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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 23, 2003

Jenin, Jenin

Goebbels Would Have Liked This by Randy Shapiro, for the Calgary Herald
The last time I was at the University of Calgary, almost 10 years ago, I was invited to a movie series where a professor presented various Nazi films produced in the 1930s.

In these films, Jews were depicted as "foreigners" (they weren't "real" Germans or "real" Europeans; they were an "alien" element on European land), Jews were analogized to parasites (they were pictorially juxtaposed to rats running through the sewers), and Jews were depicted as hateful, inhumane, and cruel people, while the Germans, of course, were depicted as peace-loving.

Of course, the good professor showed these films not because she endorsed the message. Rather, she showed them to demonstrate the pernicious results of insidious hate propaganda.

That was 10 years ago.

Last week, I attended another the first part of another film series at the University. Talk about deja vu! In a propagandistic film called Jenin Jenin, a film which could have easily been directed by Joseph Goebbels himself, "Jews" were depicted as cruel and inhumane; Jews were analogized to parasites (mice, in particular); and once again, Jews were depicted as "foreigners" and an "alien element," but this time in the Middle East -- which, of course, is nothing short of an insult to the last 5000 years of history. Mind-probing questions were also raised in the film such as how God could ever create a people such as the Jews.

Unlike the propaganda films I viewed 10 years ago, which were intended to admonish, this propaganda piece--presented by the Palestinian-Canadian Student Society (PCSS) and the Calgary Coalition for Peace and Anti-Racism --was intended to persuade.

And make no mistake, the message in Jenin Jenin was not only directed against Israelis or Zionists, or any other popular euphemism to describe today's Jewry; it was simply directed against all Jews.

In the Middle East, this kind of vitriol is not uncommon. It is, however, an entirely different story when organizations import this kind of hate into Canada--a country built upon a core value of multicultural and racial
tolerance.


Unfortunately, I have found that every time I attend an event sponsored by the PCSS, I end up convinced that tolerance and peaceful co-existence are simply not on the agenda. In fact, the only discussion I have heard about peace at a PCSS event has centered on the dismantling of the Jewish state, a suggestion which was not only seriously entertained, but greeted with widespread applause.

In this context, it is not surprising that the PCSS chose to present the film Jenin Jenin--a highly distorted presentation of second-rate propaganda--to open their film festival. It was a logical springboard for the continued de-legitimization of the Jewish state, as well as a vehicle for a not-so-subtle attack on Jews themselves.

Aside from the palpable undertow of anti-Semitism, the film Jenin Jenin centers around Israel's incursion into Jenin last year. The film simply parrots and re-packages all the allegations made last year by Arafat's Palestinian Authority--allegations which have since been proven patently false by the very human rights organizations that the PCSS selectively rely upon in their own Jenin "fact" sheets.

The PCSS is desperately hoping that we buy this newly re-packaged propaganda, which the PCSS beguilingly describes as an "unbiased" account. They are hoping we forget deep embarrassment caused to the Palestinian Authority when the international media broadcasted pictures of fake funerals where corpses miraculously walked away.

They are similarly hoping we forget that Israel only entered Jenin after seven straight days of bloody and unparalleled terrorists attacks in which scores of innocent Israeli civilians were deliberately and systematically slaughtered.

Finally, they are hoping we forget that Jenin was proudly known to be the "suicide capital" as well as the undisputed territory of Hamas and Islamic Jihad--terrorist groups whose express goals include the immediate liquidation of the Jewish state.

The real story behind Jenin was that Israeli troops engaged in hand-to-hand, door-to-door combat, in narrow streets, where houses were booby-trapped by terror organization. At the end of weeks of intense fighting, there were 21 Palestinian civilian casualties, which--although every death is a tragedy -testifies to the scrupulousness of the Israeli army, which lost 23 soldiers, precisely because it wanted to avoid the civilian casualties that normally come with aerial assaults.

In fact, Jenin is one of the only battles in recent history where more troops lost their lives than innocent civilians.

Of course, facts and context will never get in the way of organizations which cling tenaciously to ideas that are just as unpalatable today as they were in the 1930s.
Randy S. Shapiro is a Calgary Lawyer and spokesperson for Stand With Israel, a multi-faith coalition of Calgary professionals.