Middle EastPalestineSaudi Arabia

Enemy of Islam Saudi TV’s lionizing of Jewish woman in Ramadan angers Arabs, Muslim World

A new series aired on the Saudi-owned MBC channel about the life of Jews in the Persian Gulf during the 1940s has generated controversy in the Arab world, with critics regarding the drama as an invitation to normalize ties with Israel.

Umm Haroun, a daring account of the Jewish merchant communities that resided in Kuwait, premiered during Ramadan which is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar. 

The series directed by Egypt’s Ahmed Gamal el-Adl in the United Arab Emirates stars a Kuwaiti actress who plays the role of a Jewish midwife of Turkish origin living in the Persian Gulf country before settling in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Before our footsteps go missing and our lives fall into memory, we will be lost to time,” a Jewish character says in Hebrew in the opening monologue of the first episode. “We are the Persian Gulf Jews who were born in the Persian Gulf lands.”

Hebrew-language outlet N12 reported on Sunday that many believe Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is involved in the series as he is interested in closer relations between the kingdom and Israel.

Several critics took to social media to express their outrage at the series, saying it portrays Jews as suffering from “injustices” in an Arab country.

“We have many successful and heroic women in the Persian Gulf,” protested Hana al-Qahtan. “Why do we need to turn a Jewish woman into a hero in our dramas?”

Another social media user Ahmed Madani tweeted that he does not understand why an Arab television channel would broadcast a series about a Jewish woman during Ramadan.

“Would Israel ever produce a series about a Muslim woman in its prisons?” he asked. “What about the injustices done to the Palestinians? Why not produce a documentary about the suffering of Palestinians?”

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas which is based in the Gaza Strip denounced the TV series as a “political and cultural attempt to introduce the Zionist project to Persian Gulf society.”

“The character of Umm Haroun reminds me of [ex-Israeli prime minister] Golda Meir, the head of the occupation, who was a murderous criminal,” said senior Hamas official Ra’fat Murra. “This is the goal of normalization: hatred, slow killing and internal destruction.” 

Murra said the series aims to falsify history and gradually introduce Persian Gulf society to normalization with the Zionist occupation, at a time when some Arab rulers are panting to build close ties with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to protect their thrones.

The al-Quds news network reported that 13 Palestinian groups and organizations had, in a joint statement, urged the Saudi-owned channel to stop airing Umm Haroun.

Israel has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but latest reports suggest that the regime is working behind the scenes to establish formal contacts with Persian Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia.

Critics say Riyadh’s flirtation with Tel Aviv would undermine global efforts to isolate Israel and defend the Palestinian cause.

Saudi Arabia welcomed US President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel “deal of the century,” which was unveiled in late January and rejected by all Palestinian groups.

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