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‘Homeland’ Is Obviously Anti-Semitic

Warning: spoiler alerts galore

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Homeland's Saul Berenson(FanPop)

Anyone who watched the season finale of Homeland will now understand that the show is insidiously anti-Semitic. All along, it has been Saul Berenson, the show’s lone Jew, who crafted an elaborate plot to secure power for himself at the expense of American lives and the national security of the United States.

It was Saul who passed the razor blade to Afsal Hamid, one of Brody’s guards when he was in captivity, to avoid the CIA interrogation; it was Saul who failed the polygraph when he was asked about this razor blade incident (Those sneaky, cunning Jews are even able to avoid polygraph detection!); and it was Saul who helped Aileen Morgan kill herself by “forgetting” his eyeglasses in the room of the supermax facility.

As the final episode ends, Saul stands in the midst of his victim’s bodies and recites the Kaddish–-the Jewish mourner’s blessing. The message, then, is clear: Saul, the caricature Jew (e.g. the beard, the nose, the spectacles), should never have been trusted. This is what happens when Jews get power.

I could go on but I think you get the point. The point, however, is not that Homeland is anti-Semitic (of course it isn’t!), but that it is a show with enough depth and layers for someone to concoct a totally inaccurate interpretation of what the show really is about. This is where Laila al-Arian comes in.

Earlier this week, Laila al-Arian wrote a pedantic article on Homeland’s Muslim problem for Salon titled, “TV’s most Islamophobic show.” In it, she attempts to argue that Homeland is “insidiously Islamophobic;” that the “standard stereotypes about Islam and Muslims are reinforced;” and that the show demonstrates that Muslims can never be trusted. We must, however, be watching different shows.

Ignoring Al-Arian’s nitpicking points about the many mistakes Homeland makes when it comes to Islam and Arab culture (on which she is, largely, correct), her thesis boils down to her belief that Homeland “leaves little doubt that…it is being Muslim that makes someone dangerous” and “that Muslim terrorists are lurking under every stone, especially in places of power and influence.” But her thesis is really a straw man for the obvious fact that it is not any character’s belief in Islam that makes them dangerous, but rather their membership in al-Qaeda.

Al-Arian cannot even fathom this. Indeed, the only time she mentions al-Qaeda is in a fleeting reference at the beginning of her article and later, when she bemoans the show’s unwillingness to “provide context” about the “backgrounds or motivations” of the terrorist groups depicted on the show. (Al-Arian can only bring herself to call them “Islamist groups,” even though the two she mentions––al-Qaeda and Hezbollah––are US designated terrorist organizations.)

Al-Arian’s desire for context is insatiable to the point of being absurd. For example, she stomps her feet in anger when the television show discusses Roya Hammad’s Palestinian parents, but does not explain how they became refugees. Why this totally irrelevant detail would benefit the show’s artistic direction, al-Arian does not say. But al-Arian, herself, would benefit from viewing statements in context.

When discussing how Homeland endorses the racial profiling of “dark-skinned” individuals, al-Arian quotes Saul calling racial profiling, “actual profiling.” Al-Arian, though, wrote this article before the final episode. Now that Saul is the prime suspect, doesn’t his demand to profile dark-skinned individuals make sense? Doesn’t it show that he supports the practice because it would allow him to slip through the system? Doesn’t that make the exact opposite case: that racial profiling doesn’t work?

There is another example of failed racial profiling that al-Arian does not mention. Carrie accuses Galvez, her longtime coworker and friend, of being the CIA mole simply because he is Muslim. When Galvez was confronted and forcefully pulled from his car by his injured arm, solely because he was Muslim, did any viewer not cringe? Al-Arian must have not mentioned Galvez at all because it directly contradicts her thesis that the show portrays all Muslims as dangerous.

Al-Arian’s strongest example of the show’s Islamophobia is equally wrongheaded. When Brody’s wife discovers that he is a Muslim, she points angrily at his Quran and shouts, “These are the people who tortured you!” These are the people who, if they found out Brody’s daughter was having sex, “would stone her to death in a soccer stadium!”

Yes, this statement is obviously Islamophobic. But in the context of the episode, the viewer sympathizes with Brody, not his wife! It is Brody’s wife and her statements that repulse the viewer. If we were meant to sympathize with Brody’s wife, she would be a more likable character, not someone in an adulterous relationship with her husband’s best friend.

Part of the genius of Homeland is that by making an All-American war hero into a terrorist, it does exactly the opposite of what al-Arian condemns: Homeland challenges the stereotypes of who is a terrorist. Brody’s conversion to Islam is a red herring. Islam, itself, is a red herring. If the show was Islamophobic, Brody’s martyr tape would focus on Islam. It does not even mention the word Islam. Instead, Brody explicitly states political reasons for his terrorism: “This is about justice for 82 children whose deaths were never acknowledged and whose murder is a stain on the soul of this nation.”

Homeland also challenges conventional notions of terrorism by forcing the viewer to confront terrorists who are morally and emotionally complex, who struggle not only with mundane issues but also with fundamental moral questions of whether terrorism is actually ever justified. These larger, more fundamental themes, however, were totally lost on al-Arian.

TV’s Most Islamophobic Show [Salon]

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Thanks for spoiling the show for me. You have just made me into an anti-semite.

Azi Grae says:

Sounded like he fumbled the kadish at the end. (unless that was scripted, of course)

Well, this was poorly argued. No wonder he resorted deeply condescending statements like “She stomped her feet in anger” to attempt to make his points…

It’s an Israeli show. Jesus. Jewish involvement in pornography has a long history in the United States:

    Fed_Up18 says:

    Thanks for exposing yourself, *&* proving that when bigots lie about Israel, they are doing it because they really just hate Jews (Yes, sweetie, you did when you used “Israeli” as interchangeable with “Jews”; & you prove your bigotry when you leaped to the *non sequitur* about pornography – which, incidentally, is produced for people like you. No one’s got a gun to your head, sicko! – for NO OTHER REASON than to SLANDER JEWS.)

    bloomiegirl says:

    So “All in the Family” was a British show?

melissa green says:

I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree on Homeland’s portrayal of other cultures and beliefs. This has definitely been a concern for a lot of people, and a topic of debate that has been brought up more times than once around the lunch table in my office at DISH. I say the same thing every time though, which is that Saul is the moral
compass of the whole series, not the evil man portrayed here. Also, the show doesn’t
feed into Muslim stereotypes, but rather it challenges them. I’m just glad that I didn’t allow this silly criticism to make me miss out on this amazing series. I almost didn’t even give it a chance, but my roommate insisted that I sit down and watch it. I’m lucky that that she thought to record and save each episode, and that our DISH Hopper DVR’s 2,000 hours of recording space let us house every season without a problem. Or else, I would’ve made the big mistake of not watching Homeland!

Me thinks you over analyze. Show is a great roller coaster ride!

Lilithcat says:

“it was Saul who failed the polygraph when he was asked about this razor blade incident (Those sneaky, cunning Jews are even able to avoid polygraph detection!);”

You contradict yourself.

dubiyarden says:

Wait – this is the same Laila al-Arian who’s father Sami was a lying Muslim sentenced to 5 years for funding a terrorist organization! Isn’t it a bit relevant to appreciating Laila’s comments?

Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

Having a villain who is Jewish — even a Jewish villain — does not make a TV show “anti-semitic”.

    Maybe you should have read the whole article. That’s not the point the author makes.

      Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

      First paragraph: “Anyone who watched the season finale of Homeland will now understand that the show is insidiously anti-Semitic. All along, it has been Saul Berenson, the show’s lone Jew, who crafted an elaborate plot to secure power for himself at the expense of American lives and the national security of the United States.”

      Having a villain who is Jewish — even a Jewish villain — does not make a TV show “anti-Semitic”.

      I notice you “forgot” to tell us what point you think the author makes.

    bloomiegirl says:

    Saul has not been a villain on this show. On the contrary, he has been Carrie’s supporter. Have you been watching?

      Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

      No. I haven’t.

      And I did not write write an article entitled “‘Homeland’ Is Obviously Anti-Semitic” either.

        bloomiegirl says:

        You did call Saul a villain, and he is not one on the show.

          Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

          I am going to pretend that this side issue to a side issue of a side issue is important enough to discuss.

          No I’m not.

          Find something to do with your life. Recycle your Hanukkah wrapping. Something. Anything.

          bloomiegirl says:

          The issue of who is a villain on Homeland is not a side issue, but rather one of the points of the show, and Saul is not one of the villains.

          OK, now we’re done.

          Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

          “it was Saul who failed the polygraph when he was asked about this razor blade incident”

Think we are jumping the gun a bit here to call this show anti Semitic… The show actually makes no direct portrayal about semitism yet… We have to keep watching before we rush to judgement about the motivations of the characters in homeland. Or we can write more bogus columns with rediculous headlines for attention.

    Thomas Paine says:

    You do understand that he wasn’t actually saying the show was anti Semitic, right? Did you actually read the damn article?

bloomiegirl says:

Oops. it was Brody who passed the razor to Hamid;. Then he aced the polygraph, also acing the question if he had ever been unfaithful to his wife. Brody can lie to the polygraph and get away with it.

Saul. on the other hand, has a history of not being able to get away with telling the truth when on the polygraph. Surprised you missed this.

By the way, to bring you up to date, Saul is the head of the operation now.

One request: please stop making fun of Mandy Patinkin. He’s a great actor.

I (a Jew) do not believe the show is anti-semitic at all. In fact, I believe the ethnic portrayals are more representative of the mixture of ethnicities in civil service. I also believe it is not yet clear who is the “bad guy” here. There are many unanswered questions, and, being a survivor of all the calamities which occur in fighting terrorism almost seem like “being in the wrong place at the wrong time”. The complexities of characterizations of Brody, Carrie, and everyone else has made for a sympathetic and excellent portrayal of those of all political positions. Emphasizing the good guys whose egos get in the way of doing the right thing as they move farther up the ladder of CIA achievement is also fascinating.

patrick2013 says:

Isn’t this show a remake of a Israeli show…?

Yes its anti-semitic racist when a jew is a bad guy but when muslims are the bad guy its not a problem. i think this article is childish and racist.

Nissim Lucerna says:

Let me enjoy my show. I don’t hate Christians, I don’t hate Muslims, and I am a Jew. Of course neither do I hate us. A picky gringa who sees stereotypes in fruits and insects too, tries to force Homeland to be politically correct, and rob its juice from it. No, thanks.

Best show on TV. Can’t wait for season 3.

Maybe they should have thought about this before they killed Christ.

I can’t believe how many people commenting here missed the point because they only read the headline and first paragraph. The writer is NOT saying the show is antisemitic–he’s posited that one can make a straw man argument out of any set of facts surrounding an ethnicity by selective reading of those facts. He is criticizing al Arian’s doing just that in her bogus claim that the show is Islamophobic.

Has paranoia grabbed everybody in
the world a especially in Hollywood these are fictional characters made up in
the mind of a creator and artistic creator they do not have anything to do with
feelings of any one certainly with the racist ideas and to compare them to such
is really looking for shadows in a brightly lit room thank you

Michael says:

Homeland is a pure islamophoic serie, it is allll about Islam. Americans are the victims and muslims are terrorists so we need to go and bomb them and kill them and come back home and be the heroes. The whole serie is a justification for the massacres of amercians in other countries!!

checkmeister says:

oh i was thinking the show is very anti-muslim and very pro american propaganda and pro-neutral on jews.

Saman Q says:

Really I didn’t know much about the story of this show !!!! thank you for informing , I’m an Iranian guy and i was going to get this show and watch it !! now i wont !! why they can’t make another Fantastic show like Fringe instead of this Anti middle eastern show !!! :)

THX1138 says:

Your dismissal of Laila al-Arian’s article is pathetic and Islamophobic as well. You, a non-Muslim, are basically telling Muslims how they should or shouldn’t feel about the show. You speak as if Muslims are not intelligent enough to understand their own feelings, thoughts, and reactions to a show that is projecting images about our community. Yeah, you argue that the show is only vilifying Al-Qaeda members, but did you ever do your research and read about the countless incidents where Muslims are victimized in hate crimes, bullied at school and called “Osama,” deported because of false accusations, or have their mosques and homes vandalized with hate graffiti accusing them of being part of Al-Qaeda?

Instead of defending shows like Homeland, which perpetuates Islamophobia and justification for U.S. wars that murder Muslims overseas, ask yourself this question: why isn’t there a TV show or movie about Muslims that DOESN’T have anything to do with terrorism? Every time we see Muslims in western movies or TV shows, they are far too often portrayed as terrorists. Unless you’re an Islamophobe, you shouldn’t be trying to lecture Muslims on what is or isn’t Islamophobic. That’s not your job. Your job, unless you’re an Islamophobe, is to LISTEN and make efforts to understand the concerns raised by Muslims.


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‘Homeland’ Is Obviously Anti-Semitic

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