Defamation: In Search of Antisemitism

From "Defamation"

Last month, PULSE published Yoav Shamir’s film, Defamation. I’ve finally gotten around to  watching it, and just couldn’t help writing as I watched. Aside from the comical Nancy Drew music, I found it at times very hard to watch. Looking in the mirror is never easy.

The Easy Part – The Adults
There’s something pathetic about a grown man living in unsubstantiated fear. Probably the most pathetic statement in the movie is made by the security guy at Crown Heights:

When a black guy sees two people walking down the street, a black person and a jewish person, his choice to attack someone will not be a black person. With a black person, you never know, does he carry a knife, does he carry a gun?..

This pathetic and racist assertion is forwarded by how many atrocities the Jews went through throughout history, as if the blacks never went through hundreds of years of slavery, their countries colonized by whites. Where’s the ADL when you need them?

Speak of the devil. Watching the ADL’s ineptness in the one thing they should be able to do – find defamation cases – is a rather entertaining exercise. While the American and Israeli press and media is full of racism, homophobia, genderphobia, classism and any other exotic blend of ism and phobia you can think of, the self proclaimed Anti Defamation League is struggling to find antisemitism in all of the United States.

In his search for antisemitism, not even the ADL could help Yoav Shamir. To his somewhat childish disappointment and understandable relief, antisemitism- or more accurately- anti Judaism as a broad and prevailing phenomenon, is a thing of the past. Today’s anti-Judaism is no more common than any other racism towards any other minority, and very possibly less common.

Actual Defamation
Defamation does actually get intimate footage of true anti-Judaism. It’s not exactly the Arian Brotherhood, but it’s an important example of how all groups harbor racism when they are separated and don’t know each other on a personal level.  A great example is the African American community of the aforementioned Crown Heights neighborhood. When engaged in conversation about their Jewish neighbors, the black residents seem to have a lot of preconceived notions about them, or more precisely, Jews in general. One could go into an “antisemites” tantrum, or realize that in order to solve the root of this problem, the members of both Crown Heights communities need to borrow more sugar.

The Hard Part – The Children
While the ADL is a bit of a laugh, the parts with the teenagers tore my heart out. I could see myself there. Though I have slightly different memories and remember my “roots voyage” as the scratching the surface off of the Zionist illusion, I remember this fear of the boogie antisemite.

Children who want to “Not forget and not forgive” are a cause for concern. A child isn’t born vindictive. Israeli children are vindictive, though many enjoy a comfortable life. The high-schoolers Shamir chose to follow are middle-class-and-up, and they embody the dichotomy that is the Zionist identity: On one hand, they “know” they are hated and seek revenge to different extents; on the other, you can see their blank stares as they are faced with shocking images of what has become known as the holocaust (with a capital H). In their own words, they “don’t feel it” (“it” not being pain, but revenge) which is absolutely normal. What isn’t normal is that they want to feel it. An Israeli child is expected to somehow contain such horrors as if they were their own.

Now, my own dichotomies come into play: On the one hand, I can easily relate to them at that age; on the other, I pity them – their minds abused at such a young age; and on another, they are tomorrow’s soldiers. As I look into their soft faces I wonder: Which of them will be gassing me in Bil’in next week? Which of them will call me a Nazi, as they did last week? In their head they are fighting their own extinction. Fighting for their lives. While in reality they are bigger and stronger than most. Yet another dichotomy that will traumatize them, and ironically, will turn them into exactly what they’re most afraid of.

The Thirst for Holocaust Porn
“The real journey begins now”, says one of the girls as she enters the (unbeknownst to her) partially recreated Majdanek with the Israeli flag in her hand and a white shirt with a blue tie (the national colors of Israel) and a star of david on the back (so many ironies, so little time). She was taught to act like this at a very young age, and school, yet again, provides her with the correct nationalistic props. I can relate, though I chose not to wrap myself in a flag (the trend in my day) for my own reasons. I remember Majdanek very vividly, due to the fact that it’s very…well… vivid. What I don’t remember, however, are the horror stories. Throughout Defamation I can definitely see an escalation in scare tactics. While stories I remember being told sounded more like rumors, something a testimony may sound like- hearsay, the stories these kids are being told take on mythical proportions (the bloodthirsty Lady Godiva is my personal favorite).

I remember, about a year ago, in the midst of a debate (if you can call it that) with a fascist Zionist, who perceives himself as a leftist, he threw the accusation at me that I want another Gaza, so I can wave more dead babies at the UN. The cynicism of such remarks is not what astonishes me, but the relentless displacement disorder that’s so typical of Zionists. As Zionists abuse the horrors of the holocaust for their personal gain, they blame the Palestinians for sanctifying death. “They want martyrs,” is a commonly uttered sentence.

Incredibly enough, this thirst for evidence of anti-Semitism isn’t calculated (at least, not anymore), but engrained so deeply in our education that it becomes an obsession. Maybe I’m having an embarrassing outing right now, thinking there must be more like me, when in fact the room is full of crickets, but after seeing the kids of Defamation, I feel I may have a potential support group, so here goes:

Until I got to Auchwitz, I was obsessed with holocaust porn.

I’m not talking about Nazi sex fantasy pulp fiction. I’m talking about the need to hear more stories and in as much detail as possible. The more gruesome, the better. Naked women run around the camp under the guise of a collective medical examination? Oh yes! Mama had to choose which baby lives and which one dies, burning in an old train cart? Give me more! Babies thrown out of windows and used as target practice plates? That hit the spot! Give me 5 minutes and tell me more!

What are we doing to these kids?

That’s ultimately the question that Defamation deals with. The director, like myself, is taking a hard look in the mirror, trying to understand what has brought him thus far. A personal journey that’s undetachable of social nurture. A personal journey which understands that the past is the past and you can’t undo it, you can only take responsibility for it and try to do better in the future.

4 thoughts on “Defamation: In Search of Antisemitism”

  1. The hysterical follow-up to the jewish security guy in Crown heights talking about how when ”a black guy sees two people walking down the street; A black person and a jewish person, his choice to attack someone will not be a black person,“ was Shamir actually asking the blacks in the neighborhood. They said, Nah, we’ll always rob the black guy, because if your rob the jewish guy you get more time. (at 24 min+)

    The parts from 18:28 in Poland to 21:50 min were disturbing.

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