Friday, September 6, 2019

What the HBO series ‘Our Boys’ doesn’t want us to know - by Jonathan S. Tobin

The series is, as one ecstatic writer for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote, “an unashamedly liberal show that could have been ripped from the pages of Haaretz,” which is to say that it adopts the tone of hostility to the Jewish state that is the keynote to the vast majority of articles published there (it also sometimes runs opinions columns from me). It embodies the politics of Israel’s liberal Ashkenazi elites and considers the only suitable topic for discussion an examination of Israel’s alleged sins.

Jonathan S. Tobin..
05 September '19..

The brutal murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir by three extremist Jews is a story that deserves to be told. The same can be said for the account of the swift and efficient manner in which his murderers were tracked down by Israel’s security services, and ultimately convicted and given harsh sentences.

The exclusive focus on that bestial crime—the 16-year-old Palestinian Arab resident of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat was kidnapped, beaten unconscious and then burned to death while still alive in June 2014—is the point of the HBO series “Our Boys,” produced by the Keshet Media Group that runs Israel’s Channel 12.

The show has understandably raised the hackles of many Israelis; however, the problem with “Our Boys” isn’t that it airs some of Israel’s dirty laundry. If that were the only substantive criticism to be made of the show, then the furor over it—it was denounced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “anti-Semitic”—wouldn’t be justified.

Documenting the transgressions of a few Jews, as well as the diligent efforts of their compatriots to catch and punish them, is no insult to the Jewish people. Viewed merely as an entry in the “true crime” genre or as a police procedural, it could be judged favorably as a well-acted and meticulously produced document of the incident, even if the glacial pace of the miniseries is problematic. And, indeed, that is the frame of reference for most of the critical reception from American TV critics of the show that debuted last month and, as of this writing, is halfway through its 10-episode run on the cable-television network.

Others will see it as yet another example of Israel’s flourishing television industry that has produced Netflix hits like “Fauda” and “Shtisel,” as well as providing the inspiration for shows like “Homeland.” But many of those who usually take special pride in seeing Israeli TV shows get such wide exposure aren’t cheering “Our Boys.”

The anger that the show has generated isn’t so much rooted in the fact that it depicts Jewish murderers or that their victim was a Palestinian Arab. It is the context out of which this one deplorable incident was pulled, and the painfully obvious political motivations of its producers and writers that is at question. And on that score, the artistic merit of “Our Boys”—and its avowed goal of examining the sources of hate crimes—cannot justify the manipulative agenda that it serves.

(Continue to Full Column)

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