Still, despite these recent deaths and the spate of violence surrounding last month’s controversial relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, I kept watching. I watched because I wanted to see how a show lauded in some quarters for its evenhanded portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict depicts the players on either side of it, including Hamas. I watched to see how a group of Mista’aravim could manage to blend so seamlessly into a community they differ from so much.
Perhaps more than anything, I watched the show because of what it made me miss. The familiar sights and sounds—from the call to prayer frequently heard in the show’s background to the Palestinian dialect that makes up the majority of its dialogue—reminded me of my last Ramadan spent in the region. It made me feel closer to my ancestral home, even while depicting scenes of violence within it.
And the scenes of violence are intense. In fact, they’re sometimes so intense that my mom couldn’t make it through the pilot episode. Within the first 30 minutes, the Israeli unit (posing as a group of caterers) crashes the wedding of a Hamas operative’s brother, ultimately resulting in the deaths of scores of guests, including the groom. My mom generally hates watching violence. That this was Israeli violence against Palestinians made it even worse, and from her perspective belittled the lives of those portrayed.
Avi Issacharoff, one of Fauda’s co-creators who has also written for The Atlantic, said the show isn’t intended to push a specific agenda. “This is a TV show—it’s not a political manifesto,” he told me in a phone call last week, noting that the idea was simply to give Israeli viewers a different perspective on the conflict. “I would say that a major theme in Fauda is the occupation. … We’ve seen terrible things that the Israeli side is doing during the show, and for some reason they’ve been missed.”
When I asked him about criticism that the show overwhelmingly favors the Israeli viewpoint, he pointed out that Fauda never purported to give a Palestinian perspective. “We started as an Israeli show that was meant to be seen by Israeli audiences,” he said. “If a Palestinian would have written the show, it would have been written differently. But at the end of the day, we are not Palestinians.”
Indeed, Fauda isn’t a Palestinian show. It’s an Israeli story about an Israeli unit, told from the vantage point of Israeli lead Doron Kabilio (Lior Raz) and the rest of the Mista’aravim. Though Palestinian characters do feature heavily in the series, their stories are often told only in relation to Doron. The season-two antagonist Nidal “Al Makdasi” Awdallah (Firas Nassar) seeks revenge on Doron for killing his father in season one. Shirin al-Abed (Laëtitia Eïdo), a Palestinian doctor, is Doron’s love interest.