Listen, read and watch ‘Our Boys’ for yourself

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but that’s not true when the leader of the country says to boycott your series and the network that presents it.

YORAM TOLEDANO (left) and Shlomi Elkabetz in ‘Our Boys.’ (photo credit: HBO)
YORAM TOLEDANO (left) and Shlomi Elkabetz in ‘Our Boys.’
(photo credit: HBO)
They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but that’s not true when the leader of the country says to boycott your series and the network that presents it.
That’s the absurd development in the saga of public response to the HBO/Keshet series Our Boys after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his displeasure over it. In an August 30 Facebook post, Netanyahu called the show “antisemitic,” asserted it “gives a bad and false name to Israel,” and called on the public to boycott the series and Channel 12.
President Reuven Rivlin and former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, among many others, have criticized the prime minister for his post. And it hasn’t been long since Avihu Gamliel posted photos of Joseph Cedar, Hagai Levi and Tawfik Abu Wael – the creators of the show – calling them “the faces of garbage.” Before the post was taken down, many commenters replied by posting threats their lives.
In a country with a history of political assassinations this is unsettling, to say the least. Having seen and liked the first five episodes (those which were released to the press), I can understand and sympathize with the criticism of the creators’ decision to focus on the revenge murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir and the capture of his Jewish killers, rather than on the Hamas terrorists who murdered three Jewish teens.
No one should watch a television series they don’t enjoy. But criticizing a series or choosing to stop watching it are not the same as boycotting it, or calling for a boycott of those involved in its production – and certainly not in dehumanizing them on social media.
It makes me think back to my childhood, since I grew up among people who were passionate about politics on both sides of the spectrum. My mother, who is now retired, was the managing editor of the right-leaning Commentary magazine, while most of my teachers were strongly left wing. What I remember now, though, is that all of them felt it was important to do three things: read, watch and listen. 
The idea of boycotting a work of fiction because you didn’t sympathize with the point of view it expressed would have been anathema to both the right- and left-wing people I knew. What these people repeatedly said was that it was important to absorb everything important out there and formulate a response. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard one person or another say, “It’s a good movie (or book or series), but the politics are terrible.” They could disagree and they enjoyed disagreeing, with good humor. Aaron Sorkin, the creator of The West Wing, embodied that spirit when he wrote these lines, or a variation on them, for his characters in various series, “If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.”
A debate over a politically charged series is healthy and understandable, bullying people into avoiding it is not.
All of which is a long way to say: If you have been following the debate over Our Boys, watch it for yourself before you let anyone tell you what to think. It’s on HOT, YES, Cellcom and PartnerTV.
The Deuce is another series that has struck many as politically incorrect in its portrayal of pimps and porn producers as complex human beings. It comes from David Simon – who created such series as The Wire, Treme and Show Me a Hero – brings an almost rabbinical sensibility to looking at areas of life most people would prefer not to see.
The third series of the show starts on HOT HBO on September 10 at 11 p.m.; on HOT HBO, HOT VOD, NextTV, and YES Edge the same night at 10 p.m.; and on YES VOD, StingTV and Cellcom TV starting on September 11. It’s not for everyone, but it is very well done and it’s interesting to see this slice of New York life at a time before the city got so expensive.