“Arab Labor”

“Arab Labor” is a popular TV sitcom produced in Israel.  It premiered on an Israeli channel in 2007 and later premiered on Link TV in 2008. According to Link TV’s description, the show was created by an Israeli-born Palestinian journalist, Sayed Kashua. The story revolves around a Palestinian-Israeli journalist, Amjad (played by Norman Issa), dealing with family, work, and the struggle to accept his Arab identity in an Israeli society.  The show, although dealing with topics like religion, politics and culture between Israelis and Arabs, is a comedy that showcases these issues in a lighthearted manner. It is also polyglossic; they speak both Arabic (with Hebrew subtitles) and Hebrew. On Link TV, there are English subtitles.

Although I could not watch a full episode, Link TV provides several clips of different episodes. These links were enough to give me a good sense of how the show went about portraying Arabs through Amjad’s struggles. The very first clip that I watched dealt with the issue of Amjad getting stopped at a security checkpoint on his way to work every day. His coworker, Meir suggests that it is because of his car, a dated Subaru. He says, “The first rule in Boot camp is to stop and check any Subaru older than 1990… A Subaru like yours could belong only to Arabs or young settlers” (Link TV).  Amjad goes on a quest to find a “Jewish car” in order to feel less like an outsider and more as a part of the Israeli society.  The show’s dilemma is interesting because it makes many assumptions and stereotypes about Arabic culture and about Israeli culture as well. And while it can be controversial at times, it can also be satirical about how Amjad goes about “toning down” his Arab-ness.

It’s interesting to see the gap being bridged between Israeli and Arab cultures throughout the show. You can check out the clips here: http://www.linktv.org/arablabor-season1

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5 Responses to “Arab Labor”

  1. This show is hilarious! I’m thrilled that one of the main writers for the show will be visiting Tufts this spring!

  2. I agree with Professor Bishara; I had to watch the entire first season (available at Tisch!) for Hebrew class and enjoyed every minute of it. From what we discussed in my Hebrew class, Amjad is loosely based on Sayed Kashua, the creator of the TV show. It offers an interesting view into the “identity crisis” some Israeli Arabs face. The show does a great job at using stereotypes to tackle both Israeli and Arab ignorance and racism. While some of this is very overt, such as the example of the check point and the subaru, other critiques are less conspicuous. For example, Amjad and his wife Bushra often disagree on many decisions, resulting in Amjad often stateing how he has the final say as the “man of the house” or as Maya’s (their daughter’s) “father.” While this may seem to be reinforcing the inaccurate stereotype that wives must be subservient to their husbands in Arab culture, ultimately it is Bushra who always gets her way, by managing to outwit and outsmart her husband.

  3. Really? Will they be speaking for our class or just in general?

  4. The HBO sitcom, Curb Your Enthusiasm, immediately came to mind after watching a few clips of Arab Labor. Both shows use daily occurrences to address religious and cultural issues in a comical manner. Arab Labor definitely puts a comical spin on many of the topics discussed by Ella Shohat in her book, Israeli Cinema. Making the main character not only a Palestinian-Israeli, but a journalist as well I thought was an interesting choice. Because of his profession it allows him to be led to a large variety of situations and interactions with other people.

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