I’m very reluctant to post this thread because 1) Israel will be brought up, and it seems that we can never have thread about Israel that ends very well, 2) I do not want to be accused of anti-Semitism, which if you’ve seen the film, is ironic (or maybe not…I just can’t think of a better word). I have gread fondness for my Jewish brethern and sisteren, and I don’t want to be perceived as a hostile person to Jewishdom. And 3) I just saw the film myself, and I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s a documentary made by an Israeli Jew, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some kind of agenda.
If you have not seen the film, you can watch it free here. Or you can just read my brief synopsis. But please try to watch the movie (it’s an hour and a half long). I can’t cover everything in my description.
Synopsis: Israeli Jew who has never experienced anti-Semitism goes on a worldwide search for anti-Semitism, starting off with the Anti-Defamation League based in NYC. He encounters many Jews and other people along the way. As the documentary unwinds, it starts to become apparent that although Jewish people (and Israelis in particular) view anti-Semitism to be widespread and pervasive in every society, the filmmaker is unable to find much besides some kids throwing some rocks at a yeshiva schoolbus in Crown Heights. He meets with controversial Jewish figures who believe that organizations such as the ADL are using exaggerations of anti-Semitism as proof that Israel is the only safe place in the world for Jews. In other words, making a whole to-do about nothing, for a whole lot of something ($$). He follows a group of Israeli teenagers making a pilgrimage to Poland to visit the Nazi concentration camps. We are shown how scared these kids are that they will be attacked by Nazis and others that hate Jews. They have been taught that everyone hates them, and the fact that they are chaparoned by an Israeli secret service guy seems to prove this to them. The film clearly shows how over-the-top paranoid they are…they encounter no hatred or meanness during their trip, but they still believe that they are in imminent danger. I did, however, note that he did not show any Arab or Middle Eastern viewpoints. Just those of the West and Israel.
I don’t know how it is to be Israeli or Jewish, so it’s easy for me to generally accept what the guy was showing to be true. Personally, the anti-Semitism that I’ve encountered has come to me exclusively through my father’s crazy ranting about how all of Hollywood and academia is run by Jews. He is obviously incorrect, even though there is no denying that they are disproportionately represented. But so? And he has said some other crummy things…but probably just as crummy as what the majority of Americans have heard about this or that group as they’ve navigated through this society. In other words, at least in the US, Jews are hated, at the most, as much as any other minority ethnic group. Still, that does not mean anti-Semitism is not a global problem…or that the people he interviewed are wrong when they say Israel is the safest place in the world for Jews. What I did not realize was how steeped Israelis are in Holocaust victimhood…or at least to the degree that the filmmaker showed. And I did not realize that there were Jews who did not like the ADL or what it stands for. I’ve always thought of the ADL as kind of like the NAACP, only with better PR. But if you watch the film, you leave wondering if the ADL and its leadership are just like the favorite punching bags of the black political world–Jesse and Al. You know, supposed “race-baiters.” So that was kind of eye-opening.
Anyway, I just wanted to get a Jewish person’s perspective on the film…or anyone else’s, for that matter. Since we can all watch it, why not talk about it? I takes me a while to become really critical of something (delayed reaction, so to speak), so right now I can only point out the obvious flaws (like why didn’t he go to Israel’s neighbors for examples of anti-Semitism instead of all the way to NYC?). But I’m sure someone else can point out other problems with the film. Or maybe not? I don’t know. I just thought the film was interesting, if nothing else, and I’d like to start a (civil) dialogue about it. If we can.