have a major mid-summer surprise in store, but most industry experts think that's unlikely.

"Really, all they have is escalation, and no one cares about that." Said one source. "You could blow up every nursery school in Gaza and Jericho and -- unless Israel were somehow involved -- no one would give damn. Look waht Russia's been doing in Chechnya. look at just about the entire African continent for God's sake! Does anyone care? Hell no. Unless these guys get Israel back in the game, they can slaghter themselves by the thousands and Europe and the U.S. will just yawn."

Another expert, however, was more optomistic.

"Somehow, it'll be Israel's fault." He said. "Once the Europeans figure out how to blame Israel, it won't matter if Israel is actually involved or not. If there's one thing Hamas and Hezbollah can count on, it's support from the Beeb [the BBC]."
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