Gloria Z. Greenfield, the director of the film Unmasked: Judeophobia, a new
documentary that was just shown in the recently concluded Jerusalem Jewish Film
Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque – and will be screened again at the
Jerusalem Cinematheque on February 16 – has no trouble finding a table even at
the most crowded café at Mamilla Mall during holiday week.
surprise: Documentary filmmakers have to be resourceful, especially ones who
choose such controversial and difficult subjects as Greenfield. But as we sit
down to talk, she uses her resourcefulness in another way, to try to illuminate
a subject many Israelis find difficult to deal with for all kinds of
“I decided to examine the resurgence of anti-Semitism from a
global perspective,” she says, and to that end, she interviewed over 70 experts.
The result of the interviews, some of which had to be cut, is a serious and
sometimes terrifying analysis of how anti-Semitism, often masked as anti-Zionism
(hence the title) has permeated modern life and discourse worldwide.
line-up of interviewees in the final film is impressive. They include author and
lawyer Alan Dershowitz, MK Natan Sharansky, author Robert Wistrich, Nobel Prize
laureate Elie Wiesel, Wall Street Journal writer and former Jerusalem Post
editor Bret Stephens, British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Canadian MP Irwin
Cotler, Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick and many others.
sets the tone for the film and outlines its subject in a clip from a recent
speech in which he says, “Since 1945, I was not so afraid as I am now. I am
afraid because anti-Semitism, which I had thought belonged to the past, has
somehow survived. I was convinced in ’45 that anti-Semitism had died with its
Jewish victims at Auschwitz and Treblinka, but I see, no, the Jews perished, but
anti-Semitism in some parts of the world is flourishing.”
Greenfield: “The United States is a piece of cake compared to what’s going on in
Europe. ...In the US, it’s largely happening on campus, and it’s real... but in
Europe it’s much more pervasive in all walks of life.... Being in Europe was
transformational for my analysis.”
She notes several infamous and
appalling incidents of violence against French Jews, or people who were
perceived by their attackers as Jewish but turned out not to be.
kidnapping, torture and killing of Ilan Halimi [in a Paris apartment] in 2006 by
a gang who called his parents and read from the Koran while he was being
tortured was horrific and really scared the Jewish community there,” she says.
But, as she points out, this attack was “clearly motivated by anti-Semitism but
had nothing to do will Israel.” While this case was extreme, Greenfield says
that it’s part of a pattern of violence and hate against Jews.
COTLER of the Canadian Parliament offered an analysis of this resurgence that
Greenfield finds illuminating: “He said, ‘What we’re witnessing is an ascribing
to Israel of the two great evils of the 20th century, Apartheid and Nazism.’”
“The world loves memorializing dead Jews, but Israel represents the vitality and
life of the Jewish people,” she says. “So when Israel is demonized, Jews are
While Greenfield has no problem with Israelis criticizing
their own government – “That’s part of being a democracy” – she finds it
troubling that “not enough Jews understand what’s going on... Some Jews side
with people who don’t believe Israel has a right to exist.”
covers statements by the Iranian President Ahmadinejad saying that Israel must
be wiped off the map, and reactions to his comments worldwide. On this issue,
Greenfield cites a comment from the film by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, the director of
the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism in Indiana, who says,
“One of the lessons of the Holocaust is that we have to be
literalists. When we hear somebody say, ‘Kill the Jews,’ we have to
realize, they probably mean it.”
Asked about the Arab Spring and what
that could hold, Greenfield is guarded.
“Let’s see what happens,” she
says, but worries about recent arrests and beatings in Egypt of women
demonstrators, as well as violence against women in other Arab countries.
“Anti-Semitism often goes in hand-in-hand with other human rights abuses,” she
Greenfield came to filmmaking relatively late in life. She left a
successful career in high-tech in the Boston area to work in a field “that was
meaningful to me.” She went back for a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies and
began running adult education programs in the Jewish community and making short
films. She then made a longer film, The Case for Israel
. As she made it, she
became more aware of a resurgence of anti-Semitism throughout the world, and
that led to her decision to make Unmasked
While the picture she paints
is alarming, Greenfield emphasizes that all is not lost: “I hope my film
inspires all decent people to garner the strength to face reality and
acknowledge what’s happening. We won’t have the strength and conviction
to fight unless we believe our cause is just.”