March 1, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 190

The Arab Answer to 'Schindler's List'

March 1, 2001
Syria, Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 190

In 1983 the Syrian Minister of Defense, Field Marshal Mustafa Tlass, one of the pillars of the Syrian Ba'athist regime, wrote the book The Matzah of Zion in which he described the notorious Damascus Blood Libel of 1840. In that year, the leaders of the Jewish community in Damascus were accused of murdering a Christian priest, Toma [Al-Kabushi], and his servant, in order to use their blood in the baking of Passover Matzahs. Minister Tlass presented this accusation as a historical fact and even declared, in an interview with the German news magazine Der Spiegel, that his book is "an historical study... based on documents from France, Vienna and the American University in Beirut."[1]

Then US Secretary of State, George Schultz, instructed the American ambassador in Damascus to meet with Minister Tlass and to protest the publication of the book, but Tlass refused to meet with the American ambassador, claiming that he had "nothing to say to him."[2]

"Matzah of Zion" - the Movie

Eighteen years after the publication of the book, the Egyptian weekly Roz Al-Yussuf [3] reports that Egyptian producer, Munir Radhi is making a film adaptation of the book. He contacted the Syrian Minister of Defense to ask his permission. According to Roz Al-Yussuf Minister Tlass asked Radhi: "Aren't you afraid of what might happen to you... because the book openly accuses the Zionist movement of being behind the assassinations of people who exposed the Zionist conspiracy right from the start." Radhi responded that he was not afraid, and the project got on its way.

The script was written by Al-Sayyed Sa'id and by Palestinian writer, Hassan Sami Yussuf. Roz Al-Yussuf reported that the famous Egyptian actor, Omar Al-Sharif, best known for his role in Dr. Zhivago is a candidate for the lead role, and that two other Egyptian actors will appear in the film.

Minister Tlass and the producer signed a contract in which the Syrian Minister will receive 5% of the film's profits. Tlass committed to donating his earnings to the Palestinian Intifada.

The Goal: An Answer to Schindler's List

It has not yet been decided whether the film will have the same title as the book on which it is based, "The Matzah of Zion," or whether it will be changed to "Harari's List," after the name of the head of the Jewish community in Damascus who was accused of murdering Father Toma to use his blood for baking Matzahs.

The producer, Munir Radhi, explains that the primary goal of the film is "to respond to all of the Zionist films distributed by the American film industry, which is backed by the Zionist propaganda apparatus. Among these films is 'Schindler's List' which supports the idea of the Jews' right to the land of Palestine." Schindler's list, he explains, "contained the names of Jews who Schindler saved from the Nazis in order to send them to Palestine." Therefore, "'The Matzah of Zion' will deal with 'David Harari's List' which was prepared in 1840 in order to slaughter a group of people who early on exposed the Zionist conspiracy to take over Palestine."

The plot of "The Matzah of Zion," Roz Al-Yussuf continues, takes place in Damascus in 1840, and describes "Damascus' markets, demographic composition, and its dominant atmosphere of religious and ethnic tolerance." The plot is based on "the true story" of the murder of the priest Toma "who is portrayed in the film as an amiable character, who loved life and took part in the holidays and celebrations of the people of Damascus and solved their everyday problems."

According to the producer, although the film focuses "dramatically" on the crime against Father Toma, "the script will expose much more horrible things than this loathsome crime. The connection between Western colonialism and the Zionist movement, and the way in which the Jews were used in colonialist conspiracies," explains the producer, "will be exposed through documents found by the movie's heroes while they are investigating the murder of Father Toma."

[1] Der Spiegel (Germany), September 23, 1986.

[2] Der Spiegel (Germany), September 23, 1986.

[3] Roz Al-Yussuf (Egypt), February 24, 2001.

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