JERUSALEM — It was the extraordinary coldbloodedness of the murder that made it true-crime movie material in the first place: a Palestinian teenager snatched off a Jerusalem street by Orthodox Jews, choked, bludgeoned and burned to death in a forest at dawn.
But “Our Boys,” a 10-part series that started this month on HBO, is under attack in Israel largely because of that singularity, amid an ideologically and emotionally charged battle over the politics of bereavement and victimhood.
Some critics have accused the creators of skewing reality and ignoring what they say is the more common scourge of Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, creating a false equivalency between the two and tarnishing Israel’s image.
“The series tells the whole world how the Israelis and Jews are cruel and bloodthirsty murderers, and how the Palestinians are badly done by and oppressed,” Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote on Twitter last week.
Fewer Palestinians are watching the series because satellite dishes are more common in Palestinian homes than cable TV, but those who did also had painful memories.
Hussein Abu Khdeir, the father of the slain Palestinian teen, said he and his wife, Suha, had seen some of the episodes.
“We cried a lot,” he said. “It took us back five years.”
The series, produced by HBO and Israel’s Keshet Studios, dramatizes the 2014 killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir and the hunt for the unlikely perpetrators.
The two cases dominated the news in Israel in the summer of 2014, capturing the hearts and fears of Jews and Arabs alike, raising tensions and contributing to a spiral of violence that culminated in a 50-day war with Gaza.
The series speeds through the drama of the doomed Israeli teens in the first episode, showing actual footage of their mothers’ pleas for the nation to pray for them to be found alive.
But it moves swiftly on to the heart of the series: the killing of the Palestinian teen and the urgent, if painstaking, investigation by the Jewish division of Israel’s security agency, the Shin Bet. The Shin Bet agents penetrate the closed world of Jerusalem yeshivas to track down the killers — an Orthodox man and his two teenage nephews who lived on the margins of Israeli society and were neither the usual suspects nor on anybody’s radar.
The backlash against the series began after the first two episodes aired in mid-August, when 120 Israeli families of soldiers and civilians killed by Palestinians signed a letter to HBO demanding an on-screen clarification that Palestinian terrorism is statistically more significant than Jewish terrorism.
Matan Peleg, the director of Im Tirtzu, a far-right political group backing the bereaved relatives, described any comparison as “morally reprehensible.”
HBO has not responded to the complaints, and the criticism has grown more virulent.
In a menacing Facebook post on Saturday, Avihu Gamliel, identified in the Israeli news media as the brother of a convicted member of the militant Jewish underground, posted mug shots of the series’ three local directors, urging his followers to “remember these faces well.” By Sunday, the post had been shared more than 800 times before it was removed.
The directors — Hagai Levi of “The Affair” and “In Treatment”; Joseph Cedar, the New York-born Israeli director of “Norman” and “Footnote”; and the Palestinian director Tawfik Abu Wael of “Last Days in Jerusalem,” who grew up in an Arab town in Israel — have been thrown on the defensive.
They said they had anticipated criticism for focusing on the Palestinian victim, as opposed to the Israeli ones, but said they were not prepared for the viciousness of the campaign. They have been accused (falsely, they insist) of blaming the three Israeli mothers for whipping up the feverish atmosphere that led to the revenge killing, and of cynically trying to curry international favor in hopes of winning an Emmy.
“It doesn’t really reflect what’s on the screen,” Mr. Cedar said of some of the criticism. “But the appetite for finding a public enemy is so strong that reality doesn’t matter.”
“Using bereaved families in public debate is actually a way of silencing an argument,” he said by telephone from New York on Friday.
And if competing narratives are the essence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said, “It doesn’t really make a difference where you start. We are all victims and all perpetrators.”
Mr. Levi said that as an artist, it was not his job to be balanced, though he said the series tried to be fair and responsible and to provide the context in the first episode.
“This series is not about terrorism at all,” he said. “It’s about understanding the nature of a hate crime.”
While the complaints of anti-Israel bias came mostly from the right, the directors said they had also been buffeted by the left: that the series glosses over Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians and highlights the earnest hunt for the perpetrators of one Palestinian death when Israeli soldiers have killed many unarmed Palestinians with impunity.
Mr. Abu Wael, who oversaw the Palestinian scenes in the series, had to contend with pressure from activists who opposed his working with an Israeli production company.
He ultimately rebuffed those calling on him to boycott the project because, he said, “Things are not black and white. Reality is more complex.”
“For me, as a Palestinian,” he added, “the occupation is itself a form of terrorism.”
Filmed entirely in Hebrew and Arabic, the series humanizes and delves into the worlds of both the victim and the perpetrators. Some of the nuance may be lost on the international audience, but in Israel it has stirred up deeply personal anguish.
Boaz Kukia, the father of Ron Kukia, an off-duty soldier who at 19 was stabbed to death in 2017 at a bus stop in southern Israel, signed the letter to HBO. The problem, he said, is that the world will treat terrorism against Jews as if it were “fate, like crime or traffic accidents.”
But Robi Damelin, whose son, David, was killed in 2002 by a Palestinian sniper while he was performing military reserve duty at a West Bank checkpoint, defended the series.
“We don’t see others’ suffering,” said Ms. Damelin, a member of the Parents Circle-Families Forum, a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization of people who have lost relatives to the conflict and are working for reconciliation. “We love to be victims.”
Mr. Levi said the first episode was in the editing room for 18 months. The whole process, he said, had been “very agonizing, and very long and complicated.”
Asked if he would have done anything differently in light of the furor, he said, “The bigger question is whether I would do it again at all.”