This week, People of the Pod goes live from New York with an unedited conversation with Joseph Cedar, creator and executive producer of HBO’s “Our Boys.” Later, to further our post-Israeli elections coverage, we’re joined by The Times of Israel’s Palestinian Affairs and Arab World Correspondent Adam Rasgon.
In our weekly podcast, produced in partnership between the American Jewish Committee and The Times of Israel, we take you beyond the headlines and analyze global affairs through a Jewish lens. The podcast examines political events, the people driving them, and what it all means for the Jewish people and Israel.
Cedar, a 51-year-old with roots both in New York City and in Israel, is best known for his 2011 Hebrew-language film “Footnote,” which debuted in the main competition at Cannes and was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign language film (as was his earlier movie “Beaufort”). His 2016 mostly English-language project, “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer,” featured Richard Gere and a cast of Israeli stars.
At AJC’s Manhattan headquarters, Cedar shared his first-hand account of how he translated the tragedies of summer 2014 into television, his analysis of the social and political climate that led to those attacks, and the critical reception the show has received from some prominent Israelis.
Cedar describes the drama as a mix of documentary and filmed scenes. One of the most startling and flash point scenes in the series is a selection of documentary footage shot in which tens of thousands of Jewish Israelis riot in Jerusalem shouting “Death to Arabs” after the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped boys, Naftali Frenkel (16), Gilad Shaer (16), and Eyal Yifrah (19).
Due to this scene and others, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the show “anti-Semitic.”
Cedar said Netanyahu’s statement must be “seen in the context of the election and has nothing to do with the content in the show.” The Israeli-American director warned that the use of the word “anti-Semitism” in this case is “really harmful.”
“Using that term against Jewish Israelis who are deeply rooted in their heritage, religion and culture is cynical and harmful,” said Cedar. “…We’re not manipulating the reality; we’re not doing anything to push a certain political agenda.”
Cedar told AJC’s Seffi Kogan that he didn’t recall seeing this riot in Jerusalem in 2014 and was shocked when he was exposed to it during research for the series and felt it was important to incorporate the footage.
Cedar noted that unlike AJC, he does not work as an advocate for Israel, and while he understands the uncomfortable portrayal of Israelis in the series, Israel’s image is not the overriding factor in his artistic decisions.
The director likewise stated that the series is a collaboration between three directors and writers. HBO approached Hagai Levi (creator of “In Treatment”), hoping he could do something about “the summer of 2014 in Israel.” Levi came to Cedar and then they both went to Palestinian writer/director Tawfik Abu-Wael.
“The collaboration created something that couldn’t have been made by any of us individually,” said Cedar, adding that it is a product of three different points of view.
After the live Cedar interview, TOI’s Adam Rasgon explains how the Joint List, Israel’s Arab-majority party, was formed, what its success in last week’s election means for Israeli politics, and what impact its decision to endorse Blue and White Leader Benny Gantz could have on the outcome of the current coalition negotiations.
In explaining the 10 percent jump in electoral presence from the Arab sector, Rasgon said that Netanyahu’s anti-Arab rhetoric on and before election day accounts for much of the rise.
With contributions from Jordan Hoffman.