Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It may be debatable whether organized Jewry was always predatory and fascist, but it's beyond doubt today

Yoav Shamir’s Defamation

(Counter Currents) -- by Greg Johnson --

Yoav Shamir’s Defamation (2009) is a must-see movie. Shamir is an Israeli Jewish documentary film-maker. His other works include Checkpoint (2003), 5 Days (2005), and Flipping Out (2008).

Born in Tel Aviv in 1970, Shamir professes never to have experienced anti-Semitism, although he has heard about it all his life. He has decided, therefore, to go abroad in search of anti-Semitism, traveling to the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and Poland.
Although Shamir adopts the pose of a naïve observer, he seems to be advancing a thesis. He is apparently opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and to ongoing human rights violations. He believes that Jews use the holocaust and the specter of anti-Semitism to give themselves license to commit evil and to silence their critics.

Throughout Defamation, Shamir cuts back and forth between several different stories. This does not make the movie hard to follow, and in fact it makes it more engaging. But for the purposes of a review, I will separate them out.

Israeli Jews on Anti-Semitism

Before leaving Israel, Shamir told his 90-something grandmother, whose family came to Palestine in the 19th century, long before the state of Israel was founded, about his project. Her response is quite revealing. When told that Jews in the Diaspora complain constantly about anti-Semitism, she says: “Why don’t they come here?” Her answer is that Jews remain in the Diaspora because, “Jews are crooks. Jews love money.” They stay in the Diaspora because they are parasites who “want to live without working,” through usury, “selling liquor,” and other “monkey business.” She goes on to say that she is a “true Jew,” because she does not let money or anything else define her. It is a remarkable statement.

To Western ears, of course, her views sound shockingly “anti-Semitic.” But they were actually shared by Theodor Herzl and the other founders of Zionism, who frankly acknowledged that one reason for anti-Semitism was the parasitic economic profile of Diaspora Jewry: usury, selling liquor, catering to (and promoting) vice, etc. The purpose of Zionism was to create a homeland in which Jews could attain freedom and self-sufficiency without direct, day-to-day competition with non-Jews or temptations to assimilate. It would be interesting to know if her attitudes are merely a relic of an older generation or are widespread among younger Israeli Jews.

Perhaps I am reading too much into the grandmother’s claim that a “true Jew” does not let money or anything else define him, but I read this as a rejection of Gilad Atzmon’s claim that non-religious Jews define their identity purely in opposition to non-Jews rather than in terms of anything positive. The grandmother’s vision of positive Jewish self-assertion and self-definition was part of the original Zionist vision. Zionism is the Jewish version of racial nationalism: the national self-assertion and self-determination of a people, a nation, i.e., a community related by blood. But as Shamir goes on to demonstrate, this Zionist aspiration has largely failed, for Israelis today overwhelmingly define themselves in terms of enmity toward non-Jews.

When Shamir tells his driver about his project, the driver scoffs at the idea that anti-Semitism is something serious, because “Jews run the world.” I assume that the driver is an Israeli Jew and that he is thinking specifically of Diaspora Jews. If so, this indicates that at least some Israeli Jews have beliefs about Diaspora Jews that are labeled anti-Semitic when held by non-Jews.

When Shamir visits a major Israeli newspaper, he speaks to Noah Klinger, an elderly holocaust survivor (complete with numbers tattooed on his arm). This gentleman monitors anti-Semitism around the world. Which countries are anti-Semitic? All of them, it turns out. When Shamir prods him about objectivity, his response is basically “Why do I have to be objective? Were they [the Nazis] objective?” Two wrongs make a right, apparently.

When Shamir speaks to two young Jews at the paper who apparently receive Anti-Defamation League reports from the US and repackage them as news stories, the attitude of the male conveys a certain amount of cynicism about the whole procedure. He thinks he is part of a racket.

Shamir also speaks with Uri Avnery, a former MP and a peace activist, and shows a meeting sponsored by his organization Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), in which John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, spoke about their work. Avnery is a very dignified and impressive individual. Another member of Gush Shalom, Teddy Katz, also makes a similar impression.

Although Avnery does overstate his case sometimes, which invites caricature, his considered opinion is that anti-Semitism is a real but negligible force in the world today. “You’d need a magnifying glass to find it.” He believes that the Anti-Defamation League and other Diaspora Jews promote fear of anti-Semitism and awareness of the holocaust in order to drum up support for the Israeli right wing so that they can continue occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands, human rights abuses against Palestinians, and aggression against Israel’s neighbors.

Avnery and his group believe that Israel will only achieve peaceful relations with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors if the power of Diaspora Jewry and the Israeli right wing is broken. This requires that the fear of anti-Semitism and the grip of the holocaust be weakened. Consciousness of anti-Semitism and the holocaust cultivates feelings of self-pity, anger, revenge. But enmity makes it impossible to pursue peace.

Shamir also takes us to a three day conference organized by the Israeli Foreign Ministry at which Jewish scholars from around the world convened to denounce and rebut Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby. At the end of the conference, David Hirsch, a portly sociology professor with a British accent, stood up to point out that not one of the speakers said a word about Israeli occupation, settlements, and human rights violations on Palestinian lands and how these might contribute to anti-Zionist sentiments around the world.

The other speakers replied with indignation and feigned incomprehension. When Shamir defended Hirsh’s position, an angry American Jew accused him of being like a battered wife who blames herself for her predicament because the alternative—that she lives with a monster—is too depressing to contemplate.

He does not complete his analogy, but the implication is clear: we goyim are monsters. Jews bear no blame for anti-Semitism because anti-Semitism is just a fact of nature, an expression of the baseless wickedness of gentiles. It is disturbing that this idea is widespread among America’s wealthiest and most powerful ethnic group. It would not seem likely that they have our best interests at heart...MORE...LINK

No comments: