What is anti-Semitism today, two generations after the Holocaust? In his continuing exploration of modern Israeli life, director Yoav Shamir (Checkpoint, 5 Days, Flipping Out) travels the world in search of the most modern manifestations of the “oldest hatred", and comes up with some startling answers.
In this irreverent quest, he follows American Jewish leaders to the capitals of Europe, as they warn government officials of the growing threat of anti-Semitism, and he tacks on to a class of Israeli high school students on a pilgrimage to Auschwitz.
On his way, Shamir meets controversial historian, Norman Finkelstein, who offers his unpopular views on the manner that anti-Semitism is being used by the Jewish community and especially Israel for political gain. He also joins scholars, Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer, while they give a lecture in Israel following the release of their book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, about the un-proportional influence the Israel lobby in Washington enjoys. Yoav visits Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, the must stop for all world leaders on their visits to Israel. While in Jerusalem, he drops by the house of his grandmother that offers her insight on the issue and declares that she is the “real Jew”.
The film questions our perceptions and terminology when an event proclaimed by some as anti-Semitic is described by others as legitimate criticism of Israel’s government policies. The film walks along the boundary between anti-Zionism, rejecting the notion of a Jewish State, and anti-Semitism, rejecting Jews. Is the former being used to excuse the latter? And is there a difference between today’s anti-Semitism and plain old racism that is affecting all minorities?
Opinions often differ and tempers sometimes flare, but in Defamation we find that one thing is certain - only by understanding their response to anti-Semitism can we really appreciate how Jews today, and especially modern Israelis, respond to the world around them, in New York and in Moscow, in Gaza and Tel Aviv.