“Sam Bacile” — unmasked?

Egyptian protesters in Cairo, courtesy al-Ahram. I’m still trying to find a picture of the man they’re protesting against.

For the past two days, violent protests have been raging outside US embassies in Libya, Egypt, and most recently, Yemen. The alleged reason for the violence? An ugly, amateurish anti-Islamic propaganda film (in which the actors, to their disgust, participated without knowledge of what it was really about). The film’s producer gave his name as “Sam Bacile”, a pseudonym. It was said that he was an Israeli developer, and that he had raised the film’s production costs — some $5 million US — from a group of 100 Jewish sympathizers.

But the story didn’t add up. For one thing, the film is downright ham-fisted — poorly dubbed dialogue is just the most obvious of its shortcomings. Israeli hasbara is usually a lot more slickly packaged. Recall Omer Gershon, the Israeli actor who claimed to have “uncovered” some latent homophobia in the Gaza freedom flotilla, posing as “Marc”, a concerned gay guy who’d tried to get in and been rejected because of his sexual orientation. His “homemade” YouTube video showed an awful lot of slick production values — the thumbprint of Israeli government financing. (The Israeli Government Press Office even made sure his video went viral.) That was not in evidence here.

And “Bacile”, according to those who saw him on the set, didn’t speak Hebrew, he spoke Arabic. And apparently with an Egyptian accent. In other words, he was not an Israeli, and probably not even a Jew.

And now, it appears, he has been found, although he’s still denying it was him:

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, told The Associated Press in an interview outside Los Angeles that he helped with logistics for the filming of “Innocence of Muslims,” which mocked Muslims and the prophet Muhammad and may have caused inflamed mobs that attacked U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya. He provided the first details about a shadowy production group behind the film.

Nakoula denied he directed the film and said he knew the self-described filmmaker, Sam Bacile. But the cell phone number that AP contacted Tuesday to reach the filmmaker who identified himself as Sam Bacile traced to the same address near Los Angeles where AP found Nakoula. Federal court papers said Nakoula’s aliases included Nicola Bacily, Erwin Salameh and others.

Nakoula told the AP that he was a Coptic Christian and said the film’s director supported the concerns of Christian Copts about their treatment by Muslims.

Nakoula denied he had posed as Bacile. During a conversation outside his home, he offered his driver’s license to show his identity but kept his thumb over his middle name, Basseley. Records checks by the AP subsequently found it and other connections to the Bacile persona.

Bacile…Bacily…Basseley. A whole slew of aliases…strange for a guy “only involved in logistics”! And he went to the trouble of hiding that middle name. If it’s NOT him, I’ll eat my entire collection of hats.

What’s really shameful about all this is that the protests began in Cairo, where the Arab Spring also kicked off two years ago. And in Tahrir Square, the Coptic Christians shielded the Muslim protesters while they prayed; the Muslims returned the favor, forming human shields around Coptic churches so the Egyptian Christians wouldn’t be dragged away by Mubarak’s security forces while they were at their most vulnerable. That a Copt would try to stir up anti-Muslim feeling after all that is beyond disgusting; it is VILE. And it is a betrayal of the Egyptian Revolution. The religious fanatics who have made hay from this ugly propaganda film deserve the harshest of justice.

And while I wouldn’t put it past the Israeli government to try to destabilize all the surrounding Arab and North African régimes that recently underwent revolutions for the sake of their own “safety” (under the assumption that if they’re too busy fighting amongst themselves, the Arab League will not unite on the matter of Gaza), this is also a cynical move to exploit antisemitism, as the “hundred Jews” rumor makes clear. Also vile and disgusting, considering how many Jews in and outside of Israel support freedom, justice and human rights for Palestinians, as well as those in the Arab Spring. To keep them from uniting with Arabs (Christian and Muslim both) on this matter is also sickening.

Of course, it’s not hard to see why someone would try to stop all this unity and co-operation in its tracks. Progressive forces, led by the common people, are a threat to big business and tyrannical régimes alike. And those who would do big business by allying themselves to tyrants in the Middle East are only too happy to profit off the instabilities over there. Just look at the suddenly astronomical price of gasoline lately, and it will tell you all you need to know.

“Sam Bacile”, whoever he may turn out to be, is just one dirty chunk off a very large iceberg.

ETA, 4:30 pm: It’s now confirmed. Nakoula IS “Bacile”.

Also, here’s the funniest thing from my Facebook feed today:

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