Saturday, November 7, 2009

Zionism's Bedside Manner

Dvir Abramovich begins his grizzle, Hollywood should stop exploiting the Holocaust (The Age, 2/11/09), with this little gem: "In a 2005 guest appearance on the sitcom Extras Kate Winslet, playing herself as a nun on a Holocaust film is asked, 'You doing this, it's so commendable, using your profile to keep the message alive about the Holocaust'. Winslet responds, 'God, I'm not doing it for that. We definitely don't need another film about the Holocaust, do we? It's like, how many have there been? You know, we get it. It was grim. Move on. I'm doing it because I noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust, you're guaranteed an Oscar. I've been nominated 4 times. Never won. The whole world is going, 'Why hasn't Winslet won one?'... That's why I'm doing it. Schindler's bloody List. The Pianist. Oscars coming outta their ass...' Winslet was right, winning the Oscar for best actress this year for The Reader."

He laments, "The commodification of the Holocaust into a profitable, Oscar-reaping enterprise has reached such a nadir that commentators are saying, There's no business like Shoah Business'. Though I find this epigram distasteful, it does reflect a disturbing trend in which the Holocaust is being packaged and sold by fimmakers who are using this dark chapter as a ticket for advancing their own fame and artistic agenda. These films conveniently skip over the mass shootings, the gas chambers, the ovens, the mounds of naked bodies - filling up the screens with harmful falsifications. The damage Hollywood, with its huge marketing machine is doing the memory of the Holocaust is enormous. Think of Hollywood's cowboy and Indian movies and how they shaped our understanding of that episode."

Abramovich goes on to detail the ways in which he feels the current crop of Holocaust-themed films (The Reader, Inglourious Basterds, and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas) misrepresent the Holocaust. Typically, though, as a Zionist spruiker, he completely ignores the subjects of Zionism's shameless exploitation of the Holocaust as a cover for its crimes against the Palestinians* and Hollywood's considerable services to Zionist propaganda **.

[*See my 14/12/08 post Quack Cure (in response to an earlier Abramovich grizzle in The Age), **and my 1/10/08 post Paul Newman: Zionist Dupe.]

Thanks to Norman Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, and Jack Shaheen's Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, much light has been shed on those two issues. What is less well-known, however, is the cruelly instrumental attitude of the pre-state Zionist movement in Palestine (led by David Ben-Gurion) towards Holocaust survivors and Jewish displaced persons. Some revealing snippets from Israeli historian Idith Zertal's From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors & the Emergence of Israel (1998):

"The Jewish tragedy, which was revealed fully only after the war, and the unprecedented suffering of those who survived the destruction not only failed to budge Ben-Gurion from his views, but even entrenched them. After visiting the Displaced Persons (DP) camps in late 1945, Ben-Gurion remarked to a soldier from the Jewish Brigade, who demanded more extensive Zionist work in the camps, that 'the Zionist mission is not to save the remnant of Jews in Europe, but to save Palestine for the Jewish people'. The efforts of various Jewish philanthropies to provide immediate succour to the Jewish refugees, especially children - to extricate them from the camps and transfer them to foster families or institutions in Britain, France, and Switzerland - were halted at once by Ben-Gurion. When he reached Heidelberg at the end of his tour of the camps in Bavaria, he transmitted telephone instructions to the Jewish Agency representative in London 'against removing people from the American zone [of occupation] - not to France, England or Switzerland... I demanded that the removal of children and adults be stopped... unless for purposes of 'aliya', under instruction of the Jewish Agency'." (p 186)

"The encounter [between Palestinian Zionists and Holocaust survivors] was imbued with deep fear and a sense of guilt, incorporated by the Zionist discourse that placed a wall between 'us' and 'them', transforming the other side, the 'diasporic', into an object, a faceless mass of people waiting to be redeemed while performing the historic Zionist role assigned to them. 'It will be hell if all the [DP] camps come [to Palestine]', Ben-Gurion was told by rescue operatives in Europe in early 1946, in response to his question about what would happen if the Jewish Agency got the 100,000 entry permits it demanded. 'All this filth, just as it is, you [the Jewish Agency/Ben-Gurion] plan to move to Palestine?' protested the Zionist agents sent to Europe to deal with the needs of the refugees and bring them to Palestine. Ben-Gurion responded that it would be better for them ('the filth') to be in Palestine than elsewhere, implying that only in Palestine could the survivors be of any benefit and fulfill their historical function. 'When these Jews come to Palestine, we'll have trouble', said Ben-Gurion, 'but it will be Jewish trouble'. reporting the conversation to the Jewish Agency Executive, he never commented on the use of the term 'filth' by rescue agents, and he repeated it without elaboration." (p 216)

Yet, even back then you could glimpse a Holocaust industry of sorts:

"The importance of the Holocaust survivors in [Ben-Gurion's] formula derived from his belief in the crucial role of international public opinion. With the international media fed and orchestrated by a well-run Zionist propaganda machine, no power in the enlightened Western world would have the strength to prevent the Holocaust survivors from reaching their only refuge - the 'home of their lives' - in Palestine." (p 231)

Now wouldn't a Holocaust movie about Zionism's bedside manner really give Abramovich something to whinge about?

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