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Cohen the spy (R) and Cohen as Borat

This sounds outlandish enough to actually work: wild, irrepressible comedian Sacha Baron Cohen will play the lead role of a Netflix limited series titled “The Spy,” about Eli Cohen, an Israeli mole who reached a high-ranking position in Syria’s Defense Ministry in the 1960s, Variety reported Wednesday.

The six-episode series depicts Cohen’s stunning career from 1961 to 1965, when he succeeded in embedding himself into Syrian high society and rose through the ranks to become Chief Adviser to the Minister of Defense. Syrian counter-intelligence eventually captured and convicted Cohen, who was sentenced to death. It is believed that the intelligence he gathered in his five years in Syria contributed to Israel’s stunning success in the 1967 Six Day War. The reach of his spying activity has helped forge the Arab notion of the Mossad superman agent.


Sacha Baron Cohen was born in Israel and is fluent in Hebrew as well as English. In his comedies he often switches to Hebrew as an inexplicable foreign jargon. While attending the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, Baron Cohen performed in Fiddler on the Roof, as well as in Habonim Dror Jewish theatre.

Cohen’s most political work, the satirical mocumentary “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” depicts the Kazakh journalist Borat’s journey across the US in an ice cream truck, obsessed with his dream of marrying Pamela Anderson. The film offers several interviews with unsuspecting Americans—politicians and civilians—who are confronted with the foreign journalist medieval notions of sexism, racism, and anti-Semitism, and are manipulated into agreeing with his “un-Orthodox” opinions.

The 1987 film “The Impossible Spy,” based on the story of Eli Cohen, was produced by Harvey Chertok, directed by Jim Goddard, and starred John Shea, Eli Wallach, and Sasson Gabbai. It won an HBO CableACE Award for Best Picture.