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The U.S. Elite's Favorite Television Show: Showtime's 'Homeland' Demonizes Arabs and Prepares Americans For Bombing Iran

The award winning TV show reinforces myths and misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims.

The story of Arabs and Muslims and the Western and especially the American media has been told too many times before. The history of representations of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood films, in television programs, on network news, or in major and minor American print media has been studied, analysed, criticised, and defended in books, research papers, and media commentary for decades. This also applies to the more virulent Israeli Jewish racist representations of Arabs and Muslims, not only in the Israeli media, school curricula, and all cultural artifacts that Israeli Jewish society produces, but also by actual and ongoing Israeli Jewish policies towards Arabs inside and outside Israel.

Just as Israeli racist representations of Arabs are a reflection of an overall Israeli Jewish structural racism that pervades every aspect of Israeli Jewish society, American media racism is also just a branch of a larger American racism and racialism on which much of American culture, history, and national identity is based. Still, this need not sway the casual observer from analyzing the dynamism of white American nationalist fantasies about their internal and external racial others as represented in the news media or in televised fiction. 

If in the 1970s, American children were taught on the American children’s TV program “Sesame Street” that the word “danger” connotes “Arabs” by showing a drawing of an Arab with a headdress next to the word, a more recent and very popular American program titled “Homeland” hardly deviates from this formula, except to add that Arabs are so dangerous that even all-American White men can be corrupted by them and become equally dangerous to America. That “Homeland” (broadcast on the Showtime cable channel) is an American adaptation of an Israeli series titledHatufim (Hostages) that airs on Israeli television station Channel 2 will surprise no one.

In September 2012, the show’s Israeli creator Gideon Raff, who also works on the American series, accepted the award for best writing for a drama series for “Homeland” at the  64th Primetime Emmy Awards along with the show’s American producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. Indeed “Homeland” itself won the award for the best drama series at the Emmy’s. 

The Show

The show is so popular that President Barack Obama himself is a big fan. Obama told People Magazine in December 2011 that “Homeland” was one of his favourite shows. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Obama “requested and received” four sets of “Homeland” Season 1 DVDs from Showtime (the Clintons, unsurprisingly, are also reportedly big fans). Indeed in March 2012, the show’s British star  Damian Lewis was invited to the White House for a dinner honouring British Prime Minister David Cameron and had an intimate tête-a-tête with Obama about the show’s plans for its second season, which began to air in the US four weeks ago. A major advertising campaign for the show has been in full swing. New Yorkers can spot large billboards and posters on New York city buses, in addition to other advertising venues, a strategy that is paying off handsomely.

“Homeland” tells the story of Nick Brody, a white American marine (played by Damian Lewis), captured and held prisoner by the Taliban and Al-Qaida until American forces freed him after eight years of captivity. The CIA team monitoring Al-Qaida from Langley, Virginia, is represented by three top figures: the African-American David Estes, the Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, the American Jew Saul Berenson who is unsurprisingly the CIA’s Middle-East Division Chief, and the white Christian American Carrie Mathison, the female star of the show, who is a CIA intelligence officer assigned to the Counterterrorism Center.

The racialist structure of the show is reflective of American and Israeli fantasies of anti-Muslim American multiculturalism. The African American Estes is divorced and his former wife married an American Jew. She and their children converted to Judaism. He has also had a dalliance with his colleague Carrie that went awry. The Jewish Berenson is married to an Indian Hindu “brown” woman (perhaps cementing the Indian Hindu-Israeli Jewish rightwing alliance against Arabs and Muslims in the minds of the scriptwriters). On the first season of the show, cross racial romance seems to have also infected the character of a white rich American woman who fell in love with a “brown” mild-mannered Saudi professor at a US university and conscripted him in the service of Al-Qaida, which leads to his ultimate death and her imprisonment, though not before the Jewish Berenson tells her how much he identifies with her as two white people who fell in love with brown people. 

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