We are an interesting people. We have a long history of persecution, a long history of resilience and a fairly short but complicated history of statehood. Director Gloria Greenfield makes a solid effort of covering all of this in her film, Unmasked: The Unveiling of Judeophobia, documenting our long and violent history of anti-Semitism.
Greenfield’s film documents the history of anti-Semitism, or as she calls it, Judeophobia. The history of this phenomenon described by Greenfield is a term used “to convey the intellectualized and ideologized hatred of Jews that is encompassed in the anti-Jewish phenomenon flourishing in many parts of the world today.” The film traces Judeophobia from ancient medieval times to current times in Europe, the Arab world, with a short mention of the United States.
The film is historically interesting and compelling but I found issues with some of its more modern commentary. Anti-Semitism is alive and well; I am in no way denying that. But I found the film’s bias representation of the Arab world problematic.
I grew up with images of Palestinian children holding guns and watching anti-Semitic cartoons; I do not need to see more of this. All it did was made me believe that all Palestinian children were trained at a young age to be terrorists, and I’m tired of these images being shown to young American Jews. These images simply made it more complicated and difficult when I was older to realize that not all critiques of Israel are rooted in anti-Semitism; definitely some are, but not all. I hope for a day when young American Jews are taught about Israel-Palestine on a regular basis with the honest complexity that surrounds the issue.
Greenfield states that she made this film because she “made several alarming observations [that] too many good and decent people were unaware of the resurgence of lethal Jew-hatred in regions around the world.” Many people are unaware of the problems that exist around the world for Jews, therefore it is important to discuss this rising anti-Semitic trends in countries such as France.
Europe and the Arab world were the primary focus areas of “Unmasked: The Unveiling of Judeophobia.” One of the most fascinating parts of the film was the discussion on how the Holocaust was a shameful topic across Europe until around the 1980s. Many Europeans believed they had “learned the lessons” of the Holocaust by that point and then began to get increasingly comfortable with more anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe.
The footage of the Arab world in the film was filled with images of Swastikas equaling Jewish stars, burning of Israeli flags and more disturbing images. Although I see this footage as slightly propaganda-like, I know that much of this is true. What I do have a big problem with though is when people feel that the only way to uphold Israel as a great nation is to downplay all of the neighboring countries. I’m going to say something a little radical perhaps. Israel should strive to be the best nation it can be, not just better than its neighbors. Too many times in my life have I heard hour-long lectures about how horrible Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, etc., are as a way to talk about the excellence of the State of Israel. Am I the only one that thinks we should hold a country that is suppose to be a “light unto the nations” to a higher standard than simply better than X?
How do we balance as Jews our place in America as “model minorities” with the real notion that there is some anti-Semitism in America and quite a bit in other parts of the world? How do we distinguish between true anti-Semitism towards Israel and the Jewish people from legitimate critique of a state?
Although, I found Gloria Greenfield’s film to be a tad reactionary and not quite able to reach much of my generation, the 20-30 year-old range, I recommend everyone see the film and ask these questions for yourself.
Unmasked: The Unveiling of Judeophobia will be shown on Monday October 29, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. at the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park and at the Jewish Community Center of Greater St. Paul on Tuesday, October 30, 2012, at 7:00 p.m.
*The FTC made me do it: Disclosure of Material Connection: TC Jewfolk received a free copy of Unmasked: The Unveiling of Judeophobia in the hope that we would mention it on TC Jewfolk. But getting the film for free doesn’t mean that we were obligated to give a glowing review. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Filed Under: Arts & Culture