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  • Writer's picturestephen schecter

Watching Fauda

I had been reluctant to watch Fauda when I read that the series depicted the relationship between an Israeli security officer and his Palestinian counterpart. But having exhausted so many other crime and detective series on Netflix during the Covid19 stay at home order, I decided to give it a go. I am glad I did, for the series turned out to have little to do with the description I had read. Yes, there was an Israeli officer who coordinated a counter-terrorist squad’s activities with his Palestinian counterpart, but that part of the story was a minor backdrop to the series that unfolded episode after episode.

There were three series in all. Each involved some threat to Israeli civilians coming from the Palestinian Authority – a bomb attack, a murder, a kidnapping – usually directed by some Hamas operatives; hence the collaboration between the Palestinian and Israeli security services. The action was gripping. The suspense was sometimes unbearable. The twists and turns of the protagonists’ emotional lives were suitably interspersed in the plot to add another layer of interest. I binge watched because I had to know how the storyline of each series turned out. But all that was momentary distraction. Distraction from the coronavirus unleashed by the Chinse Communist Party on the democratic West. Distraction from my cancelled trip to Israel because of said coronavirus. Distraction from the political commentary on Israel’s situation I continued to read in my morning emails, the coronavirus notwithstanding. But when the distraction faded, what I had seen remained. And it was not what I had anticipated.

What I had anticipated was a thriller series as background to underscore the dominant discourse about Israel’s predicament and the need for a two-state solution with all the concomitant shibboleths. On the Israeli side the need for such a solution to avoid the brutalizing of sensibilities and the societal disintegration which the ongoing situation entailed. On the Palestinian side the distinction between moderates and extremists and the need to strengthen the former so as to provide a future which most of its citizens wanted. But although there was some of that in the framework of the action – the collaboration between the security prevention services on both sides, the emotional toll on the Israeli counter-terrorism unit’s members and families, the dreams of some young Palestinians to escape the nightmare that Resistance demanded – the picture that remained with the viewer had nothing to do with that. What remained was an anthropological snapshot of the nightmare Palestinian society has become. What a viewer saw in Fauda could only explode any dream of the well-intentioned to resolve the situation both Israel and the Palestinians face with the pablum of the ambient discourse about two states for two peoples, the future which everyone wants that the late Shimon Peres once deliriously called the New Middle East, and all the underlying assumptions that fuel such fantasies.

So what does the viewer see in Fauda? For one, the refugee camps are not shanty towns, rows of shacks put together with corrugated tin, but full-blown cities with ziggurats of apartments and quarters for the well to do that are anything but shabby. Clearly, the higher ups in the Palestinian movement are living very well indeed, the proceeds no doubt of being high up in the command chain of the terrorist organizations and able to skim off the funds which well-wishers around the world are eager to donate to the cause. Even in Gaza the respected survivors of a century long struggle live in villas the viewer would be happy to inhabit, the sea and the beaches not far from the windows that overlook them. For two, no woman in the Palestinian Authority now void of Christians comes to the door with her head uncovered. Outside women walk about well covered, the loose and not so loose gowns as much a corset as the undergarment Victorian women wore was. But even with that sex is everywhere, running the streets like rivulets of sewage, channeled into the family honor that governs everything, political and terrorist activity included. For Palestinian society is clearly a clan-based society, with different clans controlling different cities, different terrorist organizations, different money pots. Green flags adorn the houses of Hamas allegiants; the green, white, and black flag with the red arrow belongs to whoever controls the PLO. Fatah for now, but you never know.

In one of the series a son of the head of Palestinian security undermines his father by secretly working for the Hamas unit led by a charismatic peer. This is a form of treason, family treason, the son ruining his father’s work to give him a better life. But hatred of the Jews is too strong for the son, the very hatred which his father’s bosses have been spouting for decades and whose fruits Hamas now reaps. Family honor is now trumped by hatred of the Jews, whom they also call Zionists and the Occupation. Even the official Palestinian security apparatus knows that, endorses such language because it is part of the game. Even their Israeli counterparts accept it, not seeing that this is what fuels the ongoing violence and unrelenting enmity which rule out any chance for peace or a better life; the very violence and enmity that make the Israeli counter-terrorism unit an ongoing necessity; the very violence and enmity that drive the series Fauda, which means riot in Arabic. The viewer sees a number of riots anytime members of the unit are caught in a public square in a Palestinian town. During the riots otherwise peaceful Palestinians go crazy, attack the Jews once the word spreads that the Jews are there, and if one of the members is a woman, she is groped and raped during the fauda, the sexual repression bubbling to the surface, bubbling over, a premonition of what would happen should the Palestinians ever defeat the Jews in the battle for Israel.

Family honor clearly is still the glue that holds Palestinian society together. But years of indoctrination by the PLO and the gangsters running the Palestinian Authority have undermined that basis of solidarity without replacing it with anything but the empty rhetoric of Resistance and Occupation, the well-known tactics of ideology and terror that the PLO learned in Berlin and Moscow. Instead, family honor is put at the service of terror and ideology. Young Palestinians in love get caught up in the unanticipated consequences of terrorist intrigue. A boxer who dreams of becoming the Muhammad Ali of the Arab Middle East winds up in terrorist activity because he inadvertently reveals the hideout of the Hamas operative running a terrorist network in the West Bank, who happens to be a cousin. His father, recently released from an Israeli jail, who wants nothing more than to live out his days with his family in peace, winds up dragging his son into a terrorist quagmire in order to protect him from vengeance from Hamas operatives. The son who wanted nothing more than to escape to Qatar with his girlfriend winds up a terrorist himself to save his father’s honor. And no one, not even his girlfriend can help him, because she cannot trust the Jews, even though it was an undercover Jew who had helped him train as a boxer in the first place. Talk about a completely twisted society; it does not get any worse.

But it does. Because on top of PLO ideology and terror there is Islam, whose blessings and salutations precede every encounter between Palestinians, however trivial, recited by rote as if to ward off any discussion having to do with reality, political, sexual, agricultural, industrial. But this has always been Islam, a religion of conquest and duplicity, now become a religion to hide resentment which simmers below the surface of society and keeps it inimical to anything modern. In Fauda, the sayings of Islam precede every terrorist plot, every internecine threat between members of the same family, clan, terrorist network, every refusal to buck the prevailing tyranny and espouse liberty, make room for the Jews, challenge the despotism of the patriarch, however wrapped it may be in the bonds of paternal and filial love. Religious leaders head terrorist groups whose hideouts are located in hospitals. Everywhere Islam sits atop a stalled society, and Palestinian society is stalled par excellence. Israeli society, by contrast, is dynamic, forward looking, sexually promiscuous, technologically sophisticated, with all the advantages and disadvantages the viewer sees and knows from personal experience.

The main Israeli protagonist in the series falls in love with a Palestinian doctor. His marriage had been falling apart when this happened. He met her as an undercover agent and had to use her on his mission, but even in situations like that the heart has its own claims. The Israeli speaks Arabic fluently, grew up in a family that once lived in Iraq before that country extorted and expelled its Jews because Israel came into being. He lives with his father who still has childhood memories attaching him to the millennial experience of Iraqi Jews and the culture that enveloped them. When the doctor winds up at his house he embraces her as a welcome potential wife for his son. But the pincer movement of Muslim family pressure, Islamic dogma, and Palestinian terror networks dooms the relationship. For the Israeli protagonist death seems to come to everything he touches and loves, the price he and not only he has to pay to protect his country.

Seeing all this, the viewer can only look on and despair. The situation will not improve. No diplomatic niceties will overcome the terrible reality on the ground. Not even a thousand counter-terrorism units and actions will make a difference. Besides, why should Jews have to keep putting themselves through that? A thorough house-cleaning is in order. Failing that, the world is setting itself up for a never-ending series called Fauda. But maybe that’s all the denizens of the modern world want: entertainment from which they learn nothing and slogans to anesthetize them from its rot. As the Hebrew prayer puts it, eyes they have but they see not; not even when they can see it for hours on Netflix.

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