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Tuesday Aug. 24, 2010 11:54 AM (EST+7)
Provocative television satire raises ire of some Palestinians

Read more: television, Palestinian satellite, culture, satire, comedy, censorship, freedom of speech

RAMALLAH, August 24 (JMCC) - A new television series airing on official Palestinian satellite television is raising eyebrows among Palestinians.

The Arabic-language show entitled “Watan ala Watar” – translated roughly as “Country Hanging by a Thread” – is the first satirical drama to be aired on Palestinian television and is in its second season.

The show has poked fun at the very highest of Palestinian officials – this in a community where late president Yasser Arafat censured journalists for less.

“Watan ala Watar is the first satirical drama on Palestinian TV that boldly criticizes reality,” says main actor and screenwriter Imad Farajin. “But it is not just for the sake of criticism, but an attempt towards positive change.”

Hamas has slammed the show for portraying Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Hanieh willing to postpone an important Palestinian reconciliation meeting in order to meet pop star Haifa Wahbeh, who has come to Gaza to help break its blockade.

The Gaza Hamas-controlled media ministry called the episode “black propaganda supportive of Israeli propaganda” and said the show was participating in “slander and defamation.” It called for the show’s cancellation.

Fateh also criticized the show after it poked fun at Tawfiq Tirawi. The former head of Palestinian intelligence himself said later that he did not “accept criticizing people by name” but at the same time that “there should be freedom of speech in Palestine.”

The show has been the target of a smear campaign by a coalition of Palestinian journalists and authors who have demanded its cancellation for “attacking religion and customs.”

Farajin has been surprised by criticism of the series arising from politicians and factions. This comes from “a lack of understanding,” he says, “particularly that most people are not used to seeing such bold criticism on official TV.”

He says that the series “has not and will not address issues of religion or ethics, but will not coddle any faction or party -- it is the mirror of the people.”

Imad Asfar, general program manager at Palestine TV says that while the show’s creators take into consideration criticisms that might improve the following season, “we do not accept what some claim: that the show has crossed lines and insulted heroic figures. This is pointless and weakens freedom of speech in Palestine.”

The at-times racy show has also addressed subjects normally taboo on Palestinian television.

“We don’t have anything that is not criticize-able,” says Asfar. “Satirical drama is a means of reflecting reality -- occasionally mocking it -- but at the end of the day, seeking positive change.”

The 10-minute series airs daily on the Palestine Satellite channel at 8 pm during the month of Ramadan. It is produced by the channel, produced by a Palestinian company, and sponsored by the Palestinian cellular company Jawwal.







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