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 on Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-05-05/what-arab-tv-says-about-evolving-attitudes-toward-jews-and-israel