March 4, 2004

Crying Wolf

As the debate continues over whether or not "The Passion of the Christ" is anti-Semitic, it may be instructive to consider a film about which there can be no debate. Some Jewish leaders have been concerned about what they say is a negative depiction of Jews in the Gibson film (does crucifying one of them count?) but most reviews I have read and first hand accounts I have heard, consider it unlikely that a person who isn't an anti-Semite going into the theater, will walk out transformed into one.

Author Joel Rosenberg thinks it's important to know what kind of product passes for "documentary" in the Arab world, as but one example of true anti-Semitism. He describes part of a new 30-part series produced for Syrian TV, that purports to record "the criminal history of Zionism"...

Episode Twenty of Al-Shatat — which aired last November — depicts a classic anti-Semitic blood libel. A Rabbi, played by an Arab actor, directs a member of his synagogue to help him:

1) kidnap the son of his Christian neighbor;
2) bring the boy to the synagogue;
3) slit the boy's throat;
4) drain the boy's blood into a basin;
5) use the blood to make Passover matzoh bread;
6) serve the matzoh to the members of the synagogue.

Through the efforts of The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI.org), an organization that regularly translates items from the Arab press into English, portions of this appalling video, and other hateful propaganda can be viewed at their website. MEMRI provides a valuable service, and that is to reflect what is seen in the Arab media for the Western world. So one cannot shoot the messenger when the message is one of pure hatred.

Rosenberg sets it up:

Let me warn you. Some of the images are so brutal, so cruel, so evil you should not watch them anywhere near children. You may not want to watch them at all. But you should.

I watched just the one clip described above. That was enough. Several times during the two or three minute video, I reached for the mouse to click it off, but it kept occurring to me that; this is being shown on public television in Syria. I forced myself to imagine that I was a teenage boy in Damascus, taking it all in, learning to hate Jews as grinning, cold-blooded murderers of children. It's an understatement to say that this is profoundly disturbing to watch. "But you should". With that caveat, here is the link to the MEMRI video page.

Israeli Cabinet Member Natan Sharansky has shown these examples of Jew-hatred to world leaders, and Rosenberg has written about and linked to them because:

...it's important to know what a truly anti-Semitic film looks like. Because The Passion of the Christ is not one, and the Syrian-Hezbollah film most certainly is. The Passion is brutal. It's graphic. As a story of hope and redemption, it's also one of the most moving and important films ever to come out of Hollywood, worthy of multiple Oscars. But it's not anti-Jewish...

...Jewish leaders attacking The Passion are thus making a serious strategic error. They're crying wolf, and hurting their own cause by pointing to anti-Semitism where it doesn't exist and thus distracting attention from real and rising evils where they do.

Posted by dan at March 4, 2004 8:35 PM