The arrival of the holy month of Ramadan provides a good opportunity for many of the TV networks in the Muslim countries to increase their viewership by airing attractive series and programs.
Ramadan, in which according to the statistics the viewership numbers dramatically increase, provides an appropriate opportunity for various televisions with various tendencies to pursue their cultural objectives.
Meanwhile, the MBC network of Saudi Arabia announced it will air Um Haroon (Mother of Aaron) series, stirring controversy among the Arab-language viewers.
Media tricks to follow normalization with the Israeli regime
Um Haroon relates the story of a Jewish woman who was originally from the Ottoman Turks. After living in Iran and Iraq for years she finally moved to Bahrain and lived there as a midwife, until the Israeli regime was established in the Occupied Palestinian territories where she migrated to live the rest of her life.
The TV drama, in fact, sheds light on the life of the Jews of the Persian Gulf Arab states in the 1940s. The TV series pretends that the Jews of the Arab states were under oppression because of their faith and so are excommunicated from the Arab and Muslim societies.
According to some experts, the production of this series while a couple of months ago American President Donald Trump along with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled the anti-Palestinian “deal of the century” initiative looks suspicious.
The first message that is sought to be passed to the viewers is that Judaism is equal to Zionism. Those behind the series want to tell the audience that Zionism as a phenomenon is an outcome of the anti-Jewish oppression and that this phenomenon is an undeniable reality.
So, it tells the audience they should not treat with ignorance a phenomenon that has its roots in the historical events. It further tells them that to build a bright future in the Arab and Muslim world, the Judaism, which in the eyes of the producers is the very Zionism, should be accepted as part of the region’s future and be communicated with.
Tariq al-Tawari, a professor of Islamic sharia interpretation at the College of Sharia and Islamic Studies of Kuwait University, in an interview told Aljazeera news that there are concerns over such so-called cultural works from two aspects. First, it intends to prepare the ground for the claims that the Jews have rights in Kuwait or other Persian Gulf Arab countries. This is while such Jews migrated to Kuwait from other countries. The second concern, he went on, is that this series works as a prelude for normalization with Tel Aviv and redraws the anti-normalization of the Kuwaiti government and people through comedy-drama.
Beside this, the TV networks run by the Arab supporters of the deal of the century and normalization decline to put to show heinous Israeli crimes against the Palestinians and Arabs and at the same time degrade the history of the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation, showing that a media project is underway to complement the normalization process between Arab countries and the Israeli regime.
The major drive behind such attempts is the deletion of the Israeli crimes from the historical memory of the Arab nations which is one of the main obstacles ahead of the Arab world public accepting any compromises and thaw with the Israelis.
The identity of the film crew and the MBC’s record
The drama is a joint work of Al-Fahad film company owned by the Kuwaiti actress Hayat al-Fahad, who acts as Um Haroon, and Jernas Media company, owned by UAE’s Ahmad al-Jesmi. Both of them are influential producers working with Saudi Arabia’s Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC). The director is Mohammad al-Adl from Egypt. All of the scenes are filmed in the United Arab Emirates.
The MBC Group, despite the denials of connections, has very close bonds with the ruling Al Saudi family. Before this film, the media group took some measures in line with the Saudi goals, causing controversy across the region. As an example, MBC aired in 2012 the controversial Omar series that drew opposition from Al-Azhar Islamic university and even some Saudi clerics. Some Saudi clerics condemned the TV group’s managers as “spreading corruption on earth.” These reactions very well disclosed the division between the Al Saudi family and the Wahhabi clergy. This division even showed itself more evidently in the years that followed the production of Omar and during the reform plan led by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since 2016.
So, the MBC network which has close relations with the Saudi royal family has been turned into an instrument pursuing the Saudi cultural goals at home and in the region. Airing Um Haroon, which apparently follows normalization with the Israeli regime, comes as part of this media and cultural strategy.
Reactions to the drama
Rafat Morah, a senior official in the Gaza-based Hamas movement, in reaction to the “agenda-carrying” TV series said that the main aims of it are distortion of the reality and luring the Persian Gulf Arabs into a thaw with the Israelis.
“Um Haroon, played by Hayat al-Fahad, evokes for me the character of Israeli’s fourth Prime Minister Golda Meir, that vengeful, criminal, and killer old woman,” he said.
The member of Hamas said that the Um Haroon series is an effort to launch the Israeli political and cultural project in the Arab countries. In a Twitter message, he said that the consequences of any normalization with the Israeli regime are nothing but destruction, adding Um Haroon seeks to gradually push the Persian Gulf Arab societies into the normalization process as some Arab rulers are eager to establish firm relations with Netanyahu to save their thrones.
Al-Quds news network reported that 13 Palestinian groups and organizations inside Palestine and outside it published a joint statement in condemnation of production of the TV series, asking the Saudi network managers to call off the airing plan.