Saudi TV airs controversial new series about Jewish woman in the Gulf

Controversial Arab TV series that provoked angry responses airs the first episode about the life of a Jewish woman in the Gulf states during the 1940s and opens with a monologue from the protagonist – in Hebrew.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The new Saudi-produced television series “Umm Haroun” that has provoked a storm in the Arab world went on the air at the start of Ramadan, featuring an impressive monologue in Arabic-accented Hebrew by the protagonist, Channel 12 reported Sunday.

The new drama on the Arab network MBC sparked controversy because of the subject matter – the life of a Jewish woman living in a Arab lands – and was slammed by critics claiming that any portrayal of Jews is a capitulation to Zionism.

Produced by the London-based Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcasting Company (MBC), the show “Umm Haroun” features well-known Kuwaiti actress Hayat al-Fahad, 71, in the role of a Jewish midwife and nurse, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“Before our footsteps fade away and before our lives fall into memory, we will be lost with the time that is left,” the leading character says. “On the staff of Moses that performed miracles, I decided to write about us and we knew that you would come back to us,.I write and document everything about us. We are the Gulf Jews. We were born in the lands of the Gulf.”

Read  Arab influencers welcome news of ultra-orthodox IDF draft

The show’s promotional trailers and ads had already provoked accusations from the Arab world that Saudi Arabia is engaging in normalization with Israel.

“The story of the series sparked controversy among followers of social networking sites after a promo was published of the series that tells the story of a Jewish mother who is suffering because of her Judaism in the Gulf during the 1940s,” the Saudi24 news website reported.

The Hamas terror group fumed over the show, calling the series a “political and cultural attempt to introduce the Zionist project to Gulf society.”

“The character of Umm Haroun reminds me of [former Israeli Prime Minister] Golda Meir, the head of the occupation government, who was a murderous criminal,” The Jerusalem Post quoted senior Hamas official Ra’fat Murra as saying.

“This is the goal of normalization: hatred, slow killing and internal destruction. The series aims to falsify history and gradually introduce Gulf society to normalization with the Zionist occupation, at a time when some [Arab] rulers are panting to build close ties with [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to protect their thrones,” Murra added.

The promotional trailer from MBC said the series centers around the relations between Muslims and Jews in Kuwait during the 1940s, where approximately 200 Jewish families lived, the Post reported. The Jewish protagonist is from Turkey and the plot focuses on her as a social outcast in the Gulf because of her religion. She lives in Iran and Iraq before eventually moving to Bahrain to work.

Read  Arab influencers welcome news of ultra-orthodox IDF draft

Post reporter Khaled Abu Aker tracked angry Arab social media reaction.

“We have many successful and heroic women in the Gulf,” a woman named Hana al-Qahtan posted. “Why do we need to turn a Jewish woman into a hero in our dramas?”

An angry tweet from a man identified as Ahmed Madani said he could not understand why an Arab network would feature a television series about a Jewish woman during Ramadan.

Saudi24 reported on another Arab who defended the series. “I do not see the need to be sensitive to the ‘Umm Haroun’ series. The Jews lived in some Gulf countries, and they were also rooted in many Arab countries,” the unnamed person wrote. “They were oppressed … after watching the series, we may evaluate and judge it. If the goal is normalization, it is rejected by us.”

Filmed in the UAE, the show was directed by Egyptian Muhammad Jamal al-Adl and stars various Arab actors.