Another Tack: Movie musings
It’s as if Israeli filmmakers had paid heed to the admonitions arrogantly issued by Joseph Kennedy to Jewish movie moguls.
Joseph Kennedy Sr. Photo: Jerusalem Post Archives
It’s not every day that news broadcasts open with a lament for what did not
actually happen. But this anomaly is occasionally recurrent in our little
insular setting. Periodically at this time of year the top item on our news
purveyors’ agenda is likely to be what isn’t new: yet again no Israeli entry was
awarded the coveted Oscar.
It’s as if the whole international community
was holding its breath for some obscure Israeli documentary or film short to get
the ultimate nod. All else in Tinseltown’s annual pageant is
And so Monday morning’s news announcers mournfully informed us
that there would be no Oscar for Israel this year. Neither Israeli
nominee for best documentary – 5 Broken Cameras or The Gatekeepers – won. That,
of course, afforded commentators their opportunity to ruminate and spew such
time-tried clichés as “what a disappointment,” “it hurts” and “it’s a blow to
our national pride.”
It’s here that a sanity check is called
Is our national pride boosted by films that malign us? Is this what
Israeli national pride has been reduced to – the desire to see our face
ignominiously slapped before the entire sneering world? Are we pained because
another Israel-bashing project didn’t get the glory that our left wing eagerly
sought (so as to rub our collective nose in it)? Seriously?
Some of us backward
types actually heaved a huge sigh of relief that both Israeli contenders lost.
It was sweet that the Oscar for best documentary went to the British/Swedish
Searching for Sugar Man.
For decades no film that tells our story and
presents our case had come out of this country. Somewhere along the line,
local producers must have figured out that their only way to rake in profits and
score points overseas – especially in Europe, which despite all pretenses to the
contrary, still hasn’t shaken off its congenital Jew-revulsion – is to portray
the Jewish state as villainous.
So after all the accolades expectedly
showered in Europe on these latest made-in-Israel defamatory offerings, the only
solace left us here is to revel in the fact that the Oscar eluded
Their central thematic core is every bit as predictable, cravenly
conformist and run-of-the- mill as nearly all Israeli flicks of past decades.
Local filmmakers uniformly revel in picturing Israelis as jaded, essentially
unpleasant (if not altogether repulsive), justifiably apprehensive, rightfully
apologetic, malaise-ridden, terminally devoid of vitality, corroded within
and/or wretchedly racked by self–reproach.
The Arab is revealed as the
antithesis to the inherently disagreeable, fatigued, befuddled, farcical,
foolish and/or pathetic Israeli. Arabs are dedicated patriots, confident
in their cause, outspoken in their righteous indignation, vindicated in their
umbrage, noble, proud, tough, young, vigorous and deserving of
Some occasional counterfeit cardboard dichotomies are tolerable
– freedom of expression and all that rot. However, when simplistic falsehoods
become the single premise, then the overbearing presence of pressure by
manipulative group-think must at least be suspected. The utter lack of deviation
from this one homogeneous portraiture style testifies to the imposition of
ideological diktats – obviously in the name of democracy and artistic
Misgivings are further intensified when we realize how many of
these one-dimensional productions are subsidized by the Education Ministry’s
Israel Film Fund. Portions of our hard-earned incomes go – as taxes collected
from you and me – to underwrite either outright vilification of the Jewish state
or, at best, unsympathetic depictions of a bumbling imbecilic entity.
government dares reduce officialdom’s largess to Israel’s self-appointed
creative emissaries, who blithely batter their country’s image at any available
film festival abroad. Hand-in-hand with omnipotent media cliques, our artistes
vehemently orchestrate intimidating reputation-trashing onslaughts which no
higher-up or administration in recent memory could overcome.
And so –
willing or not – we bankroll them and, at our expense, they relish in thumbing
their avant-garde noses at the “benighted” aggregate of ordinary Israelis who
are denied other homegrown cinematic fare, certainly anything Zionist. Guy
Davidi, co-director of 5 Broken Cameras, has gone so far as to recommend –
openly, out loud and brashly before the microphones – that an international
boycott be declared against Israel.
Since nothing pro-Israeli can win
applause at Cannes or Berlin, the preferences of overseas nabobs must be
pandered to in our filmmakers’ quest for fame and fortune. Thus, in order to bask
in the limelight of enlightened foreign approval, Israelis enhance the
fraudulent Arab narrative. Pleasing the enemy is the one surefire way to make it
in Israeli showbiz.
In their own twisted way it’s as if today’s Israeli
filmmakers had paid heed to the admonitions arrogantly issued by Joseph
P. Kennedy Sr. to the Jewish movie moguls he assembled before him in
The multi-billionaire dynasty founder and father of the future
president, was himself a movie tycoon (co-founder of RKO, among other
conquests). He never concealed his contempt for the ground-breaking immigrant
and first-generation Jews who had invented Hollywood and created the movie
industry from its humble beginnings as the nickelodeon novelty. He referred to
them mockingly as “pants pressers” and referred to himself as their “American”
antithesis in the entertainment business.
Kennedy addressed the Jewish
studio heads soon after his resignation (at president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s
unambiguous insistence) from his post as US ambassador to London. His
two-and-a-half years at Grosvenor Square should have tipped off his California
audience to what was in store.
Kennedy’s 1938 appointment to the Court of
St. James began shortly before the Anschluss (the merger of Germany and Austria)
and while Hitler hoarsely demanded Czech territory. Rather than perceive Hitler
as someone who must be stopped, Kennedy regarded as him as someone who must be
appeased. And so the American ambassador venerated Neville Chamberlain and
despised Winston Churchill. He never recanted – not even postwar.
the outset, Kennedy conducted friendly talks – though lacking State Department
authorization – with Hitler’s ambassador, Herbert von Dirksen. As a result, von
Dirksen opined to his Third Reich bosses that Kennedy was “Germany’s best
friend” in London.
After Kristallnacht, Kennedy’s eldest son, Joe Jr.
noted in his diary that his father “is alarmed that the country should get so
worried up by the treatment of Jews.” Joe, who would ironically be killed in a
1944 combat accident, was a devoted disciple of his father’s anti-Jewish and
The father sent his son to visit Nazi Germany
in 1934, when the Jews were already subjected to merciless persecution. Joe
Jr. wrote his dad extolling Hitler’s various “accomplishments,” including
the policy of sterilization, which the Kennedy heir apparent lauded as “a great
thing.” Exuding liberality, he elucidated: “I don’t know how the Church feels
about it, but it will do away with many of the disgusting specimens of men who
inhabit this earth.”
He expressed gratification that Hitler had “things
well under control. The only danger would be if something happened to
Hitler.” Joe Jr. described Hitler as “building a spirit in his men that
could be envied in any country” and as having merely exploited the prevalent
“well founded” dislike of the Jews.
The father was delighted and replied
to Joe Jr. that his “conclusions are very sound.”
A head-on collision
with Roosevelt became inevitable. No sooner was the blitz unleashed on Britain
then ambassador Kennedy insolently asserted that the Brits were losers and that
“Hitler will be in Buckingham Palace in two weeks.” The king himself complained
But Kennedy could not be reined in. He told the press: “As
far as the US goes, we ought to mind our own business.”
Joe Sr. remained
convinced that a nefarious Jewish cabal was in the works to dissuade Roosevelt
from making nice to Hitler and facilitating ongoing trade with the Nazis. Hence,
when Roosevelt called for his resignation in 1940 (after Kennedy publicly
proclaimed that “Democracy is finished in England”), the disgraced ambassador
knew whom to blame – the Jews.
Convinced that the Jews are warmongers who
aim to drag America into battle needlessly, he took it upon himself, right after
his return to the US, to sternly warn them not to harm relations with Germany,
lest they be blamed for any fighting which would erupt.
delivering a speech on the “European Situation,” he cautioned Jewish studio
executives: “You guys are going to be responsible for pushing the United States
into war against the Nazis unless you stop your anti-Nazi films, your
anti-Hitler propaganda, your anti-German propaganda. When war breaks out,
the American people are going to turn on American Jewry, and there’s going to be
an outbreak of anti-Semitism like you’ve never seen, because the Jews are going
to be held responsible for every American soldier and the destruction of the
Kennedy went even further. It wasn’t just the content
of films he regarded as offensive. “You’re going to have to get those
Jewish names off the screen,” he bullied his stunned listeners.
than fight anti-Semitism, Kennedy brandished it as a threat. He hectored the
Jewish movie magnates about irritating their sworn enemy. The riot act he read
them generated shock and underscored all the underlying Jewish insecurities that
never went away, despite these entrepreneurs’ presumed rights as Americans and
despite their affluence and incontestable achievements.
status notwithstanding, Hollywood’s Jews still remained fearful and vulnerable
enough not to have produced any film during all of WWII that focused on the
methodically organized inhumanity against their own brethren.
movie-makers – while they had demonstrated nothing even remotely approaching the
originality, dynamism or success of the industry’s Jewish founders – do,
nonetheless, seem to have adopted their spinelessness.
Indeed they had
gone a huge cardinal step beyond the timidity and faint-heartedness of
yesteryear’s moguls. They don’t just desist from challenging the genocidal enemy
that bays for their people’s blood, they cynically espouse and hype that enemy’s