Inside the Middle East
January 13, 2012
Posted: 1441 GMT
Imad Farajin on the set of Palestinian satire Watan Ala Watar (courtesy Iman Farajin)
Imad Farajin on the set of Palestinian satire Watan Ala Watar (courtesy Iman Farajin)

This week a court in the West Bank City of Ramallah overturned a government ban on the broadcast of a highly popular Palestinian satirical television show called "Watan Ala Watar".

Described as a Palestinian version of the American show, "Saturday Night Live", "Watan Ala Watar" or "Nation on the Edge" served up a weekly offering of cutting political and social satire which spared no one in Palestinian society and angered more than a few in the Palestinian Authority.

Sketches on the shows routinely featured parodies of Palestinian political factions including Fatah and Hamas and offered send-ups of sensitive cultural issues like the enforcement of veils for women in Gaza.

Speaking to CNN about the show in 2009, writer and actor Imad Farajin said that when it came to subject matter there were no sacred cows.

"We talk about Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president, and for Arab people to talk about their president through comedy show is not easy, but we did it and I am proud of it," Farajin remarked

The program was pulled off the Palestinian Authority controlled television station in August during the heavy viewing period of Ramadan after a number of Palestinian officials complained that the show unfairly misrepresented them and did damage to their reputations.

Speaking to CNN on Friday Farajin said that some Palestinian officials went as far as to sue the makers of the program.

"We received law suits and complaints from the head of the anti-corruption commission to the head of the police director force," he said.

Farajin said he and the other cast and crew of the show were pleased with the court's decision calling it "a victory for freedom of speech and for the Palestinian arts and culture in general," but he expressed regret that the show was able to be taken off the air in the first place.

"It's not the authority of the attorney general to take us off air, we are the only comedy show in Palestine. We have not been able to work since August of 2011 which a lot of the crew was financially effected."

While the court ruling allows the show to go back on air, it's not clear that the Palestinian Authority-run Palestine TV network will put the program back on the schedule.

Speaking to Agence France Press, Palestine TV's director of programming Imad Asfar said the network was working on developing other shows to replace Watan Ala Watar.

Despite this, Farajin remains unbowed and committed to the show.

"It's my right as a Palestinian citizen and priority for us to go back on Palestinian airwaves, but no one from Palestine TV has approached us to go back."

He says that will not prevent Watan Ala Watar from returning even if it means finding a new home for the program.

"We are negotiating with other Arab networks in the region," he said.

Stay tuned.

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Filed under: Culture •Fatah •Gaza •Hamas •Palestinians •West Bank

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Fayssal Chafaki   January 15th, 2012 8:46 pm ET

Below is a yourube link to a video that contains a bilibgual poem in Arabic and English. The poem is also banned by Israel:

Fayssal Chafaki

Zandra Mcleese   January 18th, 2012 11:17 am ET

Magnificent write-up.

miriam   January 22nd, 2012 10:44 am ET


Of course the poem is NOT banned in Israel. The country has freedom of expression and speech without a ban on any literature, no matter how insulting it may be.

But you have done a good job deseminating the lie along with the posting of the poem wherever you can.
Btw, you forgot Thailand.

israeli student   January 22nd, 2012 6:07 pm ET

How is it bilingual? It's all in Arabic to me. Can you translate? Miriam, don't say such a thing before you know what the poem says, because incitement is definitely banned, like we banned the book "the King's Torrah". Israeli courts are very reliable and only allow ban in extreme situations, and it is unreasonable that Israel would ban anything Palestinian (A lecture about the "armed freedom fight to Palestine" or something of the sort was hosted in Haifa university when I went there), but you know... Never deny what you don't know for sure is not true

israeli student   January 22nd, 2012 6:09 pm ET

To the story as itself – way to go! Whatever they are saying, even if against Israel, satire is always welcome :-) It warms my heart to read such a program is possible there.

miriam   January 23rd, 2012 1:29 pm ET

Israeli student,

Try a bit harder and you'll find the translation.

BTW, Torat Hamelech has not been banned although there is a case to have it banned that has been taken to the High Court.

Satire is satire as those who watch Israeli TV should know. There's enough anti-Israel stuff there. The problem is when it isn't satire.

miriam   January 23rd, 2012 2:53 pm ET

Sorry, I forgot something.

Bilingual in Fayssal's case is not the same as translation.

sameh   January 27th, 2012 7:46 pm ET

See the elephant is dying and die a very sad situation

Maura P.   January 30th, 2012 10:18 pm ET

With American TV shows pushing the envelope further every week with sexual and violent content, it might be hard for U.S. television audiences to understand that something as "tame" as poltiical satire would be so controversial in other broadcast environments. But the reality is that the comedy in SNL-type shows don't go over well in nations with a more orthodox media– especially when the televison outlet(s) is(are) state-run. This is a shame. Global audiences watching this story unfold should continue to cheer for the cast and crew of Watan Ala Watar. What they are doing–portraying political commentary in a light, tangible and relevant way– is SO important in the creation of a democratic environment. In the United States, viewers are lucky to have programs like the Daily Show that shake up status-quo news reporting, and allow audiences to look at politics in a different light. This Western luxury is something that companies, organizations, and individuals with global presence should encourage for the strict media of locations like Palestine. When politics can be discussed openly, whether it be in a lighthearted or serious manner, citizens can see democracy in action.

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