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Sitcom on Israeli-Arab life will air on L.A. public television station

Clara Khoury, left, and Norman Issa in

Clara Khoury, left, and Norman Issa in “Arab Labor,” a show written by author Sayed Kashua. (Other Israel Film Festival)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — An Israeli sitcom about the tribulations of Arab-Israelis is coming to the airwaves of Los Angeles.

Southern California public television station KCET on Thursday announced plans to air reruns of “Arab Labor,” a satirical comedy created by Arab-Israeli writer Sayed Kashua, starting on May 6. The show has already aired for four seasons in Israel.

“Our mission is to provide content that both entertains and enlightens,” said Ariel Carpenter, a spokesman for KCET, saying that the station hopes the show “could act as a great tool to discuss the Arab-Israeli experience.”

“Arab Labor” — whose original Hebrew title, “Avoda Aravit,” is an Israeli colloquialism meaning “shoddy work” — follows a Palestinian journalist as he attempts to navigate the complexities, indignities and biases of Israeli society in his work and his family life. The show is filmed with dialogue in Arabic and Hebrew and will air on KCET with English subtitles.

Although KCET promotes the program as “controversial” in its news release, “Arab Labor” has garnered international praise and headlines since it first aired in 2007. Its audience in Israel has been largely Jewish. Some of the strongest criticism of the show has come from Palestinians, who have protested that the show reinforces negative stereotypes of Arabs.

KCET, an independent station that broke from the PBS network in 2010, frequently airs international programming. The station has struggled financially in the wake of its split from PBS.

To help launch the show, KCET is hosting a screening of two episodes followed by a panel discussion led by Jordan Elgrably, executive director of the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

“This show is about people talking with people,” Elgrably told JTA. “It’s a part of Israeli life. It’s the kind of thing we need to see.”

Elgrably is planning for the panel to include “Arab Labor” co-star Clara Khoury as well as Palestinian-American comedian Aron Kader and University of Southern California computer scientist Yigal Arens, a critic of Zionism and the son of former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens.

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