Last November, I wrote a piece concerning The Other Israel Film Festival at the JCC on the upper west side. Ironically, no Arabs would get to enjoy the Israeli filmmakers’ critical representations of their country’s politics and attitudes because Arabs exercise a wholesale boycott of all things Israeli. Now two Israeli films are nominated for Oscars in the category of documentary film; as usual, both find fault with their country’s leadership and policies. One of them, 5 Broken Cameras, is a collaborative effort between an Israeli and a Palestinian on the subject of the treacherous occupation in the Palestinian’s village. The Palestinian expressed regret that he would never get to screen this film in his own village or any other Arab country because there was an Israeli name attached to it. There are no comparable films being made by Palestinians or other Arabs concerning their violence towards Israel or the corruption, misogyny and indifference of their own leadership towards their populations’ poverty and plight. There are few films being made by Israelis or anyone else concerning Muslim anti-semitism and the indoctrination of their children with this poisonous legacy; they don’t get screened at Film Festivals, art theaters or other major venues such as HBO and PBS.
So what we have in the name of freedom of expression in the democratic state of Israel is the perpetuation and distribution to the west of a one-sided view of the war between Israel and her Arab neighbors, one that in actuality has less to do with territory and everything to do with ideology. Now, with the growing aggressiveness of radical Islam, Arabs have less reason than before to accept the reality of a Jewish state in the middle east. Israelis and many other western jews persist in believing that if only Israel would perfect its behavior, give in to additional Palestinian demands, relinquish more territory (captured in a defensive war), give up Jerusalem, allow the 3rd generation of descendants of refugees to return to their former villages - then, imshallah - all would be well.
Here’s what’s been happening instead. Westerners seeing films such as The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras become only further convinced that the problems in the middle east are the fault of those intransigent Jews and their right wing leadership. The growing proliferation of Muslims throughout Europe has made those countries a hotbed of flagrant anti-semitism, all too reminiscent of the decades preceding World War 11. France reports a 58% rise in anti-semitic incidents within the last year - one quarter of which involved weapons. Countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Germany and England are similarly affected by the explosion in their Muslim populations and their explosive rage against all Jews. In the U.S., we are about to install a minister of defense who has openly expressed his contempt for the “jewish lobby” and his extreme patience with the theocratic dictatorship of nuclear Iran.
Colleges and universities have become staging grounds for vocal anti-semitic sentiment and demonstrations under the guise of academic freedom. Even in a school with as many Jewish students as Brooklyn College, the Political Science Dept sponsored a BDS presentation without allowing a rebuttal by speakers with an opposing viewpoint. Synagogues and community centers bend over backward to promote the creation of a Palestinian state without being mindful that most Palestinians want Hamas, an organization currently on our country’s list of terrorist groups, to be their leaders.
Israeli filmmakers need to rethink their priorities. They need to consider the resurgence of anti-semitism in the west and re-evaluate the potential for adding damaging fodder to this volatile mindset. There is a dangerous difference between criticizing one’s own government within the safety of one’s own country and exporting this criticism to a world that is once again comfortable with open anti-semitism and cowardly in resisting the tyranny of this century’s fascism du jour.
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