Satirical Palestinian TV show elicits anger in West Bank

‘Watan ala Watar’ mocks PA security forces, doctors’ union; Police say they’ll sue broadcaster for making them look "vulgar."

PA Police 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
PA Police 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestine TV’s controversial satire show, Watan ala Watar (Homeland on a String), has angered the Palestinian Authority police force in the West Bank, whose commanders have decided to sue the station for libel.
The police are furious with the satire – especially because of a scene where two traffic policemen stop a drunk driver for inspection. The policemen are portrayed in an obnoxious manner that suggests that they too are under the influence of alcohol.
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Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces, complained that the episode, which is being aired during the holy month of Ramadan, depicted the policemen as “vulgar and common.”
He said that viewers were left with the impression that the police officers had gotten intoxicated from the smell of alcohol that came out of the mouth of the driver.
“This is degrading for the policemen,” Damiri said. “This is a clear humiliation and we have the right not to remain silent.”
He charged that Watan ala Watar was being broadcast to cause harm to some Palestinians, not as a means of entertainment.
“We support criticism and freedom of expression, but only in a positive way,” Damiri was quoted by the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper as saying.
“The program that dealt with the police did not offer objective criticism based on a clear idea. It was merely intended to degrade, and this is something we can’t accept.”
The police spokesman said that the force was now contemplating legal measures against Palestine TV.
Meanwhile, the deputy head of the Physicians Union, Shawki Sabha, said that his union has also filed a complaint with the prosecutor-general against Palestine TV for airing the satire.
Sabha said that the union has determined that one of the recent satire shows had humiliated Palestinian physicians working in hospitals. He said that the union was also suing the station for libel.
In addition to the police and physicians, the PA government’s Bureau of Civil Servants has also threatened to take legal action against Palestine TV for making fun out of the failure of the government to pay full salaries to its employees.
Imad Farrajeen, one of the producers of the satire, said that Palestine TV was now waiting for Abbas to make a decision about the complaints.
Farrajeen warned that he and several lawyers would go to court if Abbas decided to take the show off the air.
He said that he was particularly surprised to hear about the physicians’ complaint.
“I was expecting the doctors and their union to be more open-minded and tolerant toward criticism,” he said. “I was surprised because the complaint came from a group of educated people. Are there no medical mistakes in our hospitals? Are there no complaints to the courts against some doctors? Haven’t doctors and hospitals in the past paid compensation to families of people who died as a result of mistakes?”