An Open Letter to The New Yorker on Its “Fauda” Coverage

Since The New Yorker has evidently chosen not to publish a letter I sent in following the release of its September 4 “Television” issue, I am publishing that letter here.

Having “binged” my way through the first season of “Fauda” not too long ago, I am eagerly anticipating the second. Initially, then, I was delighted to learn that David Remnick had written about the series (“How Do You Make a TV Show Set in the West Bank?” September 4th).

A sense of unease crept in as soon as I read his article’s subtitle: “What the thriller ‘Fauda’ reveals about what Israelis will watch—and what they won’t.” (From experience, I know that headlines and subtitles are often beyond a writer’s control, but such powerlessness seemed unlikely in this case.) Would the piece focus on “Fauda”‘s accomplishments? Or would its net effect be an indictment of “Israelis”?

Also vexing: the paragraphs spotlighting what Remnick calls Diana Buttu’s “compelling critique” of the show, including her objection that in the 10-episode inaugural season, “we don’t see a single checkpoint, settlement, settlers, or home demolitions.” This is simply untrue. (If you have limited time, please go directly to Episode 8 for an intense and memorable scene that begins about 13 minutes in.) To print Buttu’s words—unchallenged—renders a severe disservice to everyone involved in the “Fauda” project.

I remain hopeful that The New Yorker will issue a correction. Since Buttu’s comments have already been quoted and shared elsewhere, it may be too late to amend any impressions conveyed about her credibility, or concerning what “Fauda” portrays—and what it doesn’t. But it isn’t too late to restore this long-time subscriber’s faith in the magazine’s adherence to the highest journalistic standards of accuracy, fairness, and honesty.

Erika Dreifus
New York

A postscript:

Although I lacked the time/resources to provide a more extensive account of the flaws in Buttu’s “compelling critique” (using evidence from the show), others have taken up that work. Please read this far more detailed analysis and dismantling of Buttu’s claims, which have been repeated not only by The New Yorker, but subsequently, in citing Remnick’s article as its source, by Haaretz and the Forward.

Variations between the print and online versions of the story—including differing titles and subtitles— really don’t help. Because as I and others have shown, far less is “left offscreen” than Buttu (and, evidently, The New Yorker) would like readers to believe.

As of this time, I have been unable to locate any correction issued by The New Yorker.

6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to The New Yorker on Its “Fauda” Coverage

  1. Scott Rose says:

    I have not seen the series or read any of the articles about it.

    I am somewhat surprised that the New Yorker published an article about the series, apparently without its writers, editors and/or fact-checkers going over everything with a fine-toothed comb.

    1. Erika Dreifus says:

      I was surprised, too, Scott. The problem is compounded by the magazine’s apparent refusal to acknowledge the errors contained within in the article. Apart from the auto-response that was generated when I sent in my letter, I’ve received no acknowledgment whatsoever, and at last check, there was no clarification/correction yet appended online.

  2. Talarich says:

    Checkpoint is also in the very first episode. The Arab driver with the cookies is stopped at the checkpoint and replaced by israeli agents. So, nobody from The New Yorker saw at least a single episode!

    1. Erika Dreifus says:

      There is definitely something very off about the fact-checking/corrections here.

  3. Jon says:

    Thanks for writing this piece. I too was also interested initially in the piece when I got this issue, but after the long intro that had nothing to do with the show, I knew where the piece was headed. I heard Lior Raz speak in person about the show recently and that talk was head and shoulders above how the show and Raz were depicted in the article.

    1. Erika Dreifus says:

      Indeed–1500 words until the first mention of “Fauda”–1500 words aimed toward an (arguable) argument of Remnick’s own.

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