Antisemitism is not an easy watch but the Ilan Ziv documentary is essential viewing to understand why there is so much hatred towards Jews.
The hatred towards Jews predates the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. It predates the Holocaust. Jew-hatred predates World War I. It even predates Henry Ford, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the writing of both Wilhelm Marr and Édouard Drumont’s books on Jews. The two were very instrumental in the antisemitic attitudes that led to the genocide of European Jewry during the Holocaust. As the film says, Marr is the father of antisemitism while Drumont was the guru. Where was I? Well, you have Shakespeare’s Shylock written some 300 years after Jews were expelled by King Edward I in 1290. The Jewish expulsion from England and other countries took place during medieval period. Let’s just say that the images of Jews were less than pleasant.
The film makes the argument that the impact of the Albert Dreyfus Affair is still being felt today. I can’t argue with this. The Dreyfus Affair is what led to Theodor Herzl giving birth to the first Zionist congress and with this, the eventual founding of Israel. What comes with this? The continued demonization of Jews across the globe. Israel exists. The State of Israel is going to continue to exist. If you cannot except that a Jewish state exists, this makes you an antisemite. The lines between antisemitism and anti-Zionism are gone. I can go on and on.
But before we get to the Dreyfus Affair, there’s another name to know: Marquis de Morès. The French native moved to the Badlands to become a cattle rancher. However, he failed because of the competition and the weather. Upon moving back to Paris three years later, he blamed his failure on a Jewish plot and joined Drumont’s Antisemitic League. He killed a Jewish captain, Armand Mayer, during a duel. A few years later, his own death would come during a trip to North Africa to incite Muslims into a Holy War with both the Jews and British.
The film makes sure to cover the Holocaust and pre-Holocaust essentials. It also gets into the recent acts of antisemitism. Some but not all. This includes the murders of Mireille Knoll, Ilan Halimi, and the Toulouse and Montauban shootings. The murder of Sarah Halimi gets a brief mention. Where French Jewish education leaders were at the courthouse to accompany the Toulouse shooting victims, Latifa Ibn Ziaten was all alone. But by going on tour and speaking out, she’s been the victim of anti-Jewish graffiti.
Ziv also touches on Holocaust denial. You really need a documentary series to focus on every single era of antisemitism. And yet, the views on Holocaust denial are one form of antisemitism that unites both the far-left and far-right. I know, right? Just take a look at social media and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. We live in a weird world when far-leftists refer to Jews as Nazis.
To understand the more recent acts of antisemitism, Ziv takes it all the way back to after World War II. France brought in Algerians to help them rebuild. A few years after this saw the founding of Israel and this led to relations deteriorating in the Arab states between Jews and their neighbors. There’s a lot to be said about this but when it came to Algeria in particular, the 140,000 Jews had French citizenship as a result of an 1870 law. By 1963, almost all of the Jews settled in France even though others moved to Israel. There’s so much history here. I cannot stress enough just how hard it is to pack it all into two hours.
The French treatment of the Algerians is just one part of the equation. The other part is Israel’s founding in 1948. Antisemitic attitudes would follow and did so especially during 1967’s Six-Day War. Every single time that something happens in Israel, it also triggers antisemitic events around the globe. Don’t believe me? Look at the rise in antisemitism over the last year. Anti-Israel protests are taking place outside of shuls and Holocaust museums. Jews are getting beat up just for being Jewish. The cycle repeats itself. I should note that the film focuses mainly on France and stops short of 2020. But as the film shows, the far-right and far-left make for strange bedfellows with antisemitic views. Take a look at what’s happening during the pandemic!
One argument in the film is that antisemitism is not a recurring phenomenon, In fact, it is permanent. The anti-Jewish attitudes are passed down from generation to generation. Whenever it happens, the Jews are almost always the scapegoat. The ones who are seen as the other. The anti-Jewish hate needs to stop once and for all. People should learn to live with Jews as their neighbors. We are not going to go away. What is happening in France is happening in England. I fear that antisemitism in the US is a few years away from European levels. There is a reason why we still need Israel in 2022.
Ilan Ziv packs as much history and recent acts of anti-Jewish hatred as possible into two hours of Antisemitism. My biggest complaint is that two hours is not enough. This really should be a documentary series. Regardless, it is important to get this film in front of many eyeballs especially when there is a continuing rise of hate crimes against Jews. Will the film find an audience through Ovid? This, I cannot answer. I’ll keep talking about the film because the subject is too important to ignore. If there’s one failure in the film, it’s the lack of discussing how BDS is antisemitism. But again, there is only so much you can fit into two hours. Maybe we’ll see a sequel?
To the non-Jewish allies, please start speaking up against antisemitism. The Jewish community cannot face this battle alone.
DIRECTOR: Ilan Ziv
NARRATOR: Rachida Brakni
FEATURING: Philippe Oriol, Denis Charbit, Delphine Horvilleur, Daniel Knoll, Daniele Sansy, David Nirenberg, Yael Perl Ruiz, Jean-Pierre Lambert, Ariel Fedelstein, Moshe Zimmerman, Gregoire Kauffman, Zeev Sternhell, Steven Luckert, Michel Wieviorka, Marc Weitzmann, Richard Marlet, MIchael Dubec, Latifa Ibn Ziaten
Ovid starts streaming Antisemitism exclusively starting on January 7, 2022.
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