By Lee Saunders
Last Updated 11/25/2015 at 11:20 AM
Gaza City: TV ratings when through the roof this Saturday, literally, as Simon Cowell made his much-anticipated debut as a judge on ‘Hamas Got Talent.’ More than 20 million tuned in across the Arab world, averting their eyes when Cowell entered stage right, wearing his extremely high-waisted and tight trousers, accompanied by a scantily clad Nicole Sherzinger, from the Pussycat Dolls.
There was much outrage in Israel last month when the multi-billion dollar franchise was extended to the Gaza Strip and auditions began in a UN school to find the next superstar from the tiny, long-suffering enclave.
“It is absolutely appalling how the Palestinians have applied to be part of this worldwide showbiz extravaganza,” cried Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu. “Watching teenagers juggle grenades live on stage in a high school is only going to end in tears. And, frankly, we could do without the blame. I’d rather see them in the United Nations,” he added.
A nervous looking Cowell, who was born to a Jewish father, was treated to a line up of Abu Mazen ventriloquists, a somersaulting Hitler Youth urban dance act, a magician who stormed a tunnel with explosives, grenades and an AK-47, only to come out the other side, smiling and disembowelled, next to 72 glamorous virgins. Even Nicole Sherzinger clapped. Mahmood El Mahmood, a sweet boy with a stutter came out and blew the audience away, well after his father had, with his version of Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man.’ Cowell pressed the golden buzzer, Mahmood went through to the finals in Ramallah and the roof exploded.
But the real drama was reserved for Fatima Al Boom Shak-a-Lak, whose father disowned her when she dropped out of bomb-making and swastika classes to take up singing in her bedroom. Dressed in a sultry ankle-length black number, and a balaclava, she dedicated her mash-up of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’ and Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ to him but her ashamed father chopped his own head off in the gents toilets during the commercial break.
Al Jazeera, which broadcast the show, called the show a hit, as did the BBC, which led with the headline “Palestinians sing and dance through their pain after Israeli rocket targets TV studio. The next episode airs Sunday at 9pm Israel time, 2pm Central.