How Israeli Television Conquered the World

July 10 2018

In 2008, the television station HBO began airing In Treatment, a series about psychotherapy adapted from the Israeli program b’Tipul. Three years later, Showtime launched the wildly successful Homeland—now set to enter an eighth season—based on the Israeli series Ḥatufim (“Prisoners of War”). These are now just two of dozens of adaptations of Israeli shows for an international market—not to mention Fauda, aired by Netflix with English subtitles, which has become an international success. Hannah Brown investigates how the Jewish state became a “television powerhouse.”

From 1966 until the early 1990s, there was just one Israeli channel, [previously there had been no television at all], run by the government, that featured mostly news, documentaries, shows for children, and imported series. The transformation began when a commercial network, Channel Two, was officially launched in the early 1990s.

It caught on, partly because it did things that suggested its programmers actually thought about the needs of the people who were watching. Channel Two showed the news at 8 p.m., when people were sitting around after dinner, instead of at 9 p.m., as the government channel did, when people wanted to go out or go to sleep. It hired celebrities like pop stars to host game shows. But most of all, Channel Two spent money on programming; . . . by the mid-1990s, they had discovered that local audiences were eager to watch shows about Israelis. . . .

But the emergence of Israel as an important maker of international television began in the mid-2000s with b’Tipul and Ḥatufim. B’Tipul . . . took an extraordinarily simple (and low-budget) concept—a psychologist treating patients—and realized it beautifully. In each episode, the shrink would see a different patient. . . . “The show was so accessible that often they didn’t need to write an American version,” said [one Israeli television executive]. “Instead they just translated the Israeli script, which is ironic, because it means that Israelis talk about the same things in their therapists’ office as Americans. It just shows how much the cultures are intertwined.” . . .

Jews have always had an affinity for storytelling, which was put to good use by the movie moguls who created Hollywood. Now it’s Israeli Jews who have used their brainpower and energy to crack the popular-culture code. And while some academics and intellectuals would like to boycott everything Israeli, the architects of the Israeli television boom have already harnessed the power of the airwaves to entertain the world.

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More about: Arts & Culture, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli culture, Television

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror