There is already an abundance of false information, hazardous propaganda, and insinuations in the Middle East. Fauda is capable of doing better. *Contains spoilers*
As an Arab, I am aware that many Israelis and viewers throughout the globe really think that the Netflix series “Fauda” offers an informed, if not “balanced,” perspective on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The series’ subtitle, “The human stories from both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict,” shows just this.
Unfortunately, the false belief that the show provides a realistic representation of Palestinian life and identity has far-reaching and harmful effects.
The same Israeli undercover commando team that successfully and contentiously carried out operations within the West Bank during seasons one and two now has a new theater of operations: Gaza. The team, whose members are trained to both assassinate and “fit in” and speak Arabic, takes part in an operation to free two Israeli children who Hamas has abducted.
Israeli and Egyptian forces have enforced a land, air, and sea embargo on the Gaza Strip since 2007. There aren’t many entrances and exits because the only other border is the sea. In the past 15 years, perhaps very few Israelis have visited Gaza. Few West Bank-based Palestinians have either, however. Does Fauda provide a unique glimpse into an essentially locked-off region?
The season’s authors believed they had fulfilled their need to be truthful by sometimes highlighting Gaza’s frequent power shortages. They demonstrated how unclean and filthy the water is there.
However, 38 percent of people live in poverty, which is worse than even the most dismal television screenplay could hope for. 54 percent of people experience food insecurity. Over 90% of the water is unusable, and 39% of young people are unemployed.
Even less than the most elementary setting for the actual event is the reality of life in Gaza. On the other hand, the authors seize every chance to highlight the radicalism in Gaza.
In one of the episodes, Doron Kavillio, the main character and the undercover unit’s head (by force of personality rather than by title), enters a store in Gaza while posing as a Palestinian. He starts by giving the business owner a cool English “Hi” before referring to the young woman as “habibti” (Arabic for “my love/my dearest”).
Indeed, we Arabs frequently use the term “habibi” in contexts other than what it means, but this is hardly ever directed towards a random person of the opposing gender, and certainly not in Gaza. That use of “habibi” is Israelism. Doron’s cultural indiscretion would have raised a flashing red light in the “real” Gaza, which would have been sufficient cause for him to be apprehended.
While waiting for Doron to exit the business, Eli and Sagi, two of Doron’s employees, are detained by a Hamas police officer after Doron becomes unduly too linguistically comfortable with the Gaza shop owner. They are traveling in a wrecked old automobile and are dressed in rough, filthy clothing. They identify themselves as West Bank traders, and Eli says he is getting married tonight in Gaza. In all honesty, I couldn’t help but chuckle.
First, it is impossible to measure the number of West Bank traders that visit Gaza in a good year; they are always the wealthiest and most well-connected businesspeople. Second, the notion of a West Bank guy being married to a Gazan lady is absurd and inconsistent because it no longer occurs due to the embargo. Thirdly, isn’t it tragically ludicrous that Israel would let the trader’s buddy to attend the wedding as well? That is simply excessive.
It is understandable that the series’ enormous worldwide audience could lack the knowledge and resources to understand Gaza’s reality, but this just makes the filmmakers’ guilt, who don’t even attempt to tell the truth, all the more outrageous.
It gives off the sense that Palestinians are capable of proper use for theatrical content but not for anything that resembles an accurate portrayal. Perhaps Fauda needs more guidance from Palestinians.
This brings me to the root of my main issue with the program. The Israeli commandos are portrayed by Fauda’s writers as being personally and operationally principled at every opportunity. They focus on their intense concern for protecting the civilians of Gaza and their extraordinary efforts to keep their promise to the family of the Palestinian informant who helped them. No Palestinian women or children are depicted being shot or killed by them.
However, Fauda is waging a war against the truth. The evidence is overwhelming that the reverse is true. In regard to only one of the Israel-Hamas wars, the 2014 Gaza war, 2251 Palestinians were murdered, of which 1462 were civilians, 551 were children, and 299 were women, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Israelis need to be aware of the blatant truth—that their army is to blame for all of these civilian fatalities—and to understand the difference between those killings, their perpetrators, and Fauda’s idealized warriors.
The Israeli military veterans whose testimonies Breaking the Silence compiles describe how entire neighborhoods have been virtually erased from the map and soldiers have been ordered to, and I quote, “shoot anyone in your proximity,” if it’s too difficult to trust Palestinians and international humanitarian organizations. Read the statements made by members of Israel’s own administration, such as Avigdor Lieberman, who served as the country’s defense minister at the time and said in 2018, “You have to realize, there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip.”
One of the ugliest, and potentially deadly, sequences, in my opinion, is when an Arab physiotherapist makes an attempt to assassinate the director of a Shin Bet branch in the West Bank as he begins a treatment session in an Israeli hospital toward the conclusion of the third season.
It’s important to analyze this plot: Arabs make up 17% of Israel’s medical professionals, 24% of its nurses, and 47% of its pharmacists. Arab medical professionals working in Israel have never once violated the Hippocratic oath and injured a patient.
The idea of using a persona and a narrative that portrays Arab employees of the Israeli healthcare system as dishonest and aggressive attackers is beyond absurd. It can only exacerbate existing interpersonal distrust. The promotion of such an image is utterly dishonest and misleading; what’s more, it feeds the voices who consistently denigrate Israel’s Arab inhabitants, legislate their disparity, and instigate against them, including those at the top of Israel’s government.
I hope the authors and creators take their obligation to reflect a more accurate social and political reality more seriously. They should turn away from the barely covert anti-Arab rhetoric. And that they are now able to show Palestinians the same regard for human life that they repeatedly failed to show for the fundamental intricacies of Arab culture.
There is no need to further validate biases and widen ignorance in a place that is already brimming with deadly propaganda, defamatory language, and false information. Fauda is more capable.