In many ways, "Arab Labor," which premieres tonight on Link TV, is a standard albeit unusually addictive situation comedy. A hapless but good-hearted journalist darts in and out of amusing and poignant confrontations with his sassy wife, their smart-as-a-whip daughter, his overbearing parents and his hound-dog younger friend.
Except "Arab Labor" has subtitles, since it's set in modern-day Israel, and the journalist is a Palestinian named Amjad (Norman Issa), whose biggest problem seems to be that he is not Jewish. "How the hell do they know?" he complains to his wife, Bushra (Clara Khoury), as they are stopped again at a military checkpoint. "All the money I spend on fashionable clothes. I listen to Israeli radio. So how do they know?"
That this is the opening scene of the show's first episode immediately explains why the groundbreaking Palestinian-Israeli comedy is a big but controversial hit in its country of origin. Created by Sayed Kashua, a 32-year-old Israeli-born Palestinian journalist, "Arab Labor" is a valiant, consistently hilarious attempt to explore the tensions and contradictions of everyday life among the Israeli minority. (Link TV can be found on DirecTV and Dish; the series is also available for one week on www.linktv.org.)
In early episodes no one is spared, from the thieving Palestinian auto shop owner to the sanctimonious and racist head of the Hebrew "Peace School." But Amjad, being his creator's alter ego and the show's Arab Everyman, takes the brunt of the satire.