'Our Boys' vs. 'Their Boys'

An experienced Hollywood screenwriter and film director in Israel shows how the directing and producing of the "Our Boys" series purposefully created a blatantly prejudiced anti-Israel movie.

Tzvi Fishman, | updated: 12:00

OpEds Joseph Cedar
Joseph Cedar
INN: TF

In addition to laudably denying Democratic congresswomen who hate Israel to enter the country, the Israel Ministry of Interior should consider revoking the Israeli citizenship of the Israel haters who made the HBO TV movie series, “Our Boys,” which deliberately twists the events surrounding the 2014 kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel, into an anti-Israel propaganda film.

The 10-episode movie, skillfully crafted by a team of Jewish and Arab filmmakers, will surely aid the enemies of Israel in arousing world sympathy for the Arab struggle against the so-called "oppressive Israeli occupation" of "Palestine." 

For over thirty years, I have served as a board member of the Almagor Victims of Terror Association, founded by Meir Indor, and taken part in many of its activities. Some 120 Israeli families who are members of Almagor, bereaved due to terror attacks and represented by the “Choosing Life Forum,” have sent a letter to the American-based HBO entertainment company, protesting the clearly prejudiced production.

But for the purposes of this article, I would like to focus not on the unquestionable injustice committed against the victimized Jewish families, but rather on the production itself, from the point of view of an experienced Hollywood screenwriter and film director in Israel.  


Following the young Jewish boys would have created sympathy for the Jews as victims of a horrible triple murder. Dramatizing the agonizing worry of the families during the almost three-week search for their children would have also automatically created overwhelming empathy for their plight. All of this, the very heart of the drama, is purposefully omitted.
The first thing a screenwriter and director must do is to decide where to start their story. This is a very deliberate decision which will shape the rest of the drama. In “Our Boys,” the creative team decided not to begin the story in the natural chronological place - following the life of the Jewish families and the three innocent yeshiva boys, leading up to their kidnap and killing. Instead the filmmakers chose to begin their account after their disappearance.

Following the young Jewish boys would have created sympathy for the Jews as victims of a horrible triple murder. Dramatizing the agonizing worry of the families during the almost three-week search for their children would have also automatically created overwhelming empathy for their plight.

All of this, the very heart of the drama, is purposefully omitted.

In addition, absolutely nothing is shown about the Arab terrorists who committed the crime. They are never seen or mentioned.

Furthermore, the filmmakers made the deliberate decision not to have actors play the roles of the Arab kidnappers and murderers, who would, if done fairly, certainly have come across as evil savages. Likewise, the filmmakers make the deliberate decision not to have actors play out the roles of the young Jewish victims, which would have created viewer identification with them and further sympathy for the Jews. Actors were also not used to dramatize the long ordeal of their parents.

Instead, real documentary footage of Israel TV newscasts is used to describe events in a cold, impersonal, narrative style which never allows the viewer to make an emotional connection with the murdered Jewish victims and their tormented families.

This kind of decision on the part of a film maker is deliberate and is intended to achieve a desired result.   The exact opposite is true regarding the story of the Arab boy who is murdered in what was possibly an act of revenge shortly after the bodies of the three young Jews are discovered. The movie dramatization of the story officially begins with actors playing out the long, drawn-out drama focused entirely on the ensuing revenge killing of an Arab boy from Shuafat, who is played by a sweet-looking young actor, automatically drawing out the viewer’s sympathy for him.

An excellent actor dramatizes the role of the Arab boy’s worried father. An experienced actress dramatizes the anxiety of the Arab boy’s mother. Suddenly the whole story is no longer “Our Boys,” which it never was, but “Our Boy,” a largely sensationalized fiction about the "oppressed" Arab family whose innocent son is brutally murdered by crazed Haredi Jew, portrayed on the screen again and again by an actor, as the filmmakers build the film’s suspense about the murder he is about to commit, turning the Jew into the only bad guy of the movie, along with the hilltop youths whom the Jewish Division of the Shabak are closely following.

The actors playing the roles of the hilltop youth do a professional job of convincing us that all young settlers are just as crazy as the young Haredi killer. The scenes involving the Israel Police and Security Forces are dramatized in a constantly negative light, as if the Israeli Authorities are conducting a cover-up, not wanting the truth to be discovered, making all of Israeli society seem responsible for the Arab boy’s murder.

All these decisions are deliberate directoral decision.

The director, Yosef Cedar, has allowed the main actor, playing the role of the investigating Shabak agent of the Jewish Division, only one facial expression throughout every scene, a constant sneer which seems to say, “Everything in Israel is corrupt and evil.”

In short, in this unabashedly leftist Israeli masterminded TV mini-series, the Jews are always the villains, and the Arabs always are the victims.

When you add to this the very deliberate use of one-sided dramatization, manipulated dialogue, slick camera angles which make the Jews look constantly guilty and the Arabs persecuted, plus professional editing favoring the Arab side of the story, scary music accompanying the Jews and sympathetic music heightening the injustices against the Arabs, with seasoned actors in tear-jerking performances portraying the victimized Arabs and no actors at all playing the three slaughtered Jewish boys and their families, you end up with a movie that is sure to win top awards in Hamas and Islamic Jihad film festivals and Cannes.

Of course, Israel’s Minister of Culture, Mir Regev, will raise her voice in protest, but no positive and truthful movies about the life of Israel’s brave and idealistic settlers are ever funded and therefore never made, leaving a vacuum for movies like “Our Boys” and their hateful propaganda to thrive.




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