Israel's latest propaganda war is being waged through slick tv shows on various media service providers such as Netflix and HBO.
While racist depictions of Arabs and the glorification of Israel is not new in the film and TV industry, there has recently been a surge in programmes venerating the Israeli secret services while demonising Palestinians as threats to global security and erasing their history.
The most well-known is the Israeli Netflix series Fauda (meaning chaos in Arabic) which has been a global hit. The series follows an undercover Israeli special forces unit known as the "musta'ribim", who disguise themselves as Palestinians to infiltrate Palestinian towns, villages and protests. They are particularly known for blending into protests dressed as young Palestinian men and kidnapping protesters. Fauda has been heavily criticised for dehumanising Palestinians and completely erasing the military occupation by failing to show any of the massive and visible infrastructure built across the West Bank and Gaza to keep Palestinians contained.
Another TV show, on HBO, called Our Boys, dramatises the infamous events surrounding the killing of three teenage Israeli settlers and the subsequent killing of a Palestinian boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Many praised the show for being critical of Israel, particularly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced it as "anti-Semitic". However, the series not only reinforces the Israeli narrative but also shows Israel's secret police agency Shin Bet as a defender of the rule of law. Similar Netflix programmes such as The Spy (starring Sasha Baren Cohen) also glorify the Israeli secret services as an agency of good fighting the bad, which inevitably happens to be all the neighbouring Arab countries.
The latest addition to the list of TV shows supporting Israel in its propaganda war against the Palestinians is Netflix's The Messiah. In the show, a messiah-like figure from the Middle East causes concern for the CIA and the Shin Bet. In the first episode, he is seen to lead a group of Palestinian-Syrian refugees to Syria's northern border with presumably the occupied Golan Heights. A fictional CNN reporter declares that "as displaced Palestinians they claim they are entitled passage into the West Bank as rightful citizens". Yet Palestinian refugees in Syria come from historic Palestine, now recognised as Israel, and they do not demand to become citizens of the West Bank. Rather they demand their right to return to their villages and towns of origin from which they were displaced in 1948 - a right that is inalienable and enshrined in international law.
This is not pedantism; this kind of consistent and subtle denial of Palestinian rights seeps into what becomes hegemonic, accepted norms. This is further demonstrated when the show consistently refers to Jerusalem as Israel's capital, while international law and consensus denies it as such in recognition of the Palestinian right to the city.