Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Marije Meerman's THE ISRAEL LOBBY Documentary

Meerman's film was originally broadcast in Dutch before being sent to France, and so it is quite common in fact to find this film in a few different languages.  Indeed, there is one version posted by a YouTube user named '911WasAFraud' that lacks narration and only has English-language dialogue, along with the English-language subtitles, but I was adamantly insistent on not sending more hits than necessary to a user whose emoticon is a combination of the Masonic Compass and Ruler with the Star of David.
And that perhaps underlies the problematic nature of this documentary as a whole.  This film is quite objective and clear about intent, a discussion of the Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer controversy as a gateway to examining how the AIPAC lobby operates.  But as a result, the entire package is so loaded with indictment upon judgment upon prediction, it would be effectively impossible to ever screen this for the American public.  The Dutch of course have their own galling issues of anti-Arabic prejudice to address in society, but if this is meant to be seen as a step towards addressing the concerns of Muslim refugees in Western Europe, it is handled in a fashion which can certainly seem attractive to the obscene Right Wing elements in White Male European society.  
In this sense, I seem to be troubled not with the data and results as much as the presentation.  The use of ethereal, spooky music when introducing John Hagee, the framing of Col. Larry Wilkerson's commentary, all these elements are generated by adhering to a format dictated for primetime television, tragic melodrama.  By utilizing this format to present a complex issue, the film makers reach conclusions that are way off the mark.  For example, there is the assertion that the Iraq War was prompted somehow by the Israel lobby.  This would be only more ridiculous if it were not tragic in reality now with the arrival of ISIS.  As a result, there is a real sort of discussion to be had around the idea of how Dutch television approaches these topics and whether it is effectively beneficial for the relief of Palestinian sufferings.
However, there is also a discussion to be had about the points it does raise.  For example, the late Tony Judt is here in top form as he offers a lucid critique of both Zionism and American politics, including an intelligent discussion about identity politics as a tool of oppression.  In Judt's view, the American Jew feels a certain remainder of classical American anti-Semitism in society, and so psychologically is grounded in a dialectical view of the world as either Israel or Auschwitz.  Whether Judt's view is absolutely correct I cannot tell, but I do think his attempt to rationalize the complex emotions that criticism of Israel elicits is much more intelligent than anything seen in American media.
UPDATE, 5/29/15:  In the time since originally posting this essay, I came across Noam Chomsky's astute rebuttal to the original Mearsheimer and Walt paper, posted here.  One fitting quote is the following:
But recognizing that M-W took a courageous stand, which merits praise, we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion. I've reviewed elsewhere what the record (historical and documentary) seems to me to show about the main sources of US ME policy, in books and articles for the past 40 years, and can't try to repeat here. M-W make as good a case as one can, I suppose, for the power of the Lobby, but I don't think it provides any reason to modify what has always seemed to me a more plausible interpretation…  The thesis M-W propose does however have plenty of appeal. The reason, I think, is that it leaves the US government untouched on its high pinnacle of nobility, "Wilsonian idealism," etc., merely in the grip of an all-powerful force that it cannot escape. It's rather like attributing the crimes of the past 60 years to "exaggerated Cold War illusions," etc. Convenient, but not too convincing. In either case.

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