'Fauda': Just Entertainment or Art Reflecting the Damage of the Occupation?

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, takes a look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of the hit series

A scene from 'Fauda.'
A scene from 'Fauda.' True to life, gripping and depressing

The second season of the Israeli television show "Fauda" is scheduled to air on "Yes" beginning only at the end of 2017, but the first season is still attracting a lot of interest and praise.

Now that Netflix is streaming the series created by Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff, the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, has written a long article about the show – but his focus is really on the occupation and Nakba in Israeli culture in general, and on local television in particular. Raz tweeted a "first look" at the second season of Fauda to be aired on Netflix last week.

Remnick discusses the present political climate in Israel, and he says using the words “occupation” or “Nakba” (catastrophe), when some 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1947-49 Israeli War of Independence – automatically brands one as a crazy leftist. Among those he interviewed for his article is Rogel Alpher, Haaretz’s television critic. “Many leading journalists, including a liberal like Ilana Dayan, the host of ‘Uvda’ (Fact), an edgier version of ‘60 Minutes,’ have told me that they think twice before using the word,” Alpher told Remnick.

In response to Remnick’s article, Dayan said she does not avoid using the term Nakba to refer to the Palestinian narrative about the events of 1948, but she tries to use it wisely in interviews, because the word can distract the interviewee unnecessarily.

Remnick tries to ascertain whether “Fauda” is just entertainment or a show that reflects the damage caused by the occupation.  He also interviews Maj. Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni, the former head of the Central Command, who thinks the virtue of the series lies in its exposing the moral price of the occupation. “There is a generation in Israel who never had any kind of positive interaction with Palestinians,” Shamni said. 

Fauda TV Series Trailer

“So ‘Fauda’ is another way to bring into the Israeli living room something about what is happening on the ground. Does it reflect a hundred per cent what is happening, or the complexity? Some. It’s a nice show,” Remnick quotes Shamni.

“On the one hand, the professionalism is good, it minimizes the damage. On the other hand, is this the kind of expertise we want? We do it so well, with minimal friction and casualties, the soldiers are very well trained, they are not only professionally trained for combat but also mentally trained for occupation; they understand the complexity they are within. But you have assigned yourself issues that are not the core business of a military. In the end, it corrupts our moral values,” says Shamni.

Next he quotes Diana Buttu, a lawyer who has worked as a legal adviser to the PLO “In ‘Fauda,’ we do not see the occupation,” she said. “It is invisible, just as it is in the minds of Israelis. In fact, we never even hear the word. We don’t see a single checkpoint, settlement, settlers, or home demolitions. We don’t see any homes being taken over, or land being expropriated or anything of the sort. We see a nice brick wall, not the ugly eight-metre-high one, as the only sign that we are in the West Bank.”

Finally, Remnick concludes that “Fauda” is entertainment. “But, unlike S. Yizhar’s novella “Khirbet Khizeh” and Ram Loevy’s television version of the book, “Fauda” is ultimately content to entertain,” he writes.

The article was published on the magazine’s website on Monday and appears in the September 4 print edition.