Opinion

'Fauda' Creators Think Arabs Are Stupid

In the Israeli TV series there are no rulers or ruled, no occupation, no historical background, no checkpoints, no poverty, no home demolitions, no expulsions, settlers or violent soldiers

A still from the second season of “Fauda.”
Ronen Akerman/YES

This is neither a television review nor an attempt to criticize the morality of the television series Fauda and the feeling of superiority that accompanies every Israeli producer who is convinced that he can speak in the name of Arabs as easily as he can impersonate an Arab by wearing cheap clothes, growing a beard and dyeing it black. In general, Israeli movies and television, whether highbrow or for the masses, have always served the ruling Israeli discourse.

With few exceptions (mainly documentaries), the greatest protests of the creative culture have been those with the theme of shooting and crying, with the main concern being Jewish ethics. Since the second intifada, the motif of there is no one to talk to on the other side, championed by Ehud Barak, has dominated the treatment in Israeli culture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (always conflict, never occupation).

Thus if in the wake of the first Lebanon war, the main theme of political statements in Israeli art was that there are partners on the Palestinian side but negotiations will always fail on account of extremists from both sides (what could we do, Likud was in power), since October 2000 the main theme has been that there are no partners, theyre all extremists. (What could we do, Labor was in power.)

>> New season of hit series Fauda sets out to keep the Israeli-Palestinian conflict real <<

So theres no point in a political critique of Fauda. First, its political statement is not unique, and it is not so different from the landscape of Bethlehem, The Bubble and For My Father (Sof Shavua BTel Aviv) nor is it different from the tenor of Israels main nightly news programs. Second, there is no point in criticizing the culture and the representation of the conflict by Israeli creative artists in the current political atmosphere. The arrogance and the assumption of ownership over the Palestinian story are the necessary consequence of military rule of Palestinian lives. Like the soldiers, many Israeli creative artists not respect borders. Some people expropriate land, others expropriate a story.

Still, I write about Fauda because of the many statements, writings and quotes that have become a kind of received wisdom in Israel, according to which Arabs, Hamas members, senior Palestinian Authority officials or the other side, as one newspaper put it, are convinced that the series serves them.

A still from the second season of “Fauda.”
Ronen Akerman/YES

You already have military victories and cultural control in marketing the Israeli occupation policy: At least give the Palestinians the option of hating Fauda. Are Netflix, worldwide success, economic growth and serving Israeli PR not enough for them?

Do the creators of Fauda really need to market their show as a balanced series that shows the reality in the territories? And if it is being sold as such to the world, is it so important to them for the Palestinians to admit that its high art that helps Palestinians interpret correctly the reality in which they live?

How dumb do the creators of Fauda and the Israeli critics who adopted the line that the Arabs are crazy about Fauda think Arabs are?

The Israeli sits in front of the screen and sees, in the second seasons opening scene, a bloodthirsty, bearded Arab who sends his friend to a bus station that is filled mainly with women and young soldiers. And when the terrorist has regrets and seeks to return to the car without planting the bomb in the bus station, Nidal El Makdessi — the main Palestinian character — pushes a button to detonate the bomb, killing his friend in cold blood as long as he can take a few Jews with him.

What the hell does the Israeli critic think the Palestinian viewer sitting in front of the screen feels? What? Does he shout Allahu Akbar at the explosion and think that El Makdessi, who came from Syria and was trained by the Islamic State organization, is a cool guy, and sometimes you have no choice but to betray your friend as long as you kill Jews, no matter whether they are civilians, children or soldiers?

What does the Hamas militant (according to Fauda co-creator Avi Issacharoff, the group put a link to the series on its home page) think at that moment? Hes thinking: Wow, Ive got to see this El Makdessi. First of all, he has a cool name, both frightening and charming, and weve got to watch this series, because in Hollywood, the good guys always win.

A still from the second season of “Fauda.”
Ronen Akerman/YES

Is it possible the Israeli creators think Arabs are so stupid they consider El Makdessi a good guy in the series, which is based entirely on good guys versus bad guys? Or perhaps Hamas members will be so happy about the fact that their people, as they are presented in their beloved Israeli program, love their mother? Okay, so they murder Arabs sometimes because there is no choice, sending a friend with a bomb or a rocket propelled grenade into a caf in Nablus, who wipes out some Arabs playing cards.

The Israelis in Fauda, by the way, are very sensitive to human life. There are too many noncombatants, says an Israeli officer in fatigues, when someone even dares raise the idea of taking out El Makdessi with a drone. Lets wait until he reaches an open space, orders the Israeli commander, who cares so much for Palestinian lives that he endangers his dedicated soldiers.

Its clearly an Israeli and not a Palestinian narrative, the series creators said in one interview, again using the deceptive word narrative, which on one hand turns baseless lies in an action series into a legitimate narrative of moral superiority that Israelis tell about themselves, and on the other hand the narrative — the N-word — reduces the lives of Palestinians under the shadow of military oppression into another story that they tell themselves, as if they live in an Israeli prime-time series.

Rona-Lee Shim'on in “Fauda.”
Ronen Akerman/YES

So, no: Arabs, Palestinians, Hamas members — those from the other side — do not love Fauda, and to be honest Im not sure how many of them even watch it or have heard of it. And no, there is nothing in Fauda that addresses the reality in the territories. In Fauda, there are no rulers or ruled, no occupation, no historical background, no checkpoints, poverty, home demolitions, expulsions, settlers or violent soldiers. Nor are there courts that jail politicians without a trial and pass judgment on children and teens who are trying to push away armed soldiers.

According to Fauda, the Palestinians are driven by a longing for vengeance, a strong Arab urge that explains the murderousness of the main characters. It is personal revenge and nothing more. Indeed, the Palestinians have no other reason to rise up against the Israelis. To be honest, their lives as reflected in the series are pretty good.

So what in the hell is the Israeli critic, creative artist or newspaper reader thinking when he asserts that Arabs love Fauda? Is there a way to explain this claim without assuming total Arab stupidity? Or perhaps a Palestinian family is sitting somewhere in a refugee camp in Jenin, declaring: Gentlemen, this is art for arts sake. Forget about Israelis and Palestinians. Lets encourage Doron [Kavillio, the lead Israeli character, played by Lior Raz] and the guys disguised as Arabs because after all theyre really cute, brave and look out for their country and their people.

And Doron, what a soul he has, so concerned for his children in the first episode, they sleep like two angels in his embrace while he thinks about the danger that lurks for them from El Makdessi. If he got to my father, hell get to my children, too, he tells the commander of the elite unit, because thats how it is. The Palestinians are the ones who know how to get to the children of armed Israelis.

If the Palestinian is already watching Fauda, his main thought will be: How is it that the people of Nablus dont identify the Israeli-accented Arabic of the soldiers dressed as Arabs the moment they open their mouths? And really, how can El Makdessi be on a motorcycle in Nablus one time and on a motorcycle somewhere in the Negev another? If such mobility were possible, half of our troubles would be behind us. And perhaps hell wonder, where are the actors from? Where did they film? Why the hell does no soldier disguised as an Arab dress up as an educated Arab?

The Arab viewer hopes the international viewer is not dumb enough to attribute any credibility to a commercial series, and wonders if anyone in Israel really thinks this series is leftist because the murderers hug their siblings from time to time. If so, then there really isnt anyone to talk with over there.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, center, flanked by “Fauda” co-creators Lior Raz, left, and Avi Issacharoff.
Rafi Delouya