Don’t review propaganda that will fuel antisemitism. Ignore it

If a film was likely to increase anti-black racism, would it be offered to mainstream audiences? If a film contained omissions and half-truths that had been spun into a false narrative that incited hatred towards People of Colour would it be rapturously greeted by “celebrities”? Indeed, if such a film was made would it be reviewed, except perhaps by the BNP’s Voice of Freedom?

And yet Eleven Days in May about Israel’s “bombardment” of Gaza in May 2021, an abhorrent piece of anti-Jewish propaganda that masquerades as a “documentary,” that promotes a false narrative of the Jewish state and portrays Israel as pathologically aggressive is being tweeted about by Russell Brand and  reviewed in the national press.

 With  antisemitic attacks at a record high, releasing this “furiously anti-Israel” so-called “documentary”  is tantamount to shouting “Fire” in a crowded theatre

While I’m aware that banning things has overtones of totalitarianism and raises issues of free speech, I would nevertheless like to see it banned from cinemas (and from streaming services, where it may ultimately end up) because – as the US Supreme Court decided more than a century ago – freedom of  speech should not extend to shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

And in 2022, with antisemitism clearly on the rise and – according to UK community guardians, the CST –  antisemitic attacks at a record high, this so-called “documentary,” described by The Times as “furiously anti-Israel” which portrays as aggression Israel’s defence of its citizens against Hamas rockets, is tantamount to shouting “Fire” in a crowded theatre.

It is nothing more than propaganda dressed up as a “documentary” and given a veneer of Hollywood gloss. Devoid of nuance, balance and context, it should be banned to prevent it fuelling antisemitism. Or perhaps rather than being banned, which may garner it publicity – or attract accusations of “Jewish control” – it should simply be ignored and dismissed for being nothing more than a farrago of emotional manipulation and overt Hamas agit-prop.

From its opening line when the narrator baldly states that “Israel loaded up its fighter jets…,” this so-called “documentary” described by The Times as “harrowing, relentless and remorseless” is indisputably propaganda egregiously traducing Israel by failing to provide context.

The directors have elevated “absence of context” into an art-form to mendaciously and deliberately distort reality

Indeed, its directors Michael Winterbottom and Palestinian media mogul Mohammed Sawaff have, through their careful avoidance of inconvenient truth, unashamedly weaponised omission. By failing to state what provoked the “bombardment” and why Israel was forced to take action, they have elevated “absence of context” into an art-form that distorts reality. This reality was not only that Hamas was firing hundreds of Iranian-supplied rockets on Israeli civilian targets from Gaza, but also that – according to many objective observers, including UN personnel – at least some of the injuries and deaths inside Gaza were the result of Hamas rockets falling short of their targets or exploding in the heavily populated civilian areas from which Hamas chooses to fire them. They do so knowingly, aware  that any resulting deaths or casualties will provide useful photo-opportunities that further embed the narrative of Israeli “aggression.”

Another inconvenient truth carefully ignored in the so-called “documentary,” is that if Palestinian leaders had genuinely sought safety and prosperity for their citizens rather than seeking to end the Jewish presence in the region, they would not have turned the enclave – which they have controlled since June 2005 – into a stronghold of a terrorist organisation and Iranian proxy, Hamas.

And before anyone mentions “Gaza blockade” it should be remembered that Gaza was blockaded by Israel and Egypt to prevent the smuggling of missiles, explosives and weapons to an Iranian-backed terrorist organisation that threatened the Egyptian status-quo as well as the safety of Israeli civilians.

Casual watchers should also keep in mind that Gaza is somewhat different from how it is portrayed in this so-called “documentary (and rather different from how Palestinian propagandists like it shown in news footage, photographs or film which is that all Palestinians live in abject poverty, while liking to imply that all Israelis live in sprawling villas with pools.)

While I would not deny that there is poverty and deprivation in Gaza – as there is in Israel – in this “documentary” Gaza is depicted precisely as the Palestinian PR machine demands. That means cameras never pan across pleasant tree-lined streets or the modern apartment buildings, and certainly never take in one of the largest, glossiest malls in the Middle East. Instead, they linger on poverty, misery and “victims” who blame Israel for the deaths and casualties.

Clearly Winterbottom is committed to this project. He is not only its co-director, but as the founder of distribution company Revolution, its distributor, too. This conveniently side-steps the problems that would normally be faced by a piece of propaganda and demonstrates a level of commitment that may lead some people to wonder at his motivation.

Despite the perfidious nature of this so-called “documentary,” I am more circumspect about using the “A” word. I’m more inclined to pity Winterbottom for being sucked into believing an Arab (once Soviet-inspired) narrative that has led them into what some might consider anti-Jewish racism.

But pity or not, I firmly believe this poisonous piece of propaganda could easily nudge some people into becoming antisemitic so, I do urge its rejection by cinemas, streaming services and all decent, fair-minded people.

About the Author
Jan Shure held senior editorial roles at the Jewish Chronicle for three decades. and previously served as deputy editor of the Jewish Observer. She is an author and freelance writer and wrote regularly for the Huffington Post until 2018. In 2012 she took a break from journalism to be a web entrepreneur.