OpinionJewish Diaspora

‘Israelism’ assaults the truth and hurts Palestinians

It’s ironic that a film that specializes in withholding information complains about the same thing.

Poster for the documentary film "Israelism."
Poster for the documentary film "Israelism."
DAVID SUISSA Editor-in-Chief Tribe Media/Jewish Journal (Israeli American Council)
David Suissa
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and Jewish Journal. He can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

It’s too easy to criticize the new documentary “Israelism” and debunk its gross misrepresentation of the complex Israel-Palestinian conflict. But as bad as I feel for those who have to brave the propaganda, as I watched the film I felt even worse for the filmmakers and the Palestinians.

I felt bad for the filmmakers because I could feel the exertion they must have gone through to stick to only one side of the story. Don’t assume it’s so easy to exclude crucial context that is so obviously missing. There is no mention, for instance, of the U.N. role in the creation of Israel, Arab aggression at the birth of the state, chronic Palestinian terror and rejection of peace offers, the denial of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and on and on. These facts are so well known, I could almost feel the filmmakers asking themselves: “Should we include some of this stuff just to appear more balanced and credible?”

In fact, as I watched the film, I imagined an enterprising activist re-editing the film to include the missing context and correct the misleading claims. They might call the film, “Israelism: Exposed,” with the slogan: “For those who want the whole truth.” It would become must-see viewing for anyone interested in Zionism, the Palestinian cause, the dark art of propaganda and the search for truth.

It’s ironic, of course, that a film that specializes in withholding information complains about the same thing.

The film features a few young American Jews complaining that their Jewish upbringing advocated for Israel but withheld any advocacy for Palestinians. To hear them, you’d think there was a total blackout in Jewish America on discussing the plight of the Palestinians, when quite the opposite is true. A five-second Google search would have given these young Jews an overdose of the Jewish soul-searching and self-criticism they claim was “hidden” from them.

But the movie wants us to believe that Zionist advocacy was so one-sided and all-consuming it created a generation of young Jews who, feeling duped, have turned against the Jewish state.

This narrative is convenient if you want to attack the Jewish establishment and let Jew haters off the hook. Indeed, the narrative ignores the great number of Jewish kids who never went to Jewish day schools but have been poisoned on Israel precisely by propaganda vehicles like “Israelism,” not to mention BDS campaigns that routinely malign Israel as a genocidal, baby-killing apartheid regime.

Evidently, the real culprits in “Israelism” are not the slew of anti-Israel groups dedicated to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state, but those Jewish schoolteachers and summer camp leaders who couldn’t curb their enthusiasm for sharing their Zionist pride.

Thus, the very notion of Israel advocacy in the film takes on a sinister tone, as if anything short of perfect even-handedness is an unforgivable sin. This coming from a documentary that is so one-sided it borders on boredom. When a filmmaker doesn’t mind being repetitive, boring and melodramatic for the sake of an agenda, you know it’s primarily propaganda.

But boring doesn’t mean it won’t be popular, for the simple reason that bashing Israel is the safe, conformist choice in today’s progressive circles. In truth, the real rebels these days are the Zionists, because they don’t mind being unpopular if it means standing up for what they believe. They believe that a people that yearns for 1,900 years to come home, and then creates against all odds an imperfect but vibrant and resilient nation bursting with innovation that helps the planet, is an endeavor worth defending and being proud of. These Zionists don’t feel duped by their education—they feel blessed.

Ultimately, though, watching “Israelism” made me feel worse for the Palestinians. For years, the dark secret of anti-Israel activists has been that they bash Israel a lot more than they help Palestinians. By putting all their resources on going after Israel, these activists have perpetuated the illusion that the resolution of the conflict is a one-way street, with Israel having all the responsibility and Palestinians having no agency. A more courageous and compelling film would have exposed the corruption and glorification of terrorism at the highest levels of Palestinian leadership, which has turned out to be the biggest obstacle to Palestinian progress.

That film would have shown something college students rarely see—how Palestinian leaders have suppressed their own people by fattening their personal bank accounts and teaching Palestinians that a Jewish state has no right to exist and is worthy only of hatred and rejection. If the Jewish activists in “Israelism” really cared about Palestinian well-being and conflict resolution, they would plant themselves at Palestinian offices at the United Nations as often as they do at the ADL.

But that would mean they’d have to be more balanced and even-handed, and who would want to star in that movie?

Originally published by The Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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