The miniseries Our Boys—created, directed, and acted by Israelis and released simultaneously in the U.S. and Israel—takes place in the summer or 2014, on the eve of the Gaza war. At its heart is the abduction and brutal murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, an Arab Jerusalemite, by three religious Jews, and the police who identify and capture the perpetrators. While calling the series “a drama of uncommon power,” Stephen Daisley finds it deeply flawed:
What Our Boys does not tell is the story of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel. They were the Israeli teenagers whose deaths inspired [Abu Khdeir’s murderers]. The yeshiva students were abducted while hitchhiking home from Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, a hill-scattered region south of Jerusalem and frequent target of Palestinian terrorism. Despite police efforts, their mothers’ appeals, and prayer vigils in Rabin Square, their bodies were found dumped in a field eighteen days later. They had been shot at close range.
The yeshiva boys of Gush Etzion, like thousands of other Israeli victims of homicidal Palestinian anti-Semitism, do not long detain the plot of Our Boys. [We] learn nothing about them. On the other hand, we learn that Mohammed, the Arab victim, went to the mosque faithfully, that he was planning to meet up with a girl from Turkey, and that he preferred flirting with her on WhatsApp to working for his father.
This is a series that communicates a particular perspective on Israel to a particular audience, namely Americans. Brian Lowry has given the game away on CNN.com, writing that the series “puts faces on a conflict often seen—especially in the U.S.—from a distant aerial view.” . . . [W]e can infer that what he means by “distant aerial view” is a view insufficiently sympathetic to the Palestinians. Our Boys does put faces on the conflict—but its Arab faces are almost entirely sympathetic while its Israeli faces are crazed settlers, racist cops, and a smattering of well-meaning liberals trying their best in a suffocatingly hateful society.
Critics have accused the drama of moral equivalence, but in truth there is no equivalence: the introspection is entirely one-sided. All the harsh truths are broken to Israelis, all the urgent conversations about race and hatred are to be held in Hebrew. With the macho-liberal bravado of the Israeli center, Our Boys tells Israelis to shape up but has nothing to say to Palestinians.