January 17, 2010

Catch Defamation before it catches you

Check out this Channel 4 documentary, Defamation, supposedly about antisemitism but really about the industry that has grown up around the usually bogus charge of antisemitism. Channel 4 itself accurately describes the programme thus:
The True Stories strand, which showcases the best international feature documentaries, continues with Yoav Shamir's controversial, personal exploration which asks, "What is anti-Semitism today?" Is it a real and continuous danger that requires eternal vigilance or a tactic used by right-wing Zionists to discredit and cow their critics?

Among those he interviews are Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who is adamant that anti-Semitism is rife and must be exposed; while Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry: The Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, claims that anti-Semitism is being used for political gain.

I say "catch Defamation" because it is only available on line for another 25 days.

I say "before it catches you" because whilst it plays well as an exposé of one of the main players, and boy do I mean players, in the holocaust industry, it tries to come down on some kind of "happy medium" side of the issue hasbara versus the truth about Palestine. In fact David Hirsh, of Engage, is touted as a controversial supporter of the Palestinian cause. Even he has to admit that he was misrepresented in the programme.
Shamir makes me into the hero of the film. Normally I would enjoy being the hero but in this case he constructs my heroic status by misrepresenting what I do and what I say.

I am shown making criticisms of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians as though this was something controversial. I am shown arguing that contemporary antisemitism is in part a mystification of the real conflict, transformed by racist language and grotesque narratives. I actually said more that day than the one-sided soundbite that Shamir wanted to hear.
Both the documentary's maker and Hirsh manage a swipe at Norman Finkelstein. Here's Hirsh on that point:
Another of the film's easy targets is Norman Finkelstein, the bitter and defeated American anti-Zionist. Shamir gives Finkelstein enough rope to hang himself and Finkelstein meekly obliges in a rather sad and pathetic way, culminating in his performance of a Nazi salute for the camera.
Actually, it wasn't Finkelstein's best offering but he still came out quite well even though the editor clearly didn't want him to.

So you've got 25 days to catch Defamation. It's no curate's egg but it is good in parts if you don't let it catch you on one or two barbs.

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