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Defamation

Year: 2009
Production Co: Reveal Productions
Director: Yoav Shamir
Writer: Yoav Shamir

I was never quite sure where this documentary was coming from. We follow a group of Israeli teenagers on a school trip to Auschwitz and they’re just like all teens – as sullen as they are fresh-faced, listening to their iPods, laughing and talking over each other – until many break down in tears when they’re faced with the ovens and death chambers.

But before we get to that stage, we watch them react to the anti-semitism around them, as warned by their teachers and guardians, who warn them not to talk to any strangers who want to pick fights with Jews. It got me wondering if the film was a conspiracy theory about how Jews tell themselves there’s still a lot of anti-semitism in the world when there really isn’t, but it’s a view not much more of the film supported it.

We also meet senior members of the Anti-Defamation League and rather than the cunning and icy types they’re often painted as, they were more like a bunch of mid-level New York bankers working in an office keeping files more than they fight anti-semitism.

The thesis seems to be not that director Yoav Shamir went looking to support his point of view, but (as the film suggests about itself) to reveal anti-semitism's forms and extent today. Maybe I was looking for conspiracies, and figures like Israel policy critic Norman Finkelstein were the ones to oblige.

When it’s all said and done I don’t know if there’s any grand Zionist or anti-Zionist conspiracy, just a huge number of people who want homes to live in and have to justify their salaries.

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