A Saudi Television Show Highlights Changing Attitudes towards Jews and Israel

Every Ramadan (this year, April 23–May 23), TV networks throughout the Arab world air special miniseries for the holy month. While Egyptian television currently features a sci-fi drama imagining a future where Israel has been destroyed, a Saudi Arabian channel is broadcasting something very different. Hussein Ibish, noting that Ramadan programs “present one of the most interesting bellwethers of popular culture in the Middle East,” explains:

The dramatic series Um Haroun constitutes a significant breakthrough in Arab popular-culture representations of Jewish-Arab relations. . . . Set in an unnamed Gulf country that most closely resembles Kuwait, it tells the story of how ties between Jewish and Arab communities were snapped by the creation of Israel in 1948.

Rather than casting Israel and Jews as malign elements that ought to be extirpated from the Middle East, as [Arab] TV shows sometimes do, it takes a more nuanced reading of region’s recent history and current realities. It is a humanizing and sympathetic portrait of the Jews of the Arab world, a wistful account of what was lost on all sides when these communities left for Israel.

The showrunners had to navigate past censorship (and cultures of self-censorship) in multiple jurisdictions, meaning a lot of authorities signed off on [it]. But the show shouldn’t be dismissed as an officially approved effort to shift public opinion for purposes of geopolitical expediency. It is a genuine reflection of a generational shift in attitudes: many young Arabs already sense that Israel and Jewish nationalism are a natural and non-pathological part of a regional environment that contains significant and legitimate non-Arab power centers.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Arab anti-Semitism, Egypt, Israel & Zionism, Jewish-Muslim Relations, Saudi Arabia

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security