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

 

A University of Michigan Professor Exposes the Full Implications of Academic Boycotts of Israel

Sept. 26 2018

A few weeks ago, Professor John Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan told an undergraduate student he would write a letter of recommendation for her to participate in a study-abroad program. But upon examining her application more carefully and realizing that she wished to spend a semester in Israel, he sent her a polite email declining to follow through. His explanation: “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” and “for reasons of these politics” he would no longer write the letter. Jonathan Marks comments:

We are routinely told . . . that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study-abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. . . .

Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the [Michigan] student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights [and] freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney-Lippold could have found out by using Google. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent “resistance” but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.

That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an international day of solidarity with the “new generation of Palestinians” who were then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis—all civilians—dead.

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More about: Academia, Academic Boycotts, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Knife intifada