Television’s Homeland Melodrama Demonizes Israelis

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In a segment of Homeland (season six, episode three) originally aired Jan. 29, 2017 (“The Covenant”), veteran CIA agent Saul Berenson (played by actor Mandy Patinkin), while on duty in the Middle East, visits his estranged sister, an ardent Zionist, who, with her husband, resides in the West Bank. They reminisce about their close childhoods in Indiana. Then acrimony occurs. He echoes the Palestinian Arab narrative and mocks his own ancestral faith of Judaism. Since inevitably some viewers will grant authenticity to slanderous assertions in a fictional drama if it is slickly produced and staged, what Homeland says matters. An example in this episode is the pernicious falsehood that West Bank Arab villages were bulldozed to make way for Jewish settlements.
 
In real life, Patinkin is a severe critic of Israeli policies. For that reason, it appears that Saul’s sister character is a “straw man”  whose purpose is to provide an opportunity for the actor to demonize Israel, especially West Bank Jewish communities.

Sister: We were so close. After I married Moshe, you practically disappeared from my life.

[…]
 
Sister: Moshe opened my eyes to the false life that mother and father had us living – exchanging Christmas presents with the neighbors, doing everything we could not to offend anyone with our Jewishness. Moshe made me proud to be a Jew.

Saul: He turned you against your family. He brought you to live in a place that’s not yours, where you don’t belong.

Sister: Please, Saul, let’s not do this.

Saul: Haven’t you driven enough people from their homes already? Bulldoze their villages, seized their property under laws they had no part in making?

Sister: This land was promised to Abraham.

Saul: Ah, yes. Promise. A covenant with God made thousands of years ago. Doesn’t that strike you as a form of insanity?

Sister: You don’t understand, Saul. You never have. I love the life that God has given me.

Saul: How can you love making enemies? How can you love knowing that your very presence here makes peace less possible?

Sister: I have a family, a community, a life filled with faith and purpose. Saul…what do you have?

(Video clip/MRC-TV (and transcript) of the above segment is at David Horowitz’s TruthRevolt project.)

Patinkin/Saul’s opposition to West Bank Jewish communities is not representative of a majority of American Jews. According to a January 2017 Pew Research poll, West Bank settlements are viewed unfavorably by only a minority (44 percent) of American Jews.
 
Insulting the Bible, Christians and Jews

Saul charges, “He [sister’s husband] brought you to live in a place that’s not yours, where you don’t belong.” This charge echoes the Palestinian narrative that Jews don’t belong in the Holy Land (including Israel and the West Bank). This ignores the fact that the entire Land is the Jews’ ancient homeland and Jews have lived here for thousands of years as confirmed by historical records and the Bible. In fact, according to official records, Jews have constituted the majority population of Jerusalem since the mid 1860s. The “West Bank,” Judea and Samaria (as referred to both biblically and historically), constituted the heartland of ancient Israel.

It’s where, as related in the Bible’s Genesis 12:7, God unconditionally promised the land to the Hebrew/Jewish patriarch Abraham and his covenantal offspring. It’s an unconditional promise because no “if” was attached to it (no circumstances could void it) and no time limit was stated. Saul’s sister tells him, “This land was promised to Abraham.” But Saul ridicules the promise, which is honored by both normative Judaism and normative Christianity, “Ah, yes. Promise. A covenant with God made thousands of years ago. Doesn’t that strike you as a form of insanity?” So, Patinkin’s Saul insults the Bible, Christians and Jews. Additionally, he ignores the fact that communities of Jews had been working the land there 2000 years before Arabs arrived as a result of conquests by Islamic forces from the Arabian Peninsula.
 
Big lie

Patinkin/Saul’s incendiary charge, “Haven’t you driven enough people from their homes already? Bulldoze their villages, seized their property under laws they had no part in making,” promotes the false accusation that West Bank settlements are constructed on the ruins of bulldozed villages from which Arabs were driven from their homes. Writer/lawyer/film producer Joseph Schick points out,

Alas, this Big Lie has been repeated so many times that most people in the world have come to believe it – baselessly equating West Bank settlements with forced, violent dispossession of civilians from their homes, thereby maligning the more than 400,000 Israeli residents in Judea and Samaria… In fact, in the still mostly empty West Bank, settlements were built alongside or across from Palestinian towns and villages. (Hebron is the only place inhabited by both Israelis and Arabs.) Palestinians were not expelled from their homes as a result of the construction of settlements, nor has any Arab village ever been bulldozed or otherwise evacuated in any way to make way for a settlement in Judea or Samaria.

Indeed, the last West Bank villages to be destroyed (aside from the four Jewish communities evacuated by Prime Minister Sharon in 2005), with people not merely driven from their homes but murdered, occurred in 1948 when Arabs looted and then completely destroyed all of the Jewish settlements in Gush Etzion, massacring 240 women and men.

In fact, Israel, a nation of laws, as a matter of policy removes only illegally built homes in Arab areas within its jurisdiction just as in Jewish ones.

The occupation myth implicitly promoted by Patinkin’s Saul
 
The “occupation” charge is used to condemn Israel. The show fails to inform viewers that the Palestinians regard all of Israel as “occupied.” For example, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on official PA television: “All our holy places are still under occupation, and so far we have not liberated one inch of Palestinian land. All Palestinian land is occupied – Gaza is occupied, the West Bank is occupied, the 1948 lands [i.e. Israel] are occupied and Jerusalem is occupied.”
 
But Israel remains the legal, obligatory military authority of the West Bank having taken that area in a war of self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli troops had withdrawn from the majority of Palestinian population centers in the West Bank after Israel and the PA signed an interim agreement on Sept. 28, 1995. But with the resumption of Palestinian violence against Israelis during the second intifada (2000 to 2005), Israeli troops re-established a major presence in the West Bank, but do not have a presence in Palestinian cities except when there are security needs. In any case, the PA currently has jurisdiction over the daily lives of 93 percent of West Bank Arabs. Furthermore, contradicting Palestinian propaganda that implies that settlements are swallowing up the West Bank, Jewish communities constitute no more than six percent of the territory.
 
Will Patinkin’s politics spur additional anti-Israel Homeland episodes?

His radical politics concerning Israel are known. For example, his 14-minute 2012 speech advocating boycott and sanctions of West Bank Jewish communities. He has supported the goal of having a Jew-free West Bank.

Now that he is also a producer of the series, will his role involve targeting Israel in future episodes? Monitoring is warranted.