Israel’s opponents increasingly contrive to hijack commemoration of the Holocaust in order to malign the Jewish state. Recently, a battle erupted at Northeastern University in Boston over the decision to invite Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir to screen “Defamation” at its annual Holocaust Awareness Week in March.
The film, far from commemorating the six million Jews who perished, sends the opposite message – that Jews and Israelis exploit the Holocaust to justify the brutalization of Palestinians. Shamir joins the increasing numbers of Israeli filmmakers who win accolades from their international peers for disparaging their country and people.
Shamir claims he made the film to learn why three words – anti-Semitism, Holocaust and Nazis – “always seem to be in the air.” It quickly becomes apparent, however, that he has already made up his mind that the problem lies with the Jews themselves.
Depicting the Anti-Defamation League as an organization that expends its resources on trivial examples of discrimination, he decides there are no real cases of anti-Semitism to be found. He ignores the vast evidence of anti-Semitism in the Arab-Islamic world where Jews are depicted as Nazis in the media, mosques and public discourse and children are encouraged to destroy the Jewish state and its people. Advertisement
Had he wanted, Shamir could point to horrific cases of anti-Semitism. For example, the Muslim murderer of a French Jew in 2006 who explained: “I have killed my Jew, now I can go to heaven.”
Instead, Shamir contends that contemporary anti-Semitism is just a myth that propels Israel’s own aggression against Palestinians. The purpose of Israeli-sponsored educational trips to Holocaust death camps in Poland, he suggests, is to educate Israeli youth to brutalize Palestinians.
Shamir prods Israeli youngsters on such a trip for emotional responses to what they’ve witnessed. One girl says, “I want to kill the people who did this.” Shamir pushes her further to state that the Nazis have “heirs” and Shamir supplies his own conclusion, “The Germans started it and we are perpetuating it. We perpetuate this death industry. We perpetuate death and that is why we can never be a normal people.”
Shamir bolsters his thesis by showcasing Norman Finkelstein, who has made a career of denigrating Israel and accusing Jews of exploiting the Holocaust for material benefit.
Finkelstein charges: “The Nazi Holocaust has become the main ideological weapon for launching wars of aggression. It’s the suffering [of the Jews] that is used as another pretext or excuse to humiliate, degrade and torture the Palestinians…suffering which is then wrapped in a club and the club is used to crush the skulls of the Palestinians.”
Such lurid allegations are false; Israel justifies military operations and security measures as a response to terrorist activity that has cost thousands of lives and continues to threaten Israel. Shamir, however, compares Finkelstein to “biblical prophets of doom always being pelted with stones for saying things nobody wanted to hear.”
Other fringe viewpoints are heard as well. Uri Avnery, a far-left activist, insists, “The phenomenon of anti-Semitism exists only in the media and in the minds of the Jewish world.”
While anti-Arabs, anti-Muslims and anti-blacks are “plentiful in America,” according to Avnery, “you need a magnifying glass” to find anti-Semites. In fact, contrary to Avnery’s thesis, FBI statistics document hate crimes against Jews outnumbering those against Muslims and Arabs by nine to one.
Professor John Mearsheimer, coauthor of a controversial and widely discredited book suggesting that pro-Israel advocates control American foreign policy to the country’s detriment, presents his familiar rhetoric – that there are critics of Israel, but no evidence of anti-Semitism.
Shamir then provides his theory about why the Holocaust promotes Israeli abuse of Arabs: “It occurred to me after seeing the almost incomprehensible horrors my people have suffered, other people’s suffering might seem less significant. When we see an Arab home being demolished we say that its not too bad, we have seen worse.”
He ignores the myriad commissions set up by the Israeli government to investigate claims of wrongdoing during military operations, a sharp contrast to Israel’s enemies who publicly celebrate acts of savagery against Jews. Failing to grapple with Israel’s legitimate security needs, he instead proclaims that it is the Jewish people’s obsession with the Holocaust that fuels aggression and “prevents us from ever becoming normal people,” and concludes that it is time to stop focusing on the Holocaust.