During the holy month of Ramadan, which concludes this weekend, it has become de rigueur in Arab countries to air special miniseries, which families watch every evening as they gather to break the daily fast. Edy Cohen comments on three shows this year that portray Jews and the Jewish state, including the anti-Semitic Egyptian science-fiction series The End.
Arab governments have long understood the potential of television and other visual media as a means of transmitting political messages. They actively promote shows that conform to their agendas, such as fostering negative images of political rivals both abroad and at home. Many dramas produced in recent years, especially in Turkey and Egypt, have featured Jewish, Israeli, and Zionist elements for the purpose of demonizing them.
In contrast to the Egyptian-produced show, the other two series, which were produced either directly by Saudi Arabia or with its approval, indicate a positive trend regarding attitudes toward Israel in the Gulf States. Um Haroun (Mother of Aaron), which depicts the lives of Jews in the Gulf region, was seen by many as an effort to promote normalization of relations with Israel.
The third show, Exit 7, is similarly of Saudi origin and is also considered an effort to promote closer ties with Israel. It features the most famous actors in the kingdom. While it deals primarily with social issues, the first episode contains heavy criticism of the Palestinians. One scene shows the main character saying he does business with Israel because Israel is not really an enemy. Hinting at the Palestinians, he says the real enemy is someone who doesn’t appreciate you. This scene is a depiction of the palpable existing tension between Saudis and the Palestinians.
The Palestinians, who oppose normalization with Israel by any segment of the Arab world and consider it deeply threatening to their cause, were enraged to see such scenes aired on Saudi television.