Defamation – Behind The Scenes Of The ADL

Wikipedia: Defamation (Hebrew: השמצה‎; translit. Hashmatsa) is a 2009 documentary film by award-winning filmmaker Yoav Shamir. The film examines antisemitism, and in particular the way perceptions of antisemitism affect Israeli and U.S. politics. The film won Best Documentary Feature Film at the 2009 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

The film examines whether anti-Semitic has become an all purpose label for anyone who criticizes Israel and the possibility that some Jews’ preoccupation with the past — i.e., the Holocaust — is preventing progress in the here and now.[1] Shamir decided to make this film after a critic of an earlier film accused him of antisemitism.[1]
Filmmaker Yoav Shamir states in the beginning of the film that as an Israeli he has never experienced antisemitism himself and wants to learn more about it since references to antisemitism in countries all over the world are common in the Israeli media.
The film includes interviews with Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, John J. Mearsheimer, co-author of New York Times Best Seller The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Norman Finkelstein, a critic of Israeli government policy, as well as many others. The film also follows a group of Israeli high school students on a class trip to Poland where they tour Auschwitz, as well as a number of other notable Holocaust locations.
The film notes that in 2007, the ADL reported a spike in antisemitism, claiming that there were 1,500 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, yet when Shamir contacts the ADL they can only list minor incidents such as websites with inflammatory comments, letters from employees denied time off for a Jewish holiday, or people offended by a cop’s use of the word “Jew”. A case presented concerns a group of African American boys, aged between 10 and 12, who pelted a school bus with rocks, breaking two windows.
Shamir also interviews a rabbi who says that the hypervigilance of the ADL inflames relations between Jews and non-Jews in the United States. He also finds that among his interviewees there is more sensitivity to antisemitism among secular Jews than religious ones.

After the film was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement denouncing the film, stating that it “belittles the issue (of antisemitism) … and cheapens the Holocaust. It is Shamir’s perverse, personal, political perspective and a missed opportunity to document a serious and important issue.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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