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
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
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
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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non-profit research institute that provides translations of the media of the
Middle East and original analysis and research on developments in the region.
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are available on request.