TEL AVIV, Israel - As impersonations go, their attempt to mimic Jean-Claude Van Damme performing a split between two trucks is not that impressive. But that hasn’t stopped a group of Palestinians comedians from trying to highlight the plight of people in the Gaza Strip in a spoof of the viral video.
In the original, the martial arts master says in voice-over that he’s “had his ups and downs … that’s what made me what I am today.” Van Damme praises his body “crafted to perfection” as he does a split between two Volvo trucks driving backwards.
Van Damme's video, entitled The Epic Split, is an ad for Volvo that went viral and garnered over 59 million views on YouTube.
As in Van Damme's Volvo ad, the Palestinian spoof plays Enya’s song “Only Time” and features a man standing between two cars ready to do the now-famous split.
Except, in the spoof, the man is standing between two cars, a Kia and a Subaru, being pushed by five men while the cars' hazard lights blink because there is no gas available.
"All of this doesn't make Van Damme better than me. But unfortunately, there is no gas in town," says Mahmoud Zuiter, according to a translation by Haaretz. The comedian is standing between the two cars doing the best split he can manage - not exactly Van Damme's graceful show.
“Electricity power is cut off for 12 hours a day,” Zuiter, 23, says about life in Gaza. “I now go to sleep and wake up without the electricity going back on.”
“I miss taking a shower,” he adds.
The gentle skit, which has garnered some 284,000 views, reveals the dire conditions in Gaza, a 28-by-5-mile densely populated track of land caged in on all sides. It is bordered by the sea on the west, Egypt on the south and Israel from the north and east.
Israel’s military blockade of the strip continues to affect its 1.7 million residents, half of whom are children. Heavy rains often flood whole towns with raw sewage, there is usually no fuel and electricity comes and goes.
A United Nations commissioner described Gaza, which is ruled by hard-line Hamas, as "the only conflict in the world in which people are not even allowed to flee.”
Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip in 2007, a year after winning a Palestinian election from forces loyal to Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas. The movement is shunned by the West over its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel.
Life for Gazans has worsened recently after Egypt blocked tunnels that served as a life-support by allowing in oil, fuel and food.
Zuiter, the artist behind the video, said his intention with the video was twofold.
"We want to show the world that the Palestinians are able to do a lot of things that other do,” he said. “But at the same time we can't do everything since we face obstacles, like no gas, no fuel and no electricity.”
NBC News' F. Brinley Bruton and Reuters contributed to this report.
First published December 12 2013, 7:06 AM