What is anti-Semitism? Israeli director Yoav Shamir doesn’t know. He follows Abe Foxman, director of the New York based Anti-Defamation League and speaks with academics and young Israeli students to try to find out. By the end of the movie, he might know less than when he started.
Are Jews, probably the most successful minority group in the United States, subject to disproportionate hate crime? Foxman absolutely thinks so. He believes there is latent anti-Semitism that runs rampant across the globe. Noted, but not always respected, academics Finkelstein, Walt,and Mersheim would strongly disagree, arguing that this is mostly a propaganda tool used to promote Jewish interests, whatever those are.
Running parallel to this debate is a the story of a group of Israeli high school students on a State-sanctioned trip to Poland to learn about the Holocaust. Compelled to feel immense sadness and national pride, many instead feel too removed from the events. When this changes to some degree on a visit to Auschwitz, one has to wonder whether the trip is promoting the right kind of pride.
How much is the Holocaust still a relevant event in the minds of Jews and anti-Semites? How large a factor should it play in modern, national politics? And can anybody Shamir speaks to shed some light on these issues?
Shot in a playful, hand-written documentary style, Defamation asks more questions than it gives answers. As inconclusive as it is, it’s sure to spark a few spirited post-screening discussions.