A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Arab Labor on Israeli television

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 12, 2008

This morning I read a New York Times article about the latest project by Sayed Kashua, the Arab Israeli author who made such a splash with his debut novel Dancing Arabs – because it was written in Hebrew and because it was good. Now he’s created a sitcom about an upper-middle class Arab-Israeli family living fairly comfortably in a Hebrew-language, Israeli world: Avoda Aravit (more on the meaning of this title below).

The show, which airs in Arabic with Hebrew subtitles on a commercial Israeli station, has earned him praise from Israel’s Jews and criticism from some Palestinians – an uncomfortable irony that the article acknowledges.

Welcome to Kashua’s world, which, like the series, “Avoda Aravit,” or “Arab Labor,” works on multiple, often paradoxical levels. The title is Hebrew slang for second-rate work, and the one that Kashua chose.

On one hand Kashua has managed to barge through cultural barriers and bring an Arab point of view – mostly expressed in colloquial Arabic – into the mainstream of Israeli entertainment. On the other, “Avoda Aravit” reflects a society still grappling with fundamental issues of identity and belonging in a Jewish state that, Kashua says, still largely relates to its Arab minority as “a fifth column or a demographic problem.”

Al Jazeera English ran a story about the show earlier this winter – a nice two-minute clip that left this viewer eager for more airtime:

I doubt I can access Israeli television from Beirut – historically, Damascus satellites were the ones that somehow broadcast Israeli channels.

But I’m going to Kuwait in twelve days, and I see that the show is available via several bit torrent channels. I sense some downloading in my future :).

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