Israel’s Latest Prestige Drama Is Artistically Inept and Encourages the Worst Misconceptions about Zionist History

Aug. 11 2021

Produced by the creators of such internationally acclaimed hits as Fauda and Shtisel, the new Israeli television series The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is set in the titular city during the 1920s and 30s. Michael Oren notes in his review that the show pays little attention to the dramatic events in Mandatory Palestine during this time, which included several waves of Arab violence and the increasing anti-Jewish turn of the British colonial rulers, who were closing the doors of immigration to the Land of Israel even as the Nazis were consolidating power.

[R]emarkably, appallingly, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem makes no reference . . . whatsoever . . . to the Arab revolts, [or] to rising anti-Semitism [and] Nazism. It has more to say about halvah than the impending Holocaust. And while British officials abound throughout the series, they are overwhelmingly positive figures, free of any prejudice toward either Zionism or Jews.

Accordingly, and unsurprisingly, the only villains in The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem are Jews. And not just any Jews, but the right-wing Revisionists of the Irgun and the Leḥi [who] are portrayed as bloodthirsty and treasonous.

Some of this might be attributed to the nostalgia harbored by some Israeli leftists for the years of British rule and what they believe were its secular and fair-minded officials. . . . Similar impulses may have led the scriptwriter to underplay the widespread Arab belligerence at the time, even toward the non-Zionist communities of Hebron and Safed.

“At its worst,” writes Oren, the series “corroborates” the claim that Israel was “born of militarism, racism, and colonialism.” The Arabs fare no better, coming across as “docile or decadent stereotypes.” And perhaps worse still, Oren finds the show “melodramatic, plodding, [and] predictable.”

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Read more at Tablet

More about: History of Zionism, Mandate Palestine, Television

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas