My latest Netflix Binge is Fauda – a violent, compelling and visually superb take on the Arab Israeli conflict.
Typically with a subject of such sensitivity, there is much hand wringing in the press. As usual The Guardian takes a staunch anti Israeli approach and calls the series Israel’s Brutal TV Hit. Israeli Newspaper Haaretz calls the show “morally dubious”. The New Yorker and the New York Times are a little more even handed as is the BBC (uncharacteristically).
I don’t much care what the various commentators are saying about this particular drama, or the world in particular. I do rather question my own motive for watching the program and feel surprise that it affords me much interest and absorption.
Let me fess up to the origins of my quandary. I have Jewish heritage somewhere along the line and a deep fascination with Jewish culture, as a result both of my ancestry and of my Church of England upbringing.
What child would not be fascinated by the stories of the Old Testament? Sodom and Gomorrah, Daniel and the Lions Den, Moses in Egypt, Joseph and his coat of many colours. Those apparently wicked Midianites and Babylonians! The terrible Pharaoh of Egypt! How very partisan, this musty old book – biased musings of an ancient desert tribe. Much like the equally unamusing bias of the Koran and its equally bloodthirsty, tribal raving.
At the same time I was fascinated by all things Middle Eastern and indeed Islamic. The haunting beauty of the call to prayer, the exotic food, the eerie and beautiful folk music. The exotic countries. The warm people, the lovely women. Sufi poetry, intricately decorated mosques, religious devotion (ever so foreign to my secular mind)
And then the disillusion set in as romance was replaced by reality. I remember vividly my sad awakening to the brutality of the Israeli state following the Sabra and Shatila massacre. I was sitting next to a beautiful young Jewish woman engaged to a young Israeli about to do his National Service; the massacre was fresh in my mind and I sorrowfully told her of my disappointment.
Did I ever fully understand the events which lead up to the formation of Israel? Did I condone the terrorism of Ben Gurion and his ilk or compare it to that of the Palestinians?
No, I don’t think I ever thought any of that through but I am not sure it would have helped. We humans are rats in a cage and will fight and kill over land, possessions, food water and power. Sadly I don’t think there is much more to know.
But what of Fauda (meaning “chaos” in arabic apparently)?
Well the banal aspect of my attraction to the programme is to see something of the life and countryside in Israel. Safer from my own armchair, much as I would love to see those mythical Biblical lands in the flesh.
My next recognition (or at least I thought it was recognition) was that this was a rather even handed account of the tragic Arab Israeli conflict. The arabs are not all viewed as monsters. They have exquisitely beautiful women folk, children, wives, husbands. The sun shines, the architecture is attractive, the people seem normal. Well of course they do – they are.
But the the brutality shocked me – torture and bestiality is portrayed as the normal course of events on both sides of the divide. The Israeli hit squad mercilessly torture captured arabs from Hamas or Isis. The arabs kill and maim the Israelis. It is business as usual in the human zoo.
The Americans in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the inexcusable extraordinary rendition. The bombing of civilians throughout the Islamic world, the merciless hunting down of Bin Laden and his extra judicial execution. The hideous Isis executions, the savagery of many Islamic states towards women and gays.
The human zoo. It is business as usual the world over.
So should I be watching Fauda? Should I find it so utterly captivating? Well the answer is probably no on both counts. But I am afraid I can not help that and shall continue to watch each series as it is brought out.
I do not condone or agreed with any side in this conflict or any other conflict. There must be a better way to resolve our differences.
On reflection I find this Israeli based drama pro-Israeli, although it does its best to bring out the humanity of Israel’s opponents while not hiding the bestiality prevalent on both sides.
I would like to redress the balance by seeking out some Arab drama. I am not at all sure I have ever knowingly come across any but it would be an interesting exercise. Neither side are without blame, neither side are without legitimate grievance.