by Yoav Shamir
January 25, 2010
I dispute David Hirsh's criticism of my film about antisemitism.
'easy targets', it is a difficult debate Israel must have.
My grandmother lost her husband, my biological grandfather, in the 1948 war of independence, in which he served as an officer with the forces defending Jerusalem; she was left with two young children, my mother and her brother (he is the Israeli ambassador in Germany).
She then married the man I knew as a grandfather, an Auschwitz
survivor who became a freedom fighter in
the Ezel - the underground movement
that operated alongside the Haganah and Lechi.
Hirsh sees her as an "easy target", and although I personally completely disagree with what she stated on camera, her perspective represents the very early Zionists thinkers such as Nordau, who wrote Degeneration, and Herzel,
This small and marginal group (representing less than 3% of the entire Jewish population at the time) were young, secular, socialist Jews who wanted to create a "muscle" Jew; a Jew who would be different from all of what they resented in their parents' generation.
grandmother is a genuine representative of this school of thought. She opens
the film, not only because she is a great character who expresses what many
people of her generation and, in fact, many Israelis feel toward diaspora
Jews, but she is a reminder of the vicious cycle that Zionism became caught
in - the state that was supposed to be a cure for what antisemitism started,
as both Foxman and Finkelstein are actually saying, has ended up generating
I don't see how an organization operating on $70,000,000 a year can be considered an easy target.
Abe Foxman, whom I actually like and have a great sympathy for, is one of the most influential figures in the Jewish world of diplomacy, who meets with world leaders, heads of states and foreign ministers.
When I approached the ADL, I came
with the intention of learning, and after spending many hours with Foxman
and key members of the ADL, I believe that they are doing what they are
doing because of their true concern for Israel, and a real wish to help the
Jewish state. Unfortunately, even though I can understand their drive, I
totally disagree with it.
As the game continued and none of them could think of five gentiles who would protect them, they then go down to three, then one… and sadly, they cannot think of a one righteous soul who would come to their aid.
The lesson is, as Foxman's book is appropriately titled, "never again".
I am happy to say that, at
least in in my Tel Aviv social circle, this is not a very popular game; in
fact, I was quite shocked to have witnessed it in Auschwitz. But it was a
great insight into that mindset.
But, nevertheless, it is headed
towards a cliff.
If they have any sense of human dignity, it
will change the way they look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
An image that blinds them as they travel from Ben Gurion airport to the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, to the many empty holiday apartments they keep in Jerusalem, which they occupy maybe one week a year; on the 443 Highway, which is prohibited for the Palestinians to travel, although it passes right through the middle of their land.
No "easy targets" here, but
simply a group of very influential group of people who will go to great
lengths defending and securing their "insurance policy" - Israel.
The black residents replied that,
They went on, expressing many stereotypes about Jews, ending up with a sad reference to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Is this antisemitism? Of course it is.
The question is, what would be the best way to deal with it? A wise local rabbi acknowledged the problem but blames the ADL for inflaming situations like these, because, as he says,
Finally, we come to the group of "15-year-old Israeli students on their trip to Poland", as Hirsh says (in fact, the students were between 17 and 18 years old during the filming, and as you are reading these lines many of them have enlisted in the Israeli army).
When the film came out in Israel, I invited the whole class and their parents to the premiere at Doc Aviv documentary film festival. These intelligent young high school students responded very openly and honestly to the film. Adi, the young woman who is one of the main protagonists in the class, told me that it gave her a lot to think about and thanked me for making the film.
Their teacher, Assaf,
responded in a similar way.
I am a filmmaker
who simply gave them the floor.
But I can inform him that, at this year's conference,
Abe Foxman stated that the situation of antisemitism is the worst since the
second world war, just as he had said last year and just as he will probably
say next year, too.
The current Israeli government is the most nationalist, rightwing government in the history of the state of Israel. Those few who oppose and fight against racism, and violations of human rights, risking their freedom - last week, the head of the Israeli human rights association was arrested for demonstrating against the taking over of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem - those I consider heroes.
In fact, my new film is about these unsung
I am very happy to read all the comments and debates the film has started in the UK:
As for David Hirsh, I
warmly invite him, next time he is in Israel, to join me for a tour of the
February 9, 2010
Israeli director Yoav Shamir embarks on a provocative - and at times irreverent - quest to answer the question,
Speaking with an array of people from across the political spectrum (including the head of the Anti-Defamation League and its fiercest critic, author Norman Finkelstein) and traveling to places like Auschwitz (alongside Israeli school kids) and Brooklyn (to explore reports of violence against Jews), Shamir discovers the realities of anti-Semitism today.
His findings are shocking, enlightening and - surprisingly - often wryly funny.