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David Steinberg

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September 12, 2012 - 6:41 pm

UPDATE: After having suspicions regarding the “Copt” problem, I contacted Richard Landes: Boston University prof, Augean Stables proprietor, and the best source around on “Pallywood” — he invented the term, and did excellent work on the Mohammed al-Dura film.

Here’s his take on Innocence of Muslims, and my “impersonating a Copt” (forgive me) suspicions:

First of all, the footage is comical, like so much Pallywood footage. Just so obviously terrible that no self-respecting person would produce it — and certainly not for $5 million. It’s obviously intended to incite. It’s bathroom humor.

Second, the package is certainly a “lethal narrative“: namely, something aimed at accusing Israel/Jews of deliberately doing things that will harm non-Jews (in this case, to the Muslims whose feelings will be offended and to the U.S., whose ambassadors/representatives will be killed). In this sense, it is like Gaza Beach and the Ghalia family: real events (deaths from bombings, movies that provoke) turned against Israel and the Jews by a narrative that turns out to be false.

Third, the media jumped all over it without even checking to see if Bacile is registered as a real-estate agent, much less an Israeli (Bacile? Never heard this name, certainly not for a Jew), much less a real person.

The media’s eagerness to tell stories about Israelis/Jews behaving badly is as intense now as it was 12 years ago, and as with al Dura, this thirst for lethal narratives has dire consequences for everyone. They can’t resist stories of moral schadenfreude about the Jews. They’re killing their reputations, but it tastes too good to stop.

As this story progresses, that “Sam Bacile” was intended to be a Jew will be the pivotal element. Be just as sure that as soon as this becomes clear, the media will either lose interest, or become terribly interested in what specific offenses the Israelis committed to anger poor Nakoula.

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Despite this report by the AP that rather definitively zeroes in on Nakoula Basseley Nakoula as the creator of Innocence of Muslims, the question of motive has not yet been reasonably addressed. The article includes this:

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.

The article further reveals that Nakoula was convicted in 2010 of bank fraud:

Nakoula, who talked guardedly about his role, pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was also sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered not to use computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.

He has also employed various identities:

Nakoula denied he directed the film and said he knew the self-described filmmaker, Sam Bacile. But the cellphone 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.

The AP presents a portrait of a career criminal, one who additionally had an ethical blind spot large enough to lead some 80 actors and crew to believe they were involved in a generic dramatic film to avoid revealing its blasphemous-to-Islam intentions.

So — all we currently possess as evidence that Nakoula is a Copt: the doggedly dishonest Nakoula has proclaimed himself to be a Copt.

Prior to which, he proclaimed himself to be a Jew.

His Copt-ness is also the only point given that would possibly define a motive — he supposedly wanted to draw attention to the vileness of Muhammad’s life as recorded in the Koran … to draw support for Copts, which strikes me as unreasonable, bizarre behavior. An Egyptian Copt would certainly know that the actual effect of blaspheming Muhammad is murderous rage towards the perpetrators — Danish cartoons, etc. — and deliberately referring to himself as a Jew, and a rich one at that?

Then, of course, we have an issue with timing. The film was only promoted online in the days leading up to 9/11 by “Sam Bacile” — why would the Copts cause benefit from such timing?

Don’t accept that Nakoula is a Copt until further notice, there is certainly not any evidence for that assertion.

David Steinberg is the New York City Editor of PJ Media. Follow his tweets at @DavidSPJM.
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