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'Ramadan show is another Saudi attempt to normalise relations with Israel'

A new Saudi-produced television series that aired at the start of Ramadan has provoked anger after it featured an opening monologue in Hebrew

April 27, 2020 at 2:23 pm

A new Saudi-produced television series that aired at the start of Ramadan has provoked anger after it featured an opening monologue in Hebrew, reported the Jerusalem Post.

Filmed in the UAE, the controversial drama, “Umm Haroun” – meaning Mother of Aaron, centres around the relations between Muslims and Jews in Kuwait during the 1940s.

“Before our footsteps fade away and before our lives fall into memory, we will be lost with the time that is left,” the leading Jewish 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.”

It tells the story of a Jewish midwife of Turkish origin in Kuwait before she moves to Israel, with many viewers criticising the filmmakers arguing that the series comes in the context of attempts by some Gulf states to promote normalisation with Israel.

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Moreover, according to N12 TV news, many believe Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is personally involved in the series, as the prince is interested in closer relations with Israel.

The show’s writers, Bahraini brothers Muhammad and Ali Abdel Halim Shams, told Reuters that it had no political message.“People have spoken and judged before seeing it,” said Muhammad. “The message focuses on the ways of Muslims centred on showing love, good intention and peace to non-Muslims.”

Hamas official Ra’fat Murra said it was a “political and cultural attempt to introduce the Zionist project to Persian Gulf society,” adding: “The character of Umm Haroun reminds me of [Israeli prime minister] Golda Meir, the head of the occupation, who was a murderous criminal. This is the goal of normalisation: hatred, slow killing and internal destruction.”

However, some encouraged such shows, as Yousef Al-Mutairi, professor of modern and contemporary history at Kuwait University, told “Arab Jews are part of our history, whether in Egypt or in the Arab Peninsula, and this does not contradict our assertion that they were not expelled from the Gulf. The expulsion took place for individuals who were engaged in activities that the society was not satisfied with, such as trading in alcohol. We must differentiate between Zionism and Judaism. Israel and those living in it are Zionists. But there’s no problem with Judaism.”

Palestinian news website Al-Quds reported that 13 Palestinian groups had urged the Saudi network to stop airing the show.

According to the Times of Israel, it is the first Arab production to discuss the lives of Jews in the Gulf and their relations with Muslims.

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