Jewish Dopers: Have you ever watched the film "Defamation"?

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.

I haven’t seen the film, but I do think the ADL is a bunch of racketeers just like the NAACP. The ADL does not help fight anti-Semitism. Actually, it just makes the Jews look like a bunch of whiners, which causes anti-Semitism. Abe Foxman is an anti-Semitic caricaturist’s wet dream.

The kind of people who are going to hate Jews are going to hate Jews. No organization fighting against “defamation” is ever going to make them go away.

This is true. There is a difference though, the Jews are generally a “soft target.” What do I mean by that? I mean that they’re highly educated and successful, but they lack a hard-assed blue-collar contingent to knock jaws out when the shit hits the fan.

Be openly bigoted against blacks and you risk getting smacked down by blacks.

Be openly bigoted against Latinos and you risk getting smacked down by Latinos.

Be openly bigoted against Jews and…you risk Abe Foxman issuing a memo about you.

Are you saying Jewish people are weak?

Because based on your pics, you don’t look weak. You could give me a smackdown, at least. (But I’m a weak little girl, though :))

Seriously, I don’t get what you’re saying. I mean, yeah, I don’t really think there are many Jewish roughnecks and thugs in the US, but that doesn’t mean that when it comes to the more important forms of racial biotry (job discrimination, for instance), ya’ll are a soft target. And if someone spray-painted a swashtika on the JCC down the street from me, I don’t think there would be less public outcry in my community than if they painted “Niggers go home” on a black church or something.

I’m not saying that Jews are weak, I’m saying that most of them have too much to lose to get into brawls.

Other minorities have whole neighborhoods of people that will go out into the street and riot to make a point. Some people think that’s a bad thing, and in a way, it is. It’s not good for fitting into society and advancing socially. But it’s good in the sense that it intimidates people and broadcasts the message that they take no shit.

The Irish built up a reputation in this country for taking no shit. And how much anti-Irish bullying and bigotry do you think there is nowadays? The Irish also took over local politics and police departments and other respectable things and they gained social clout that way, but at the same time they never lost their reputation as hard-asses and I think it is served them well.

The Jews never had anything like this…they advanced socially and economically and then shed all of the trappings of the lower class completely.

No, but I have seen The Hebrew Hammer a few times.


The level of public outcry would be the same in this case. But if someone walked down the street of a black neighborhood in broad daylight with a swastika sign, versus doing this in a Jewish neighborhood, the response would be vastly different. The Jews would probably stay inside their houses and call the police.

I’ll admit, I am coming at this issue from the Tom Wolfe, David Mamet school of “the world is a big schoolyard/locker room/jailhouse” way of looking at things. Of course, more “serious” academic and intellectual people will take a completely different approach and talk in terms of socioeconomics, but I make no pretensions of being one of them.

I can only speak for the antisemitism that exists in America. And as far as I can tell the only problem Jews have is that everyone thinks we’re good lawyers, good with money, and that we have a very powerful influence on politics and the media.

Honestly, I’ve been exploiting these stereotypes all my life and I hope they never go away.

The only thing bad that I’ve seen come as a result of these stereotypes is that people use them to argue against supporting Israel. The argument goes that the powerful Jews are taking advantage of the helpless Palestinians. That Israel doesn’t need extra support because the powerful Jews in America help them enough. This doesn’t hurt me, but it hurts the relatives I have in Israel.

Israel is expected to deal with the terrorist in Palestine alone, and when they do, everyone blames them for not being more cautious. They assume Israel has the capacity to target terrorists without civilian death, but Israel is no where near that strong. Even the US can’t pull that off.

What would help is if other countries provided Israel with military support, that way less civilians would die. But that won’t happen as long as lies are spread about how the powerful Israeli army can prevent civilian death, but that they just don’t want to.

Specifically what type of military support from other countries would prevent civilian deaths in Israeli anti-terrorism operations?

The video doesn’t load for me, but the description doesn’t fill me with confidence.

Seems likely to be a political jeremaid squarely aimed at Israel, rather than any sort of even-handed documentary concerning the prevelance of world anti-semitism.

Seems a timely topic here in Canada, as this article struck my attention today:

My own opinion: Jews here in north america are pretty well fully integrated into society and the overall level of anti-Jewish prejuidice is low - no worse than that suffered by any other identifiable ethnic group.

Nor, contrary to whatever is said in that documentary (and I apologize for merely going on your description), do Jews here in North America actually feel that anti-semitism is “widespread” or “pervasive” in the general population, or express any paranoia about their status in society here, or any desire to see Israel as their bastion of refuge.

However, Jews (or more exactly Jewish institutions and those using them) do face a certain threat of targeting - not from the general population, but from a small segment of it: middle eastern extremists who have imigrated here, and (to a lesser extent) home-grown neo-nazis.

The actual danger is small, but not wholly imaginary. In Canada, for example, studies show that anti-semitic incidents have increased dramatically over the past couple of years.

The problem is that those who espouse extremism very often do not differentiate between their dislike of Israel, the country, and Jews, the ethnicity. Overwrought rhetoric demonizing the one is apt to spill over into attacks on the other. Thus, the unpopularity of the attack on Gaza (for example) spilled over into attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions.

In summary, the documentary (or rather its description) rings false - it appears to propose a straw-man (that Jews here in NA live in irrational terror of society’s anti-semitism) and, falsely, minimizes and actual risk (a film-maker is unlikely to actually witness an act of anti-Jewish violence - any more than they are likely to actually witness any other sort of act of terrorism).

Not to call you out on your generalizations, but if a person walked out in my parent’s McMansioned suburbia subdivision with “Niggers go home”, people wouldn’t be beating the guy up OR calling the police. They’d probably just tell him to take his crazy ass somewhere else. Even in the more working class neighborhood that I grew up in, I don’t think the guy would have been beaten up. Yelled at, yeah (probably by someone like my mother). But not stomped to the ground.

I know you know this, but not all black people are violent. Not all black neighborhoods are violent. We’re not all spring-loaded to go into “OH NO YOU DI’NT!” mode. But I know you know this.

I lived a few years in a low-income highrise that was predominately Jewish. There was a shul in the basement and a giant menorrah in the yard. Besides the little old ladies in the babushkas, there weren’t a whole lot of “soft targets”. The calloused hands and paint-covered workboots attested to that.

Yes, I imagine they were a minority within a minority.

But just be careful with the generalizations.

Nevertheless people think they are, and this public perception, even if it is a misconception, is powerfully influential. An undeserved reputation is still a reputation.

To be fair to the film, it did not suggest that American Jews live in such paranoia. Just Israeli Jews.

And he went directly to the ADL to find actual incidents of anti-Jewish violence, since they document those kinds of things. Besides some kids throwing some rocks at a schoolbus (which a local rabbi said happens to schoolbuses all right time, regardless of the occupants), he was not able to get the ADL to find a violent crime that he could follow up on. Now perhaps they actually did give him something and he purposefully edited it out. I don’t know. But what he seemed to be saying was that most of what the ADL categorizes as “acts of anti-Semitism” seem to be very minor, such as a person’s suspicion about the intentions behind a newspaper editorial or the complaint of an employee who could get not a day off for Yom Kippor. Are these really acts of anti-Semitism, the way an average person would imagine an “act” of anti-Semitism to be? I don’t think so. I think that was his point.

That just seems freaking bizzare. As I posted in my previous post, I had no trouble finding an inarguably anti-semitic incident that happened today in my country. While the spree was minor (rocks busting windows at five synagogues and a school across Montreal), the article references a previous fire-bombing, which is not. How can it be that the ADL couldn’t even find a single actual incident?

Reeks to me of bull.

I’m not Jewish, but that movie strikes me as a gigantic load of bullshit, particularly if he’s going to treat Norman Finklestein, Walt, and Mearsheimer as serious academics.

Yes, people who insist that the Iraq War is a result of powerful Jews forcing the US to attack Iraq for Israel’s benefit are going to claim there’s no real anti-Semitism in the US.

Similarly, people who insist that black people are dumber than whites are not going to think racism is much of a problem in the US.

Enough soldiers to clear out the terrorists hiding among civilians, so that Isreal wouldn’t have to rely on air force strikes to clear them out.

I’m kinda skeptical. Has Israel ever requested foreign troops help pacify Gaza or the West Bank? I wouldn’t think they’d be amenable to that.

Or for that matter, do you have a cite that there was some counter-terrorism operation that was nixed because of inadequate troops. Certainly when Israel wants to move into a part of Palestinian territory, they don’t seem to have much trouble doing so.

I’ve heard people say “Jew down” when referring to bargaining, and been in the uncomfortable position of hearing a guy start to tell a bigoted joke about Jews only to have one of the people he’s telling it to tell him they are Jewish.

There is still anti-antisemitism, but I don’t know that people need to fear for their lives. On the other hand, I’d hate to be the Jewish kid whose parents challenge prayer in school in the rural south.

Hell, here is the list of incidents from 2009 from the ADL. The movie maker is an ass.