by Vikram Kashyap | May 19, 2020
This past April, the third season of the Israeli TV show Fauda came out on Netflix, so I decided to binge-watch the series. Fauda, the Arabic word for chaos, is a fitting title for this Middle Eastern action thriller. The show revolves around a group of elite Arabic-speaking Israeli agents and their campaign to infiltrate Palestine and eliminate terrorists.
I felt this show stood out among more popular American series in the action genre for several reasons. Firstly, the show has amazing acting and character detail. Each character, no matter whether Israeli or Palestinian, has their own story, their own motives, and their own strengths and weaknesses. Although made from an Israeli perspective, the show doesn’t simply generalize the Israelis as “good” and the Palestinians as “evil.” In fact, I found myself sympathizing with certain antagonists from time to time. Moreover, I felt the setting of the show played a large part in its suspense. The authentic backdrop of the West Bank lets the reader feel the unstable atmosphere of the region. Finally, the show is unique in that it’s filled with unpredictable moments. The writers have no problem killing off major characters—be it the good guys, the bad guys, or even the innocent bystanders—right when you least expect it.
The show’s political aspect makes it all the more interesting for a foreign audience. The first season focuses on the main character Doron, who works for a covert unit within the Israeli Defense Forces, as he struggles to take down the leader of Hamas, a real-life Palestinian militant organization. Season two takes a more nuanced look at divisions within the Palestinian resistance, highlighting conflict between Hamas, the rival Palestinian National Authority, and even the Islamic State. Season three moves the plot to the Gaza Strip, where Doron and his teammates attempt to rescue Israeli hostages from Hamas headquarters. The show taught me that the conflict isn’t just black and white, simply Israel versus Palestine or Jews versus Muslims. Many people unfamiliar with the dispute wrongly assume that Israel and Palestine are two countries, each using their own army to fight the other. The reality is much more complicated; there are different factions within Palestine which seek to achieve different goals. Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and the EU, leads an Islamic movement and advocates for armed resistance against Israel. By contrast, the opposition political party Fatah is more secular in nature and is willing to negotiate with Israel for territorial sovereignty. Hamas governs the Gaza Strip, while Fatah controls the West Bank through the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) government body. Interestingly enough, Israeli and Fatah counter-terrorism units in the show often work together to take down common enemies and keep the region secure.
Critics of Fauda have denounced it for blatant anti-Palestinian sentiments; however, one of the reasons I most enjoyed watching this show was that I actually thought it remained unbiased. Even though it was produced by Israelis, the show offers a neutral look at the situation. It stresses the point that innocent people become collateral damage in this conflict, and that there are good and bad people on both sides. During the second season, one Palestinian woman tells the main villain, “Before the beginning of the Resistance and this whole mess…we had Israeli friends, nice people.”
I think this show is great for an American audience, not only because of the suspense and the action, but also because of its amazingly realistic portrayal of circumstances in the real world. Although it is a fictional dramatization and by no means real life, I think watching Fauda is an entertaining way to give viewers a deeper understanding of the turmoil within the Middle East region.