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(photo credit: www.thinkfilmcompany.com)
In the weeks and months after 9/11, Jews in the US, Europe and even in Israel confronted a series of disturbing questions and assertions concerning an alleged Jewish conspiracy to destroy the World Trade Center.
For American-Jewish filmmaker Mark Levin, the director of the soon-to-be released documentary The Protocols of Zion, inspiration for his latest film came after an encounter he had in a New York City taxi soon after 9/11. His driver, an Egyptian immigrant, made the claim that the Jews had been warned not to go to work at the World Trade Center on the day of the attack. The driver then said that "it's all written in the book," referring to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious forgery created 100 years ago that purported to be the Jews' master plan to rule the world.
As Levin discovered in the course of filming, this notorious conspiracy text has been enjoying a widespread revival in the aftermath of 9/11.
Mixing archival materials and interviews with militant African-Americans, white supremacists and Palestinian-Americans among others, Levin exposes both the history and the current resurgence of the fabrication and distribution of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In the course of the 90-minute film, Levin meets with the editor of The Arab Voice, a New Jersey-based newspaper that has recently serialized the protocols, and includes clips of The Knight Without A Horse, a 2002 Egyptian film dramatization of the protocols.
Levin also confronts listeners of a radio show hosted by Frankie Welmer, the creator of the anti-Semitic Jew Watch Web site, and he meets with a young prisoner who was a white supremacist and became a born-again Christian. The inmate discusses his belief and ultimately his disbelief in Jewish conspiracy theories.
Levin also speaks to American rabbis, Holocaust survivors and representatives of organizations that battle anti-Semitism throughout the documentary. Reaching out for a different perspective, he also stops Orthodox Jews on the street to ask them about what they have heard about the protocols.
"I didn't want to make a scholarly film," Levin told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview from Los Angeles. "I wanted it to be accessible to young people and to talk about faith and fanaticism in an open manner."
The debut screening of Levin's film in New York last week turned into a controversial event, he said, following his agreement to invite a number of prominent militant African-Americans, including representatives of the Nation of Islam to the screening.
Among those who came to the event was Malik Zulu Shabazz, an organizer of the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Million Man March and an outspoken anti-Semite who has publicly denied the death of any Jews at the World Trade Center.
Following the screening, "There was tremendous tension, but it turned into a fascinating and non-inflammatory Q and A," Levin said. Reasoning with believers in conspiracy theory, Levin acknowledged, was not an easy task.
"The conspiracy mindset can be impenetrable," he said. "It's ultimately impossible to argue with them because it becomes a circular argument."
His own argument for making the film, Levin said, was that it was nevertheless necessary to expose the workings of conspiracy theories both old and new. "My goal was to air it all out," Levin said. "Light is the greatest disinfectant."