Sincerity is a universal virtue and it is a necessity in warrior culture. One must be sincere about one’s strengths, one’s weaknesses, an enemy’s strengths and weaknesses and the reasons for the enmity. When a story is told in which characters are portrayed from both sides but the reasons for the antagonists’ actions are so clearly downplayed and even obscured, then we have an incomplete and insincere narrative.
I finished watching the second season of the hit Israeli Action Drama series, Fauda, this weekend. While I enjoyed the plot twists and character development, as well as the acting and the action sequences, something was clearly missing. The protagonists in the series are a team of Israeli operatives hunting down Palestinian terrorists. In the first season, the main antagonist is a leading Hamas operative who is thought to be dead but turns out to be alive, having faked his death. In the second season, the main antagonist is the son of a fallen Hamas leader who decides to take things to a more extreme level and raises the flag of ISIS in Palestine.
It sounds like a great action series, right?
It is definitely entertaining and, admittedly, it does not always show the Israeli operatives in the most favorable light. The main protagonist takes hostages on two occasions (a bride at a wedding in one; a young girl in another), causes two teammates to get killed (semi-indirectly on account of consequences for his actions) and the suicide of another person whom he deserts and mistreats based on prejudices. It seems like we are getting an even-handed understanding of the conflict, with violations of ethics on both sides. But let’s look more closely.
The reason that a person would be willing to sacrifice himself with a bomb to take out other human beings is not as simple as “because he wants 72 virgins” or “because he’s a Muslim” and the reason that a priest is seen allowing terrorists to meet at his church isn’t because “he’s an Arab and that’s what Arabs do,” but it seems to be the rationale that the series hints toward us. We hear the Palestinian characters refer to the Israelis as “dogs” and “sons of bitches” but we never once hear someone utter anything about the demolitions of Palestinian homes, businesses and holy sites of worship; often replacing them with pubs and clubs – despite the fact that this is exactly what has happened in Israel on numerous occasions. We never hear a Palestinian tell his story of why he became a terrorist; of why he hates the Israelis so much. We just hear, again and again, how much they hate them and the plans that they have to slaughter them and slowly take over the Holy Land.
This is a very insincere and one-sided narrative that is being portrayed in the series. G-d knows that every major nation of which I know has been founded by both legitimate and illegitimate means; by both ethical and unethical means. Yes, terrorism is evil. Yes, terrorists must be stopped. But why do they want to kill themselves and why are they so driven to kill others (in this case, specifically, Israelis)?
Common sense should tell a person with two working neurons that if the notion of blowing one-self up with bombs were the standard interpretation of “dying shahiid” (dying as a martyr) in Islam, we would have thousands of adult male and female Palestinian Muslims doing it every year (never mind elsewhere in the world) – and we don’t. Despite the fact that they have the large support of the people in Palestine, there is a very small percentage of people who actually carry out the physical attacks. Why? And why, ironically, are they supported by a large number of the local population at large?
In the series, we see why Doron (the main protagonist) takes hostages. We see why Doron has prejudices. But we never see why the Palestinians support Hamas; we do not see why they join Hamas or hate the Israelis so much either. We see a priest in a church who allows Muslim terrorists to meet and discuss things safely. But we never even get any character development of the priest or his relationship with Abu Samara; we never know specifically why he is favorable to these men in his church, because the priest character is never shown to be in mortal fear for his life but treats them amicably as his guests.
The audience is left to simply figure out that this is just the way that Arabs do things. The series is entertaining. The characters are generally well – developed. The acting is great, as are the action scenes and plot twists. But the series could have been so much more.
It could have been more real. It could have had the guts to show the point of view of the antagonists; to show why they do what they do clearly. It could have been more than just a “great” action series. It could have been a phenomenal series that accurately depicted the viewpoints of each side fully and allowed its audience to more fully comprehend the full narrative of this tragic, seemingly unending state of war in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Why? Because that is part of the sincerity of the warrior tradition; to understand the motivations of the enemy in order to find a lasting solution toward peace. And as Chas Clements of the American Kuntao Silat martial arts lineage once poignantly observed in an article, “No one values Life more than the warrior, no one wants Peace more than the man who practices War.”