Stolen waters are sweet, says Proverbs. That’s why the almost universal banning of Israelism, the controversial film challenging the centrality of Israel in Jewish education, has piqued the curiosity of many people, myself included.
After watching all 84 minutes, I think the film should be screened and not because I agree with its content. As is well known, Israelism is scathingly critical of the uber-pro-Israel indoctrination offered up by Jewish day schools, camps, and youth movements. Should we support Israel unconditionally, the film asks. It’s a question echoed by many American Jews.
And it deserves an answer though not the answer offered by this film. The filmmakers have a point. Classic Zionist ideology cribbed from 19th-century European nationalism no longer works. A land without a people for a people without a land was never quite accurate.
But instead of digging deeper, this film concludes that Zionism is wrong, Israel is a militaristic rogue state and a human rights violator, and that justice is with the Palestinians.
Why not talk about this openly? This could provoke a conversation that would prod viewers to consider an authentic Jewish perspective. Our young people deserve to understand God’s promise of our land to our forefathers and how the conditional nature of that promise detailed in the Shema prayer has led to our present malaise.
Teaching Jewish kids that our nation and, indeed, our lives are in the hands of an active, loving, and sometimes judgy G-d is, of course, not politically correct. Because they weren’t given this perspective the makers of Israelism found answers elsewhere.
It’s painful to hear them mouth every Palestinian trope and to see the good guys as the warm and fuzzy Palestinian humous eaters, not their Israeli Jewish brethren and certainly not IDF soldiers who protect them as they wander around the West Bank. Sadly they are not outliers.
As October 7 dims, and legacy media pummels its watchers with video footage of bombed-out buildings and dead Gazan babies, many young Jews agree with the message of this film.
Already they are calling for a ceasefire. On paper, that sounds great; how could anyone oppose a ceasefire, but experts say that laying down our arms prematurely would empower Hamas and its Islamofascist allies and leave Israelis more vulnerable than ever before.
The young spiritual seekers who appear in Israelism mean well. Like the pre-Auschwitz Anne Frank, they want to believe that all people are basically good at heart. One wonders if Oct. 7 has changed their minds.
Occupation is ugly and war even uglier, but the IDF is doing what it can to keep us safe from those kindly humous eating Palestinians who have espoused Shahidism, the perverse idealization of the holy martyr who sacrifices his own life to kill infidels aka Jews. In both Gaza and the West Bank, children are educated to want to become Shahidis. The film leaves this out nor does it point a finger at Palestinian violence.
Not only do the Palestinians kill Jews, they kill each other. Domestic violence is rife in their village, and frighteningly many of them are heavily armed. In his latest video, Dr. Mordechai Kedar warns that they can quickly form a fifth column. Many Gazans allowed their homes to be included as part of the tunnel system. A recent report revealed that IDF soldiers even found tunnels placed under babies’ cribs. None of this is stated in the film.
Nor does Israelism devote attention to the West Bank’s governing body, the Palestinian Authority, known not only for corruption but for its human rights violations.
One wonders what would happen if the logic of this film became Israeli policy.
The film never asks what life would be like if Israel retreated from the West Bank or what if we withdrew from any territories implicated in the Naqba (the rest of Israel)? Where would we go? Not to Palestine. Even now, a Jew who wanders into PA-controlled and certainly Hamas territory risks being lynched. Nor can a Jew travel freely in the Arab world. Except for the Abraham Accord countries (and who knows how long that will last), a Jew cannot enter the Arab lands from which thousands of our people were expelled, not even as visitors and certainly not to claim stolen property.
We are facing an enemy unprecedented in its brutality. We need to fight back hard, not pretend as this film does that we can one day sing kumbaya together under a campfire in the West Bank.