A co-production between HBO and Keshet, which is a huge network in Israel, Our Boys is the most widely promoted foreign drama series about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict so far in the U.S. There is major backlash against the show as in Israel, with the prime minister calling for a boycott of Keshet in response to their “slandering Israel internationally.”  You can watch the trailer here.

The Controversey

Based on true events, Our Boys tells the story of a revenge killing after three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered in Israel in the summer of 2014. In response, an Arab boy was kidnapped, beaten and burned to death, and an operative in Shabak (a domestic Israeli intelligence unit) believes the murder was perpetrated by Jews (an unpopular opinion). The show begins after the Israeli teens are kidnapped, and really focuses on the murder of the Arab boy and the fallout from those events, which included a bloody war that left 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis dead. The controversy stems from the show covering the Arab killing, but “glossing over” the deaths of the Israeli teens. Protesters, many of whom have signed a petition asking HBO to drop the show, feel that the show is biased against Jews, even though it was created by Jews. Meanwhile, the producers maintain that Our Boys isn’t as much about these particular murders as about the damage that nationalist extremism can cause in any country, including the U.S.

But is it good?

Our Boys is excellently produced. The story follows three points of view: that of the Shabak, who are frantic to solve the crime because they are nervous about the greater damage that these killings could (and did) cause; the grieving family of the Arab boy, who are somewhat taken a back when their son is co-opted as a symbol of martyrdom; and a family of Orthodox Jewish settlers who may or may not have been involved in the murder of the Arab boy.  Like many of 2019’s grim dramas (Chernobyl, Mindhunter, etc), the subject matter is intense and it’s not light entertainment by any means.  But it is gripping, not only as a procedural, and as a peek at daily life in Jerusalem (however dramatized), but also as a cultural commentary on the state of the world. I learned so much by watching Our Boys, but that does lead to my one complaint. There is no hand holding in the show-the viewer is dropped right into the situation, with no background on who is who. For example, one of the groups that Shabak is looking at is a radical domestic terrorist group of young Israeli Jews whose ethos is unclear to me. Other than that, I’m enjoying the show. I was kind of dreading it as preachy, heavy subject matter, but it’s way better than that.  It’s not the stomach clenching rollercoaster ride that Fauda is, but it’s compelling in its own right.

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