The Clare Spark Blog

October 15, 2009

The Americanization of Ziva David (NCIS)?

Versace, NYT, Dec.28, 1992

[Update, Oct.16, 2009: This blog may seem too trivial to most readers of this website to even mention, and I almost deleted it. But upon reflection, think it is more important than meets the eye. I am referring to more than the startling rise in anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda and boycotts emanating from the West. The audience for NCIS is obviously “the heartland” where there is more likely to be an unreflective patriotism, strong support of the U.S. military (in this case, Navy and Marines), and a culture that is unabashedly sentimental and Christian. At the same time, some normally (socially) liberal supporters of Israel have counted upon conservatives and Republicans in the South and West to support a pro-Israel foreign policy. What NCIS has made clear to me, is that Israel gets their support on condition: that Israel subordinates its national interests to those of the United States. If it goes off on its own, the antisemitism we used to identify with populists, other American conservatives and the Republican Party will once more be expressed openly.  (It was already present in prior episodes, for instance, when Ari, Ziva’s half-brother, shoots one of Gibbs’ pet agents. Ziva will then shoot Ari, apparently to save Gibbs’ life, but later, she reveals it was upon her father’s orders.  Yesterday’s blog follows, unedited.]

Is it my imagination, or has the character Ziva David (played by Cote de Pablo, whose Chilean family is upper-class Catholic) on the hugely popular NCIS television series, undergone a change in identity? No longer the amoral, enigmatic, heartless assassin seemingly divided in her loyalties (but always the Israeli) that she has been for the last few seasons, on last Tuesday’s episode (Oct.13, 2009) , she underwent the final phase in the transfer of her affections and loyalty from her equally cold-blooded father Eli (head of Israel’s Mossad) to the fatherly character Agent Gibbs (played by gracefully aging Mark Harmon, son of  U. Michigan football hero Tom Harmon, Mark once deemed the sexiest man alive, and in this series, as silent as Gary Cooper).  Ziva’s eyes filled with tears as her application to become an American agent attached to NCIS was accepted, and a prior episode featuring her return to the team after an implausible rescue by her superhero NCIS comrades, attracted 21 million viewers. Normally, superhero Ziva doesn’t cry, even under torture by Islamic terrorists. Am I forgetting something? I remember anger and stoicism, but not the qualities usually associated with women.

So Ziva now has a heart, unambiguously, and I’m wondering if she will still wear her Star of David necklace. [Added, Oct.21, 2009: on last night’s episode her neck was conspicuously bare, made even more visible by a low cut draped blouse. In the January 12, 2010 episode, the necklace is back, now gold. Ziva is preparing for her citizenship test and knows more about the Constitution than (Gibbs?).] [Added Nov. 11, 2009: this blog has been read consistently since it was first posted, and I can see why it remains current. After reflecting upon the apparently sequestered field of military psychiatry in the wake of the Hasan jihad, it seems to me that NCIS in its very conception reflects the tight team bonding of a military unit. No one questions the hierarchy, and the team, brilliant and versed in the most advanced technology, adores Gibbs and is fiercely loyal to each other. No one ever questions U.S. foreign policy or the possible mismanagement of American wars, past or present. I.e., the show bonds the audience to military authority as if we were all part of the team, and these attractive young people part of our own families. The unqestioning obedience to upper members of military hierarchies is documented in this series of blogs:, and more than hinted at here:]

[Added 12-16-09: I am almost speechless over tonight’s NCIS, in which a marine is killed by his brother because the family honor was soiled after the victim converted to Islam. We also learn from the Leader (Mark Harmon) that there is no difference in the conceptions of the Christian God and Allah. So tactful for Chanukah week. There is a strong contrast made between tolerant liberal Christians (the victim’s father, a clergyman) and “rednecks.” The latter resent the marine’s conversion to Islam and see it as destroying morale in his unit (veterans of Iraq). They are portrayed as angry animals and Ziva and de Nozo make short work of them, leaving every one of the “rednecks” (charmingly called “red-throats” by the Israel-born Ziva) vanquished and literally floored.

[Added 4-22-10: the episode “Faith” was repeated this week, and I noted that “Ducky” advised his assistant that wars would be prevented if more people understood diversity.  Fatherhood was as usual the dominant theme, and in the end everyone forgives everyone else: it was a Cain and Abel story, this time with a repentant Cain. Gibbs’ father was traumatized by having shot a robber in his store to protect a woman and a young girl, and he asks Gibbs if he isn’t disturbed by taking the lives of others. Gibbs, ever the stoic, indicates that it is difficult, but has to be done.]

[Added, 2-16-12: POTUS urged that we copy the military model in his State of the Union speech. I wrote about the implications of such policy here:]

[Updated, 1-9-13: NCIS returned after winter break with a new, especially violent and disturbing episode (“Shabbat Shalom”), in which relations between the U.S. and Israel, or Israel and Iran take front and center. Ziva’s father Eli, the head of Mossad, makes a secret visit to the US, presumably to heal relations between Israel and Iran, but murders a journalist who recognizes him. At a Shabbat dinner attended by Ziva, her father, and Leon Vance and his wife, Ziva leaves in anger, missing an assassination that kills her father and Vance’s wife. In turn, she captures the assassin, who commits suicide. We do not know his nationality, but the logic of the story suggests that he must be a right-wing Israeli spoiling for an attack on Iran by Israel. Coming at a time when the anti-“Jewish lobby” Chuck Hagel has been nominated for Secretary of Defense, I wonder if the writers of NCIS are independent of government influence. The episode was certainly bad for the Jews. It ended with the death of a sympathetic black character and will be continued next Tuesday. It is most likely that the target of the NCIS writers is Mossad in general, which is not politically correct, and which has been killing off Iranian “genocide-scientists” to quote WSJ of January 13, 2012, p.A13, Andrew Roberts book review.

I just got this comment from “Raymond in DC” who adds to my evidence: “I used to enjoy NCIS, but the repeated slams against Mossad just turned me off. Earlier episodes included Mossad operatives operating illegally on US streets, another involving a rogue agent ultimately killed by Tony. In another, Ziva is sent on a mission and abandoned by Mossad somewhere in the Horn of Africa, only to be rescued by her American friends. Gibbs describes Mossad (or maybe it was just her father) as “not one of the good guys”. Ziva subsequently disavows her homeland (Israel) and becomes an American.

Ironically, only a few days ago the NY Times – which almost daily finds something about Israel to criticize – reported that Israeli intelligence (which might be Mossad or Military Intelligence) discovered that Syrian forces were assembling chemical weapons for delivery, and that subsequent warnings by the
US, Russia and others based on that intelligence convinced Syria against such action.” ]

[Updated 1-15-12:] Ziva’s Jewish “blood” is highlighted, as she returns to Israel, picks olives, plants a tree, and leaves a note in the Wailing Wall. A new character, the deputy director of Mossad appears, and he seems to be negatively portrayed as devious and untrustworthy as an ally . It is possible that the writers of NCIS are peaceniks of the liberal left, and that they view Mossad as a force for continued enmity between Israel and her neighbors.

[Updated, 1-23-13:] Ziva may or may not have been killed in the last episode, possibly at the hands of “rogue” Mossad agents. In the same episode, there is a flashback wherein the child Ziva must say goodbye to her father Eli, who is going away for an unstated time. Eli, the abandoner, is thus contrasted with the good father played by Mark Harmon, who is ever present to  protect his surrogate children on the team. Moreover, the new director of Mossad, a woman, is distinctly a negative character, not to be trusted (as Ziva says); moreover NCIS is shown to have hacked into the Mossad data base, an action which gains the wrath of the new director. Since a shrouded figure is shown in a short preview of the next episode, and since Cote de Pablo is said not to have signed a contract for next year (HuffPo), the entirely Americanized Ziva may have died at the hands of bad Jews.

[Updated 5-16-13:] Ziva lives! and is entirely integrated into the team, but the season finale leaves viewers wondering if Gibbs and/or his team have crossed lines imagined to exist by the writers of this series. From internet postmortems, I have the impression that the writers do not have a conscious ideological agenda, but are unclear themselves what will develop. All biases described above are probably internalized attitudes, which makes NCIS even more suspect as an accurate depiction of a government agency.



  1. We did love to watch NCIS. My first thought when I read Cote de Pablo was leaving was that it was a politicly correct move. Maybe I am a paranoroid of this new follow the leader game CBS,NBC, CNN, MSMBS, & all the other stations are playing. except MAYBE FOX, but I am begining to worry that they have eatten the Apple also. Hope I am dead wrong. Yes. you are right the left is saturation the masses. but it’s not the republicans it’s the liberals. They are portraying everything that is good or right or GODLY as bad, ugly, ufair, uncaring, and intolorant. You must give them credit they silipped it in a little at a time until it is all over but the Hitler parade. We have be drown with homsex, sexual independences, mis treated Muslims (the nice guys), and rasisim also the unerpriviladged and misunerstood blacks. But the real racism in Americia is against whites, christians, and Jews. Yes, everything this country stood for has been distroyed by the words LIBERTY. Never ment to be license. but that it became. There is a difference.I hope for America we draw the line in the sand soon, before it’s to late.Oh did you mention the scene when Cote de Pablo was told she could not come into the mosque the prest apolagised, her responce was she understood tradition. (He as such a nice man). That is my spout for the day. d sham

    Comment by d aham — August 15, 2013 @ 8:31 am | Reply

  2. […] Although it is true that the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries A.D. witnessed European expansion, there is another way to define modernity, and when I use that term, I refer to the transition from feudalism or other pre-capitalist economics to market economies.  That transition remains far from complete, as I have written here numerous times. The postmodernists/post-colonialists  believe they have not only dredged up the “submerged” cultures of native peoples, but have transcended the modernity that spun nativism (WASP supremacy), bureaucratic rationality and hence the Holocaust, but have they?  Was Nazism “the revolt of the masses” and the excrescence of modern Jacobins? Moreover, the Great Chain of Being or similar hierarchies of “interdependence” remain intact because the scientific revolution and the rise of industrialism and a burgeoning middle-class challenged  former ruling aristocracies with a newly literate class that was educating not only itself, but the lower orders. Enter team playing, the lovable fatherly Leader, and hierarchies would be preserved against the threat posed by the too-curious literate masses, including women. (For a perfect example of a model hierarchy see […]

    Pingback by Racism, Modernity, Modernism | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — July 18, 2013 @ 2:01 am | Reply

  3. More antisemitism, conspiracy-mongering and anti-Israel messages from popular US TV shows:,7340,L-4373651,00.html

    Sidenote: The second talkbacker below the article thinks that this is rooted in an assimilationist wordview of the producers to curry favor among non-Jews. Whether he’s right or making inaccurate assumptions is something I’d like to hear your opinion about.

    Comment by JustMe — May 2, 2013 @ 6:08 am | Reply

  4. NCIS has been anti-Mossad for some time now. I’m not sure that can be interpreted as anti-Israel or antisemitic.

    Comment by Terry Schaub — April 28, 2013 @ 10:02 pm | Reply

    • The whole thing with the new Mossad director really pissed me off. I wish this damn show would just lay off Mossad, Jews, and Israel. Why the continued focus on Israel as dishonest, rogue, etc. Do Jews really need all of America imagining rogue Mossad agents under every rock? Would some other “ally” be portrayed so negatively? Imagine if it were England instead of Israel. I think there’d be some protest. Most people don’t distinguish among Mossad, Israel, and Jews. As I may have said before, I’m encountering a lot of stupid anti-Semitic comments from people who don’t even realize they’re offending me, so I’m very sensitive to the way anything related to Jews is addressed in the media.

      Comment by Rachel Peine — April 30, 2013 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

      • The fact that this story line has proceeded without a public outcry is to me a frightening phenomenon.

        Comment by clarespark — May 1, 2013 @ 2:04 am

      • Thank you. How come there are so few of us outcrying?

        Comment by Rachel Peine — May 1, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

      • We don’t teach about antisemitism, let alone the truth about the founding of Israel. Most of the propaganda goes unanalyzed because too many Jews (and even their allies) don’t want to “make trouble.”

        Comment by clarespark — May 1, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

      • As you recall Clare, I wrote a letter regarding all this. I contacted every person you said I should contact and every person I could think of. Jerusalem Post, NY Times, LA Times, LA Jewish Journal, WSJ… and the feedback folks at CBS. Now as a last resort I sent it to the Arts and Entertainment section of my local paper, the Chicago Tribune. So far the response has been zilch.. which to me is even scarier than the NCIS stories. But what to do? Schwer zu tzayn ein Yid, as the bubbes and zaydes used to say… It’s obvious that one or more of the writers at NCIS is an anti-Semetic bag of crap. My mom was watching the show last night and asked me if I wanted to join in, and was rather surprised at my firm “No”. Are there any more radical groups I could go to with this that are more political and politically active, like say, a Jewish anti-defamation league or something?

        Anyway, I’d like to at least post it here, where your ideas- the ideas and concepts guiding me in my writing- originated the letter. Here goes!

        I must write to you to express my disgust, pain, sadness and displeasure at the recent and very negative way Jews, Israelis and the State of Israel are stereotyped on the show. NCIS used to be one of the most pro-Israel shows on television. What happened? In the last several episodes the Israelis are portrayed as being cold-blooded, shifty, untrustworthy and totally devoted to their own interest at the expense of the United States, epitomized by Ziva David’s fraught relationship with her father Eli. With Eli now blown to shards, Ziva quite literally cuddles up to Uncle Sam, in the person of Gibbs’ fatherly, warm character and her on-again, off-again love interest Tony Di Nozzo, an Italian Catholic.

        Ziva used to be Israeli- spectacularly so, a secular Zionist’s dream, a staunch ally of the West and an Islamic fundamentalist’s nightmare. She was tough, extremely competent in battle, multilingual, patriotically Israeli and for the most part, not extremely religious. She was a character for whom I felt immense pride, respect, and love. But in the arc of the past several episodes Ziva has changed substantially, as have the representation of Israeli people and the Mossad. Ziva has become an American citizen, and is now loyal only to the U.S., as evidenced by her hostility to Israeli former colleagues in multiple episodes, as she puts them in their place for interference with NCIS. Mossad is portrayed as a bunch of cold-blooded people, given over to their own machinations and not even particularly loyal to Israel, only to their own self-interest. The last episode was particularly galling, in which Ziva shows her back to the new Mossad director, Orly, and the Americans follow Ziva’s cue in displaying hostility, anger and distrust to Orly and the entire Mossad entourage. Even when Ziva is shown to have very personal reasons for her dislike of Orly, that does not lessen the ultimatums to and digs at Mossad by the Americans. Ziva cannot even refrain from rebuking her own father during the disastrous Shabbat Shalom episode, in which he and Director Vance’s wife die, with its underlying message about how any concord between Jews and African-Americans is doomed for failure.

        This new “wild west” attitude on NCIS may well be compared to the pernicious old maxim “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”; apparently for the show’s writers, the only good Jew is now a thoroughly and loyally American Jew. By sending viewers the message that Israelis are disloyal, treacherous and out for the main chance, they only feed the anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that already exist and lend ideological ammunition to the very real ammunition now lobbed at us by the mutual enemies of both Israel and the United States. Where is the earlier characterization of Israel as an American ally? And where are your early characterizations of Israelis as honest, sympathetic people? These early characterizations were more in tune with what I know real Israelis to be like: warm-hearted, garrulous, friendly, staunch in their convictions, vivacious people who live the ultimate carpe diem, since tomorrow is not promised them with any real certainty.
        Moreover, in addition to painting Israelis as unworthy of American trust or friendship, they have largely refused to engage with Judaism at all. In earlier episodes I understood this to be a part of the show’s general bypass of religious issues, except to explicitly condemn the anti-Western, misogynistic fundamentalism that so threatens American and Israeli interests. But this now has also changed. Tony Di Nozzo, the Italian Catholic character, has been shown going to church several times and even talking to the Lord! Ziva , after her father’s death, lights Shabbat candles, puts a prayer in the Wall and visits Israel. But her only religious acts in the show are connected to her grief for her father. She appears not to have an overtly Jewish religious identity. She eats non-kosher food and dates non-Jewish men. This is fine if they don’t want to make the show about religion at all, and it’s also fine if they want to make Ziva a secular character. But with Christian services and themes currently occurring much more frequently on the show than Ziva’s one, post-traumatic visit to a synagogue, it’s difficult for me to believe that they aren’t disparaging Judaism or at least downplaying it.

        My final critique of the show must be of the relationship that Ziva appears to have formed with Tony Di Nozzo. I find it extremely implausible that a woman of Ziva’s worldliness and high caliber would be romantically susceptible to Tony’s puerile pranks, general immaturity, frat-boy-like obsession with female charms and his own body image, and massive egocentrism. The most prominent Jewish males on the show have been elderly, like Eli and Shmiel, or treacherous and duplicitous evildoers like Rivkin, Ari Haswari, Yaniv and Ilan Botner, etc. This contributes to high intermarriage rates among American Jews and negative stereotypes that many Jews have about acquiring Jewish mates. People must also understand that intermarriage with non-Jews is a real crisis in the American Jewish community today and intermarriage is something many Jews find deeply abhorrent. This is not because Jews believe themselves to be racially superior or better than others. Jews are of many nationalities, as the multiethnic nature of Israel proves. In order to preserve their distinctive characteristics as a people, Jews must marry other Jews, particularly when exiled from the homeland. Torah enjoins Jews to do so. That is how Jews have survived the centuries; without in-group marriage Jews would have melted into the general population long ago. To deeply religious Jews, marrying or even dating a Gentile is as antithetical to the Hebrew religion as eating a ham-and-cheese sandwich.

        The current intermarriage rate among American Jews is somewhere between forty and fifty percent. The figure is higher among young people, and statistics show that the children of the intermarried also marry non-Jews at a rate of seventy-six percent. Intermarriage is overwhelmingly a losing proposition for the Jewish people and their survival. Some authorities, even authorities within certain segments of the Jewish people, have tried to put a positive spin on intermarriage, saying that it is representative of a decline in American anti-Semitism and an integration of Jews into the mainstream American life. This may or may not be so. But if intermarriage is “good” because it makes Jews American, it does so at the cost of totally annihilating their Jewishness, both theirs and that of their future offspring and descendants.

        Let’s expose intermarriage for what it is and call a spade a spade. Intermarriage is an overwhelmingly thorough rejection of Jewish identity, a repudiation of the Jewish community, a refusal of the shared bonds of Jewish history, Jewish memory, Jewish joys and Jewish sorrows, the bittersweet legacy which, will they or nil they, unites all Jews and ought to unite their children. And let’s be crystal clear: intermarriage and assimilation aren’t threats because Jews are some kind of endangered species like the humpback whale. Intermarriage and assimilation are threats because of the loss they will represent, a loss of distinctively Jewish ideas and ideals, a loss of Jewish philosophies, ways of thinking and ways of being in the world, which I and others find valuable and worthy of preservation.
        If the writers of N.C.I.S. predicate a relationship for Tony and Ziva that ends in their courtship and marriage, then I will be totally dismayed. I will be forced to conclude that N.C.I.S., in addition to its anti-Israeli slant, is also anti-Jewish and in favor of radical assimilation of Jews. If it offers the act of Ziva’s intermarriage as further proof that she has assimilated and is a loyal “good American”, I must object strenuously to that scenario. I cannot literally stand by and watch as NCIS continues to contribute to the forces of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the country and the world. It is entirely possible to be both a good American and a good Jew. But instead of showing its viewers this possibility, N.C.I.S. instead continues to show Israelis and Israel as villainous, treacherous and disloyal and offers the thorough de-Judaization and homogenization of its main Jewish heroine as the chief indicator of her good qualities. In that respect, NCIS and its writers and viewers are now no better than a Shakespearean audience clamoring for the conversion of Shylock and his daughter’s conversionary marriage to an Italian Christian. I cannot be the only Jewishly sympathetic viewer to feel this way. If this arc of the show continues I will not only stop watching it, but will lodge a formal complaint and protest with American Jewish organizations against the show.

        If they care about your viewership and/or the plight of American Jews at all, please try to portray Jews as I know them to be- intelligent, caring, hospitable, broad-minded people who may or may not be religiously observant, but who are always proud of their identity as Jews and as a part of a Jewish people. They have weathered every injustice, discrimination, Inquisition, pogrom, massacre, forced conversion and Holocaust with a reinvigorated purpose, a renewed sense of their distinctive mission to be a light to the world, and a justifiable sense of accomplishment at having succeeded in socioeconomic climates that they did not create, over and over again, throughout the world and throughout history.

        Sincerely and proudly,

        M. Yitzak Ephraim ben Avraham Avinu L.

        Comment by Yitzhak — May 2, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

  5. […] For more of the warrior stance in Democratic Party strategies see For more speculation on Obama’s psyche see For more on military psychiatry, see I may have made too much of the militarism theme in Obama’s speech, but I stand by my analysis. If he didn’t grasp the implications of the military model,  he should have. For more documentation of progressive movement appropriations of Nazi mind-management techniques, see On the anti-Wall Street theme, see On the ideology of a popular tv show see […]

    Pingback by The State of the Union Stinks | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — April 25, 2013 @ 1:25 am | Reply

  6. Reblogged this on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog and commented:

    The last episode (in which Ziva David appears to have been killed by “rogue” Mossad agents, supports my general thesis, that the US-Israel alliance is highly conditional, with many digs at Mossad.

    Comment by clarespark — April 24, 2013 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

  7. The dead reporter did have mono, and he died from a split liver; Ducky told Gibbs after performing the autopsy. However, Eli tried to cover up what had happened and lied to Ziva about it. Here is the episode synopsis from IMDb:

    My point, overall, was just that I don’t believe the show is anti-Israel.

    Comment by Sarah — January 21, 2013 @ 12:27 am | Reply

  8. I disagree with several of the opinions expressed here. When Eli mentioned “our two countries,” he was referring to Israel and Iran, not “Palestine”. He did not murder the reporter. The latter had mono; his death was an accident, and he died when they struggled over the camera. Eli’s own shooting had nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict, though it was stated that numerous Iranian and Palestinian groups would gloat over it and try to claim credit. The show in no way depicts there being a “moral equivalence” between the two sides. Just compare the Israeli characters with the Palestinian characters that have appeared over the years.


    Ziva – one of the main protagonists on the show. She was a Mossad operative and appears to be very pro-Israel. Her younger sister was killed in a Hamas suicide bombing at the age of sixteen. It is implied that her mother was also killed as a result of the conflict.

    Eli David – probably one of the most interesting recurring characters. He has made some morally questionable choices, mainly during the storyline that surrounded Ziva’s captivity in Somalia, though he is not “cold-blooded”, as you say. It is later clarified that Ziva was presumed dead at the time, and Vance, the director of NCIS, reminds Gibbs that they (the NCIS agents) had only “found her first”. In season six, Eli has a conversation with Vance in which he mentions that Palestinian terrorists use bombs and kidnappings and commit atrocities. He later states that the danger of terrorist attacks in Israel is more “immediate” than it is in America.

    Amit Hadar – a Mossad agent who was killed in a bombing in season eight.

    Malachi Ben-Gidon – another Mossad agent.

    Liat Tuvia – Ziva’s replacement after she joined NCIS. Though she and Ziva don’t get along particularly well, she is clearly a protagonist.

    Michael Rivkin – a Mossad officer involved in an operation to take down a terrorist cell in Somalia.

    Namir Eschel – a traitor who assists Iranian agents when they attempt to frame Ziva for murder.

    Gavriela – a Mossad agent in Jerusalem who appears friendly and flirts with McGee.


    Ari Haswari – a terrorist. His father was Israeli and his mother was Palestinian, though he identifies himself with the Palestinian side. He describes himself as “eager to strike at the heart of Mossad and Israel.”

    Three terrorists – appear in season eight when they attempt to murder Eli David.

    In conclusion, the Israelis are portrayed as flawed but sympathetic, whereas all of the Palestinian characters who have appeared on the show have been terrorists.

    Comment by Sarah — January 20, 2013 @ 4:32 am | Reply

  9. Wow- I am a HUGE NCIS fan and thought I was hallucinating what i perceived to be repeated anti- Semitic zingers popping up in so many episodes. Glad to hear it’s not just me. I’m not sure who to write to to tell them how offensive and totally off base the writers are when they stray onto this road. Israel is the US’s only real ally in the Middle East. If we want expert advice on how to fight terrorism, Israel is our best resource. And let’s face it, though a very small minority of world population, Jews account for an overwhelmingly large percentage of the brains, the movers and the shakers. So it’s time to back off NCIS!

    Comment by Abbe — January 18, 2013 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

    • Reply to Abbe: I think the major watchdogs need to be made aware of this situation – Anti-Defamation League, Simon Weisenthal Center, etc. Also the Jewish press, both in print and online. Those of us who feel strongly about the image of Judiaism/Israel on the show need to wake up those who aren’t paying attention, and we also need to write to TV critics and especially Mark Harmon, who is the exec. producer of the show.

      Comment by Rachel Peine — January 18, 2013 @ 4:21 pm | Reply

  10. This post might have been more accurately titled “The Americanization of Ziva David.” She has indeed become an American citizen, loyal to her American employers even over the interests of Israel and her own father, who are portrayed as cold-bloodedly devoted only to their own interests (with the underlying messages about how loyalty to the two can never coexist and how any concord between Blacks and Jews is doomed to fail). The recent episode you mentioned- in which Ziva is shown lighting Shabbat candles, visiting a synagogue, and putting a prayer in the Western Wall- rather served to highlight her Jewishness for me, not negate it. In fact, I was thrilled to see these things, because prior to that episode, I had a picture in my head of Ziva being a completely secular Israeli- a chiloni. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… My view was bolstered and concurred by someone who described “secular Ziva” as being like a “kibbutz heroine”. I mean, she clearly dates non-Jewish men and doesn’t keep kosher or dress like an Orthodox/frum person. And yet I have read articles which say that even secular Israelis light Shabbat candles. So I am in no doubt about Ziva’s Jewishness. But I’m still confused by her disloyalty to Israel, the completely negative portrayal of Israel and Israelis on the show, and what exactly Ziva’s religious affiliation is. I’m still happy with Ziva individually as a character, and happy that they showed her doing religiously Jewish things (I don’t think they ever did before). It’d have been great to see her standing up to say Kaddish for Eli, but why subject the poor Chilean girl to that? LOL. And this may make me very unpopular to say aloud, but if she winds up married to Tony or any non-Jew, I’ll be totally disgusted and convinced she’s drunk the assimilation Kool-Aid. I’d love to see her have a Jewish love interest, whether it’s an American Jew at NCIS or a handsome young Israeli (the only Israeli men they seem to have on the show lately are oldsters, or villains, or both).

    Comment by Yitzhak — January 17, 2013 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

    • Response to Yitzhak: I agree with a lot of what you’ve observed. I also was happy (although not surprised) to see Ziva doing “Jewish things”, although I am still pissed that they brought back this whole thread, which to me only inflames anti-Semitism. Being an American sort-of-secular Jew who lights candles and says Kaddish, from my perspective, those things are what most people I know do when dealing with death and major emotional crises. I was, however, surprised to hear her asking for a sign from the God I didn’t expect her to believe in. So that was sort of nice in terms of showing the traditional side of Ziva, but the whole stoic/revenge-seeking thing contributes to the cold assassin image that drives me nuts. The worst part of this second episode in what looks to be an ongoing repulsive thread is the portrayal of the assistant director of Mossad as even colder and more arrogant than the rest of the Mossad characters. If he turns out to be the one who killed the Iranian, I’ll be even more convinced that Mark Harmon is an anti-Semite. I haven’t written my letters to the Jewish organizations and the Jewish press yet, but I’d like to urge viewers to make them aware of this situation and to write to Mark Harmon to ask him to stop fueling the flames.

      Comment by Rachel Peine — January 17, 2013 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  11. My take:

    This is not about “christianization”…it’s, quite simply, anti-semitic… Since season 5, the “left leaning” evolution of NCIS is apparent… I challenge anyone to sit down to a dvd marathon (as I’ve been doing for the past few weeks)… When you do, you will “see” the change. And, yes, it is “left leaning”… Israel shifts from the U.S., “terror” is domestic and driven by white men, muslims are victims Christianity becomes as Israel…not forces of “good”…and more often forces of “what is wrong” (Christian honor killing…anyone?).


    Comment by Lisa — January 10, 2013 @ 7:45 pm | Reply

  12. I believe the “Shabbat Shalom” episode of NCIS was far more about people than politics or policy.

    1. Eli’s position at Mossad has become tenuous. He is apparently espousing some sort of rapprochement with his opposite number in Iran who was a boyhood friend. He wants to re-establish his formerly close relationship with his daughter whom he has treated shabbily in several instances – in fact betrayed her or asked her to do the unthinkable (kill her brother). He says he wishes to repent. Ziva points out the difference between repentance and redemption and that the former does not guarantee the latter.

    2. In the course of the show we discover that Eli was the killer of the reporter, the inciting incident of the episode. The murder was not ordered by Mossad but was committed solely in order to continue the concealing of Eli’s presence in this country so that he could get NCIS to help him with the outreach to Iran and his daughter.

    3. Eli/Mossad did not kill Vance’s wife. Perhaps Mossad did (or Iran), but Eli would scarcely have ordered his own murder. Characters on popular shows are always being told that they should not feel guilty about the deaths of others: the people pulling the triggers are the murderers.

    4. I am perfectly willing to grant that NCIS has become pretty wishy-washy in terms of whole-hearted support for a ‘my country right or wrong’ attitude toward Israel in parallel with Obama’s equally tepid embrace. At the same time, I would contend that despite the apparent ‘penumbra’ of political vibes ’emanating’ from this episode, the main thrust of the episode was the exploitation of personal tragedy. Ziva may have been ‘Christianized’ over the past two or three years, but she prays over her father’s body in anguished Hebrew. His death may not have secured redemption in her eyes nor even forgiveness, but she sincerely mourns him.

    5. Frankly I was struck by the creation of a stunning body count of continuing characters as a ploy to start off the year. NCIS is getting to be an ancient show. This episode should bounce the ratings nicely. And again, while I see why some worry about whether or not the episode’s political ambivalence portends ill for national support for Israel, I really don’t think that was the point.

    Comment by Bill Lannon — January 10, 2013 @ 5:04 am | Reply

    • Perhaps Bill Lannon’s reading is what the writers thought they were doing. But I must ask Bill what Ziva meant by the difference between redemption and repentance. Repentance is a Jewish conception, while redemption is Catholic. If Ziva failed to make that distinction, she probably has been de-judaized as I have been arguing throughout the life of the blog.

      Comment by clarespark — January 10, 2013 @ 6:45 am | Reply

      • Curiouser and curiouser. I had dvr’d the episode and replayed it in order to clarify my my recollection and to make sure I had reported the exchange between Ziva and her father correctly. It was never my intent to question your position on Ziva’s de-judaization. I certainly don’t suggest that Ziva’s praying over her father’s body in the language of her childhood represents a rejection of any American or Christian values she may have learned or assimilated. Her mourning strikes me as both humanly and dramatically understandable and appropriate.

        However, my review of the dinner conversation to which I alluded and on which you commented proved incorrect. I got it wrong. The actual exchange (somewhat paraphrased) went:

        Eli remarks that the world is changing and he feels that he is about to retire or be retired and he hopes to restore an earlier relationship with Ziva when she still trusted him.

        Ziva replies that he’s apparently confusing retirement with repentance and that it’s only the latter which makes any difference to her.

        Eli responds that she seems to feel that his sins are too great, but pleads,”Let this visit be the first step to my redemption.” So it’s Eli who raises the Catholic notion of redemption. Please, Clare, don’t think I misreported the conversation in my first post in order to trap you in some sort of doctrinal dispute. I was entirely embarrassed when I watched the scene again and discovered my mistake.

        I suspect that what this proves, if anything, is that the writers aren’t paying much attention to any of the finer points of religion any more than they are to the implications of their political plot lines. I don’t think they’re consulting Stratfor for scenarios.

        Again, though, I think you’re absolutely correct about Ziva’s assimilation. In terms of plot function her evolution was necessitated by the fact she proved a popular character who could not continue to serve two masters and remain in the cast. These writers are very coldblooded. The mole, Agent Lee, was a coldblooded killer redeemed(?) by a sympathetic motive and the ultimate sacrifice when she told Gibbs to shoot through her body to kill the villain.

        And also, my renewed apology for misleading you however inadvertently.

        Comment by wlannon2012 — January 10, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

      • Refresh my memory if you have been watching NCIS for a long time. Did not Eli David marry a Palestinian woman (but possibly not Ziva’s mother, who was a Jewish Israeli), hence did he not always stand for reconciliation between the two peoples? Hence Ziva would have shot her half-brother, who had taken the side of the Palestinians and was going to kill Gibbs. The Wikipedia entry has the detail of the half brother, but not his or his mother’s nationality.

        Comment by clarespark — January 10, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

      • Claire: In response to your posting about Eli/Ari: Ari was a double agent. Eli thought Ari was working for Mossad, but he was really Hamas. The only thing I remember about Eli’s viewpoint in terms of “reconciliation” is a conversation where he said something about having to do what he does so his grandchildren won’t have to.

        According to Ari tells Gibbs that he wishes he didn’t have to shoot Kate, but he did so to cause Gibbs pain. Gibbs can’t believe that he pissed Ari off that much. Ari replies, “Not you, my father. You have the misfortune of reminding me of the bastard.” Gibbs recalls that Ari’s father didn’t marry his mother. “That’s what makes me a bastard, not him,” Ari replies. “From the moment of my birth, he groomed me to be one thing: his mole in Hamas. He sent me to Edinborough to become a doctor, so I could work in the Gaza camps alongside my mother [and then had her killed, after which Ari joined Hamas]. Gibbs doesn’t believe that Ari’s father would have his mother killed. “It was a retaliatory Israeli strike,” Ari says. “On the day, I was in Tel Aviv, visiting him. After decades of planning, he had his mole in Hamas. He never knew how much I hated him. I wish I could see his face when he realizes he created not a mole, but a monster. I get to strike at the heart of Mossad and Israel.”

        Comment by Rachel Peine — January 11, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

      • Shows like NCIS go by so fast, it is interesting that guidebooks to the characters need to be published. As a scholar I wish I had been reading all the scripts having to do with Ziva and her family. Thanks, Rachel for filling me in. As more people read this blog, we are getting different versions of the plot! However, it still seems to me that the writers would love to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and that they tend to depict Jews as the aggressors, and Palestinians as the victims. At best there is moral equivalence (both sides are bad, but savvy television writers can instruct the parties as to the errors of their ways, which is another liberal view of the conflict.

        Comment by clarespark — January 11, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

  13. I just saw the “Shabbat Shalom” episode, and i’m feeling sad, sick, and angry. First, Eli refers to something like “our two countries” and then refers to “Palestine”. This comes very soon after the whole U.N. “Palestine” thing, and seems like a blatant piece of propaganda to encourage Americans to think of “Palestine” as a “normal” country instead of a group of people dedicated to destroying Israel. Next, Eli and Mossad are again portrayed as heartless killers, and even Ziva, now having given up her loyalty to Israel as required when becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, can’t accept her father’s actions. This says that true Americans would never condone the actions of Mossad. wonderful. Finally, Eli/Mossad is responsible for the death of Vance’s wife, one of the sweetest characters on the show, and of course, an African-American. So Vance’s friendship with Eli has now cost him his wife. The visual/audio of the house being machine-gunned was gut-wrenching, not to mention Leon’s grief. Not a positive message for Black – Israel/Jewish relationships. And then McGee says something about “a U.S- Iran war, or an Israel-Iran war or a U.S.- Israel war”. Not sure i heard that right, but if I did, it’s the first time I’ve EVER heard ANYONE suggest that the U.S. might go to war AGAINST Israel. I really hope I got that wrong. As an American, I love this show and these characters. As a Jew, I feel betrayed by these characters (writers, actors, producers) who I’ve invited into my living room weekly for years. It’s like walking into a room and overhearing your best friends making anti-Semitic remarks. Do I stop watching the show? Do I protest to Mark Harmon? The whole thing makes me sick, and I’m worried that it’s just the beginning of anti-Israel crap becoming more pervasive than I’ve ever experienced.

    Comment by Rachel Peine — January 10, 2013 @ 3:48 am | Reply

    • Thanks Rachel, for your excellent comment. I felt sick and apprehensive last night after the episode, and was already fearful beforehand having followed the Ziva theme for so long. I agree with everything you said above. Maybe if enough viewers complain (to the actors, the writers, the producers, to CBS), it will have an effect, but the writers and their enablers seem very ideological to me, and for all I know are devout isolationists or worse.

      Comment by clarespark — January 10, 2013 @ 3:55 am | Reply

      • Thanks so much for validating my angst. I wonder why your blog is the ONLY place i have seen any discussion of this show. I think the Jewish media needs to have some dialog about it. I think i’m going to send my comments to all the major Jewish orgs, Jewish newspapers, and who(m?)ever else I can think of. any suggestions?

        Comment by Rachel Peine — January 10, 2013 @ 4:40 am

      • It is hard for me to believe that this blog is unique in following the theme of Ziva and her competing father figures in NCIS. I think your idea of contacting Jewish organizations and media is a very promising one. I am baffled by their inattention. Ironically, I almost didn’t write the blog at first, as I mentioned in my blog-diary.

        Comment by clarespark — January 10, 2013 @ 4:42 am

    • I found this at about halfway down the page. It’s titled Eli David: Man or Monster.

      “He [Eli] deliberately got a Palestinian woman pregnant with the intention of raising their child to be a mole inside Hamas. Their son, Ari, was convinced his father was behind his mother’s death. She was killed in an air strike on the refugee camp in which she worked. Whether Eli was behind the air strike or not, it would certainly fit the man’s personality to behave in such a fashion.”

      I also found the Wikipedia article on Ziva and was interested in the final section which quoted positive reviews about her Judaism from the Israeli press.

      Comment by wlannon2012 — January 10, 2013 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

      • Your first example regarding Eli is blatantly antisemitic and anti-Israel. The author is treating a fictional character as if he represents a typical heartless Jew. As for the Jewish Press in Israel, they are of different opinions regarding the final status of Israel, whether or not it remains a Jewish state or becomes binational. The Left leans toward the latter.

        Comment by clarespark — January 10, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

      • Heavens! I wasn’t endorsing that comment from the NCIS blog about Eli David. I had thought you asked for more information about Ari’s parentage and that was all I found.

        Comment by wlannon2012 — January 10, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

      • The comment says more about the audience for NCIS than it does about real Jews and real Israelis. I do not hold you responsible for the views of fans who contribute their own prejudices to fan pages.

        Comment by clarespark — January 10, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

  14. Ziva in no way should be a role model for women. Unless if you want women to be violent. On almost every episode she puts down Tony with I need a shower after talking to you, the dead weight comment, what would a woman want with you and many others. She always reacts with violence when faced with something, or someone she doesn’t like. She threw a hurt Tony down in Tel Aviv even if he said go ahead. It doesn’t give her the right to do what she did. Then she pulled her gun on him and told him that she wanted him dead and not Michael. I can’t believe that some people want there to be Tiva. She hurt him and she’ll do it again if something happens that she doesn’t like. If they get together you are saying that it’s okay for an abuse victim to be with their abuser. It’s just wrong. Women aren’t the only one’s that get abused by their significant others it’s men too that get abused too. Someone had a friend who had gone through domestic abuse and that woman said it was really hard for her to watch that part.

    Comment by Meghan — December 7, 2012 @ 12:26 am | Reply

    • The topic of the blog was really more about Ziva’s Americanization and US relations with Israel. But I thought that Meghan’s observations were interesting anyway, though off topic. It adds a dimension to the darkness of Ziva’s character, which could reach back to the negative portrayal of her father, Eli.

      Comment by clarespark — December 7, 2012 @ 12:54 am | Reply

  15. A few things,
    1) The Star of David was taken off her by Saleem at the end of Aliyah, for an Israeli character it would be natural that she purchases another. What’s the big deal?
    2) Yes, NCIS was a personal interest for Ziva, but if my boss did that to me I would leave or find a new position in the workplace.
    3) Allow the show poetic license! Yes it’s innacurate to the extreme, and some may view it as insulting. But if you don’t like it don’t watch it.
    4) Ziva needed to be humanized and have a bit more of a heart. She followed orders from two different sides, and quickly became confused. Her character was physically and emotionally broken. I think any of you would change if you had been in a similar situation.
    5) I doubt the writers are deliberately being anti-Israel, they are probably trying to get rid of Eli, who is a horrible character.

    I personally am Israeli and know people who work for Mossad, we enjoy the show very much, due to the fact that we can see it is obviously fiction with very loose relations to the real NCIS and Mossad. I believe she is still a role model for women, not just Israeli, she is working through her issues, strengthening her morals, which she has always had, and trying to be strong.

    Sarah, I do agree with your comment, but please remember this is a fictional show and a fictional character.

    Comment by Tziyona — October 16, 2011 @ 5:18 am | Reply

    • It would seem that many people don’t ‘get’ that divide between Hollyweird and real life. It is important to understand that most American entertainment (including some alleged news broadcasts) is fiction. I am reminded of when the film “Pulp Fiction” became a cult favorite of college students, who glorified the violence in the film without ever truly understanding the concept of “pulp fiction”.

      Comment by M. Myer Blatt — October 16, 2011 @ 3:42 pm | Reply

      • Yes, but it is still necessary to decode the ideology of popular culture. These shows become reality for many viewers, and indeed are incorporated into their lives as role models, as family members, or as accurate representations of, say, the military as in the case of NCIS.

        Comment by clarespark — October 16, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

  16. Ziva is a traitor. She was sworn in mossad to forever Loyalty to the State of Israel at any cost, she betrayed That oath. It’s ridiculous that she wants to be intelligence agents of another state, that is desertion. A real Israeli would have known that loyalty to your country and to your people is more important than a……ny personal interest or issue and that is why she is not a real Mossad agent mentally, I’m not sure she ever was.

    Comment by דניאל גלילי — February 8, 2011 @ 12:08 pm | Reply

    • The whole Ziva/Israel thing continues to be complicated as current events change. As Claire noted, I have become aware that Israel is now being deliberately isolated from other nations due to a well-organized effort to brand it as “apartheid” and “racist”. Remember, this is TV, which means the show is subject to the approval of the audience and others.

      I’d like to be a fly on the wall in the office of the writers, producers, and advertisers of NCIS. It’s clear that the show has completely backed off the whole connection with Israel, and I’m realizing that even when the connection was seen as a good thing, the Israeli characters were not such good guys. The references to Mossad and Ziva’s family were always that she was trained to be a heartless assassin. Her father lies to her and betrays her. Eli is ultimately a terrible father and not what I’d like to see as the portrayal of the head of Mossad.

      Ziva is essentially a pawn torn between her father and Gibbs. That’s a pretty sucky role for such a strong woman. As her role becomes more Americanized, she becomes softer and more emotional. That “heartless assassin” role annoys me because it is not a good model for Israeli women.

      She’s back wearing her Star of David, but it’s smaller, and the camera ususally gives the viewer a slight glimpse of it and then partly conceals it. So if you’re a new viewer, you may not even notice what she’s wearing.

      I’m disappointed about the changes in her role, but my guess is that the show wanted to keep the character/actor while “divesting” from Israel. So they Americanized Ziva and tied her more closely to Gibbs as a father figure. In retrospect, I’m surprised that the positive image of a U.S/Israeli relationship lasted so long on the show given the intensity of the anti-Israel forces in the world today. I’m disappointed that the one show that had something positive about Israel has taken it away, but I’m not surprised.

      Comment by Rachel Peine — February 8, 2011 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

  17. […] Links to blogs on military psychiatry Filed under: 1 — clarespark @ 11:29 pm Tags: Major Hasan, NCIS, prejudice as cause of war, Roy Grinker, the military as exemplary institution […]

    Pingback by Links to blogs on military psychiatry « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — April 29, 2010 @ 12:49 am | Reply

  18. There was nothing in there that I don’t agree with except “that there is no difference in the conceptions of the Christian God and Allah.” There is a huge difference. Us Christians don’t believe in Holy Wars, and we let our women have the same rights as us and don’t have them cover their heads. Islam must be destroyed.

    Comment by Darth Kieduss — April 17, 2010 @ 4:28 pm | Reply

    • Darth, I don’t understand your comment. Did you think that it was I, and not Jethro Gibbs, who thought that the Christian God and Allah were equivalent? As for wiping out the Muslim religion, how would you go about that? There are several billion believers. And some of them are Westernized/modernized. See the publications of Ayaan Hirsi Ali for the sharp difference between conceptions of Allah and Jesus. She also believes that “moderate” Muslims are susceptible to radicalisation by jihadis, owing to the violence that pervades Islam, the religion of complete submission. My analysis of the “Faith” episode is thus vindicated by an ex-radical jihadi of world wide fame and honor. Well, not quite world wide. She lives in constant danger of assassination for spilling the beans.

      Comment by clarespark — April 17, 2010 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  19. Yes, in the current season, Ziva is becoming more assimilated. She is becoming an American citizen and is leaving her ‘Israeli-ness’ behind.

    She’s becoming less of the classic kibbutz heroine that she was when this was written

    Comment by Frosh — March 24, 2010 @ 1:22 pm | Reply

  20. Thank you very much for your reply and for the link. I have no real use for Jews who are so assimilated that they bend over backwards to be anti-Israel and anti-Semitic so that no one can accuse them of being partisan. I am Orthodox, but that’s a personal choice and not one that I foist onto others. I do, however, think that the anti-Israel and self-hating Jews should convert and take themselves out of the available Jewish gene pool.

    Comment by Sarah — February 4, 2010 @ 6:21 pm | Reply

  21. Sarah, see my essay I mention Budd Schulberg, one of the many assimilated Hollywood Jews. His book What Makes Sammy Run was blatantly antisemitic in its depiction of a climber, straight from the streets of the Lower East Side in New York City. Interestingly, the Communist Party designated the book as antisemitic, but Schulberg is revered for his writing on such films as On The Waterfront and A Face in the Crowd, also for his novels, including The Disenchanted, which I thought was a great book. But don’t expect much pro-Zionism or pro-Israeli sentiment from Hollywood. They are loyal to the bottom line, which does not mean that fine films have not been made here.

    Comment by clarespark — February 4, 2010 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  22. In my experience, Mossad agents do not “lend out” to foreign agencies, nor do they walk around trumpeting their identities as Mossad agents. It is fine for Hollywood “creativity” to be imaginative, but it should fall well short of the patently absurd. Besides, in an industry in which Jews arguably have considerable influence, I wonder why there should be such a negative portrayal of an Israeli.

    A friend convinced me to watch one episode of NCIS. The star (the grey-haired guy) had one line in which he accused the Mossad for being responsible for assassinating an “innocent Palestinian” in Norway. The guy was Moroccan, not Palestinian. So much for accuracy. Haven’t seen the show since but I’m not big on television or the movies, anyway, and even if I did need a fictional television series to inform me about Jews or Israel, I would prefer that the actors be Jewish. Cinema verite.

    Comment by Sarah — February 3, 2010 @ 10:36 am | Reply

  23. I was even more disgusted to see Ziva sans mogen david on Chanukah (Dec. 15) with ZERO mention of anything vaguely Judaic. I’m writing to the station and copying whomever I can think of to express my displeasure. This change signals a clear statement severing the connection between NCIS and Israel. It also robs Jewish women of a fabulous role model. BTW, I’m wearing my Star of DAvid more now to make up for the lack of Ziva’s. I urge others to do the same.

    Comment by Rachel Peine — December 16, 2009 @ 3:51 am | Reply

    • Chanukkah is not a major holiday. Many Jews, myself included, do not even celebrate it. I would be more worried when it comes closer to the High Holy Days if she her throat is naked.

      Comment by MacJew — July 26, 2010 @ 2:24 am | Reply

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