By Saud Abu Ramadan
Gaza, Feb 3 (EFE).- A set of Israeli flags, Hebrew posters and a portrait of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, are placed in a TV studio of Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic Palestinian party that has been controlling the Gaza Strip since 2007.
Filmed in a made-up office of Israel’s secret service, the new ‘pro-resistance’ series rivals the political thriller Israeli TV show Fauda (Chaos), which shows the conflict with Palestinians from an Israeli perspective.
Director Mohamed Thoraya, however, says Qabdat al-Ahrar (Fist of the Free) was not created in response to the Israeli show, but rather to reflect the reality from a Palestinian angle.
“We want to flip the equation, show the Palestinian point of view, and broadcast a drama about our resistance spirit,” Thoraya tells Efe about the series that will air on 12 channels including the Hamas-run al-Aqsa, during the holy month of Ramadan in April.
Fauda, which is streaming on Netflix, HBO and Apple TV, follows a group of Israeli soldiers conducting operations inside the Palestinian territory, while the Palestinian series tells the story of an incident that took place during an Israeli operation in Gaza in 2018 when seven Palestinian Hamas fighters and an Israeli officer were killed.
Thoraya says those Palestinians in Gaza that watched the Israeli series do not think it deserves all the attention it got.
“I believe that watching any Israeli TV series includes helping the normalization of ties with the Zionist state,” says Thoraya, who believes the Israeli goal was to “criminalize the Palestinians and show them as the bad guys.”
While the international community, including Israel, the United States and the European Union, lists Hamas as a terrorist organization, the series attempts to challenge that view by presenting a pro-resistance movement fighting for freedom and independence in Gaza.
The coastal enclave, home to more than 2.3 million people, has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas took over in 2007 and ousted all officials loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Qabdat al-Ahrar has as its main characters Hamas fighters who have fought in four large-scale offensives in Gaza since 2008.
Thoraya highlights that the costs are not high, the actors’ salaries are low, the sets are basic, project timelines are strict, and the production staff is aiming to deliver 30 episodes by April.
Fauda features actors from the Palestinian-Israeli minority but producers in Gaza do not cooperate with Palestinian actors in Israel.
As a result, studios are forced to hire local actors to play Israeli characters, something that exposes them to real-life hatred.
Veteran Gaza actor Jawad Harouda, who plays the head of Israel’s secret service Shin Bet in the new TV series, is in his early sixties and has a high-pitched voice.
He reads the script to get into character but cautions that being too persuasive can lead to disaster.
While leaning in his boss’s chair in the make-believe Shin Bet office, Harouda says: “Some women look at me and pray that I die.”
“I really enjoy it when people make fun of me. It means I’ve made it because the actor is a chameleon, he must be able to portray a wide range of emotions,” he tells Efe.
The Israeli characters in Fauda speak both in Hebrew and Arabic. However, actors in the Hamas series speak only in Arabic.
Women also wear their headscarves when portraying Jewish characters, at the request of Hamas.