Western Audiences Have Been Viewing Israel Through a Distorted Lens

Western Audiences Have Been Viewing Israel Through a Distorted Lens
A crew films a scene on the set of the hit Israeli TV series “Fauda,” in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 30, 2019 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

Considering how surprising its success has been, it is understandable that the Israeli television series “Fauda” would get as much media coverage as it has. When it premiered in 2015, no one could have predicted how widely the series, which centers on a counterterrorism unit in the Israeli military, would catch on. But “Fauda” went on to be a hit not only with audiences in Israel and its Western allies, but globally—including in a number of Arab states.

The series also depicts more Palestinian points-of-view than many might expect from an Israeli TV show. To be sure, the series has also generated plenty of criticism for favoring the Israeli perspective, largely by making Israelis the clear protagonists. But most critics have also acknowledged that approaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with even some empathy for the Palestinian side was groundbreaking for a mainstream Israeli show. For this, too, “Fauda” got plenty of coverage in Western media, including features in the New Yorker and the New York Times.

What made the success of “Fauda” truly unexpected, though, was not how the series depicts the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but that it does so. In the decade preceding the show’s first season, mainstream Israeli popular culture rarely, if ever, engaged with issues or topics related to Palestine and Palestinians. And despite what some observers had hoped after it became a hit, “Fauda” has remained the exception to that rule, rather than a forerunner of a new trend.

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