Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hollywood to Israelis and Arabs: You're All the Same to Us

A few days ago I watched an episode of "Desperate Housewives" featuring the character Yaniv, an Israeli fitness trainer who uses boot camp tactics on women trying to lose weight. He looked like he could be Israeli, but his accent was off. Curious, I went on-line and checked if he was really an Israeli actor. Turns out his name is TJ (Tarek Jafar) Ramini, and he's a British actor of Palestinian descent. I found this amusing.

The running joke in Israel about Israeli actors trying to make it big in Hollywood is that they are only cast as Arabs, usually terrorists. So, in this instance, the situation is the exact opposite: an Arab playing an Israeli.

There are enough Israeli actors in the States to play Israeli characters and I'm sure there are enough Arab actors in Los Angeles to play Arab characters, but still Hollywood groups them together. Is that a covert pro-peace message: you're all the same anyway, so just get your shit together already?


  1. Personally what I find stranger (and perhaps more disturbing) is that Israelis in Hollywood (and environs) often seem to be portrayed as those military types. The one you mention is an example, another is the Israeli woman in NCIS (the worst and hardest of all the CSI-style fantasies, IMHO) . Mind you, those are TWO examples, so perhaps not 'often'. The Desperate Housewives Israeli made me cringe, for sure.

    But Hollywood does have a strong penchant for the 'Bad Arab', a sly, treacherous terrorist type. Story tellers have always made stories for the times they live in, nothing particularly deliberate there I think. But inadvertently they confirm stereotypes about the Arab/Muslim world which frankly the US could do without.

  2. There's not much difference between a Palestinian and an Israeli anyway.