When I first came to Britain in late 2006, aside from the practical reasons for our being here, one other thing I was rather hoping to get from our stay was a little respite from the tumult of the Middle East. A few months previously we had spent over four weeks under constant attack from Hizbollah rockets and prior to that of course there had been the traumatic years of the Second Intifada. I was looking forward to a ‘time out’ from being a target of aggression simply because I am Israeli, and there was in my mind no reason to think that I could not achieve that in the small, quiet English market town in which we had come to live, where the biggest crises seemed to relate to the local council’s tardiness about collecting the recycling. It took about six weeks before I encountered my first ever meeting with antisemitism – a verbally abusive PSC campaigner blocking the exit from the supermarket – and I must confess that I was so shocked by this totally unexpected experience that I had no idea how to deal with it. What I did understand however was that just like back home, I had been a target of aggression simply because of what I am.
Reading Yoav Shamir’s recent CiF article last month I could not help finding some of his statements very problematic precisely because I know exactly how insignificant a role antisemitism plays in day to day Israeli life. Because one does not experience it personally, even when hearing about an attack on Jews in France or reading an article about pre-war Germany, it is still very difficult to relate to it on a deep personal level. Until, of course, out of the blue, it happens to you too. But according to Yoav Shamir, we have only ourselves to blame. “[b]ut 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 antisemitism.”
Eager to give Shamir the benefit of the doubt – after all, English is not his first language, and things do tend to get lost in translation – I decided to take a look at some Israeli websites in order to find out how he expresses himself when interviewed in Hebrew. On this site Shamir says “[t]he film also does not try to establish whether there is anti-Semitism or not….The object is to show how we as Israelis and Jews relate to anti-Semitism and what role we play in this world. Take, for example, a young girl who was raped: she can turn into a man-hater, define her identity and model her life according to the event which she experienced or she can choose another way”.
Later in the interview, talking about Abe Foxman and other survivors describing their nightmares about the Holocaust he says “[t]hese things occupy them, but they are not part of my day to day life. They carry on living that past. It’s like the pleasure of picking at a tooth with a hole in it.” Empathy, at least for some, does not appear to be one of Shamir’s outstanding qualities. Then there is this rather strange statement: “[w]hen an Israeli sees a Palestinian child with a stone in his hand, he also sees Hitler with the gas tap”. Perhaps the most revealing part of the many interviews Shamir has given about his film comes from this one where he tells of a sequence he filmed but chose not to put in the finished film in which whilst in Poland with the ADL they met up with a group from the IDF. General Dan Harel was filmed telling his soldiers that throughout their military service they must act whilst keeping in mind an understanding of the treatment of their families in the death camps. Even though Shamir declares “I think this is the humane and right way to remember”, he chose not to present to the world this view of Israeli visits to Poland.
Far from being some sort of personal journey as Shamir claims, this film, which clearly falls into the category of Docu-activism, enhances his established reputation as a lover of provocation who is, according to one of the above interviewers, “known for his Left-wing stance which he did not hesitate to express also in his previous films”. As this critic writes, Shamir’s conclusion is “Holocaust and anti-Semitism out, occupation and Israeli racism in”. Naturally, this message was not lost on either the CiF editors who commissioned no fewer than four articles about this film, or on the below the line commentators who dutifully parroted the expected responses.
25 Jan 2010, 12:19PM
If anti-Semitism really is on the rise, people like Abe Foxman are partly to blame for this development.
25 Jan 2010, 1:12PM
What an absurd cycle victimhood lives in. Antisemitism is the justification for separatism, and the elevation of Jewish rights above human rights for everybody in Israel and the West Bank, which drives more repression and subjugation, which increases antisemitism, which justifies more terror and repression from the right wing addicts to violence in the Israeli establishment, which provokes more antisemitism etc etc. The only possible answer is equal human rights for all peoples in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, under whichever system they can agree on – dual states, a single state, federalism etc. Separatism, exceptionalism and suprematicism (aka apartheid) will never be a solution. Well done, Yoav.
As if to unwittingly prove Shamir’s hypothesis wrong, these Nazi analogies were made:
25 Jan 2010, 1:36PM
Wish I had seen the film.
One thing, though…
The policies of Israel in relation to the Arabs (mimmicking that of Nazis to a scary degree – good students eh!) is rapidly causing the ‘everyone hates us’ attitude to veer from paranoia to become true. Nobody likes a bully state – especially one so steeped in the arrogant ‘we are special’ mentality.
This is nothing to do with Judaism – it’s simply a response to a viscious regime.
25 Jan 2010, 3:29PM
As usual the Palestinian right to drive along route 443 trumps Israeli rights to drive along the road without being blown up or shot at.
So Israeli rights to use a highway, trumps Palestinian rights to travel in their own land! Not even apartheid South Africa denied blacks the right to travel along its highways! The Ulster govt never denied Catholics the right to use roads.
The not to be shot at requires the law enforcement authorities to take action to prosecute offenders, not blanket bans based on race or religion. this provides the evidence that Israel IS a racist state.
Zionists believe they are above the law. Robert Maxwell stole millions from UK pension funds, and donated the money to Israel. There has been no expression of regret or apology from Israel, nor one penny returned!
Israeli intelligence organizations carry out assinations anywhere they chose. Not even apologising when the kill an innocent Italian waiter, by mistake. These kind of acts create ill feelings among non-jews, and are an embarrasment to the diaspora.
The bottom line is that the Zionists were allowed to enter a country where they had no business, and drive out the legitimate population by terror, with the connivance of a foreign occupier. Probably a much higher percent of Palestinians are genetic descendants of the original Hebrew nation, than are the settles from Europe and the USA etc. Zionism is a mirror image of nazism.
The problem is as with Hitlers gang they cannot see the other as an equal human being, only as an “untermensch” without rights.
And here’s someone still in denial about Left-wing anti-Semitism:
25 Jan 2010, 6:15PM
.##I would also say that today, the far left in Europe promotes antisemitism ##
.The left was first against the wall during the Nazi period and we Europeans were at the forefront of the fight against them when you lot sat on your wobbly butts. You bring your low conscious understanding of a situation to CIF and speak as if it has value.
Heres to the left .. when the right has something to say we might well listen.
One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, a peace treaty may be signed between Israel and the Palestinians. I do sometimes wonder what people like Shamir and Finkelstein, who have made rather successful careers out of decrying what they term as ‘the Holocaust industry’ and blaming so many ills exclusively upon Israel will actually do when there is no ‘occupation industry’ left. But whilst people like them may have to migrate to pastures new, I somehow doubt that even if Israel pulls every last civilian and soldier out of Judea and Samaria, the ADL are going to be joining the dole queue – not if the evacuations of Lebanon and Gaza are anything to go by.