Thursday, 14 January 2010


I've just finished watching Yoav Shamir's controversial documentary 'Defamation'. The film explores the question: 'what is anti-semitism?'. You can (and should!) watch it here.

He exposes the extent to which the subject of anti-semitism has become politicized - by both the supporters and detractors of Israel. Antony Lerman, who used to be the director of Jewish Policy Research offers this analysis of the film here.

Here's my summary of the films main points:

(1) The ADL - the world's largest organiztion combating anti-semitism - reflect and promote a disproportionate fear of anti-semitism. There's around 1,500 anti-semitic incidents reported each year in the US; a small figure for a Jewish community of over 5 million people. The ADL budget amounts to tens of millions of dollars and pays for numerous offices across America. Yet early on in the film, one of its employees explains that they have insufficient resources to deal with the widespread antisemitism in America. When Shamir tries to find a recent example of serious anti-semitism in America, he finds very few. (Incidentally, in Britain for the last few years there's been around 500 anti-semitic incidents reported; also a small figure given a community of around 280,000, yet the CST - Britain's main organization combating anti-semitism - has a budget approaching six million pounds).

(2) Israel has an unhealthy (though understandable) preoccupation with anti-semitism and the holocaust. Thus Israeli school children explain in the film that 'everyone knows the Jews are hated, we were raised that way'. An Israeli journalist at Yediot Achronot newspaper explains that England is anti-semitic; when asked if he is being objective about it he retorts 'why do I have to be objective? were they objective?' (I wonder: who does 'they' refer to?)

(3) Expressions of anti-Israelism and anti-semitism have sometimes been confused, and perhaps sometimes intentionally.

Anyway, definitely worth a watch.

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