by Scott Mendelson
In the four years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there have been moderate increases in anti-Semitism around the globe. This is partially due to a rumor that the Jews were warned ahead of time and all stayed home that day, resulting in a Jewish causality rate of 0.00%. Oh, and modern anti-Semitism stems from a Russian book written in 1905 detailing a non-existent meeting of imaginary Jews as they discussed a scheme to eventually take over the world. This book, entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, has experienced an upsurge in popularity due to various factions blaming the Jews for 9/11 and other geo-political ills.
Protocols Of Zion offers no more knowledge than stated in the above paragraph. It is a rambling, repetitive, contradictory and intellectually insulting movie that absolutely should not get a pass from critics and audiences on account of its subject matter. Director Marc Levin claims the film is his personal journey into the heart of this new anti-Semitism. It is nothing more than Marc Levin's narcissistic speechifying, where he draws broad conclusions, makes false statements, quotes out of context, and plays a version of Jay Leno's "Jay-Walking", finding the most inflammatory, brain-dead, and simplistic representations from a given community to represent various creeds, classes, and ethnicities.
The rare strong points of the film are the purely factual aspects, where Levin interviews various scholars about the history of anti- Jewish bias and discusses various stereotypes that have pervaded the Jewish existence for thousands of years. The Protocols themselves are amusingly general enough to be applied to any fascist regime in history.
But Levin is the sort of man who sees anti-Semitism in honest discourse, not just from the white supremacy groups in America or various anti-Jew factions in the Middle East. According to Levin's world, criticizing Israeli government policies makes one anti-Jew. Much screen time is given to the aftermath in the Palestinian community to the July 2002 assassination of a Sheikh Salah Shehadeh, without mentioning the fact that the Israeli army fired a missile into a residential building and city street, blowing up seven children and four other civilians in their wake. The only non-Palestinian in opposition to any Israeli government policies is a man who believes that Sharon wasn't being tough enough and should have started cleansing the ethnics.
Levin spends an obscene amount of time covering the release of Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ. Levin interviews the same Jewish leaders who stupidly turned the would-be art house experiment into a pop-culture event by taking to the airwaves to protest the film sight unseen, thus causing Christians to join together in support of the film as a matter of religious conviction. Gibson is quoted out of context during an interview, and the rantings of his truly anti-Semitic father are used against him (so disparaging someone because of someone else's comments or actions is ok... sometimes?). Levin travels to church meetings and scorns them for having specifically Christian beliefs (I hope I'm not going to hell for not accepting Jesus, but that IS their religious belief, not a bias toward any one group). Not mentioned in the film is that not a single act of anti-Semitic violence occurred in this country because of the film, and polls showed that the belief in the 'blood libel' actually decreased after the film's release.
Levin can't seem to grasp the idea that people hate and blame because it's easier than either accepting their own responsibility, or it is easier than blaming random chance. Some people hate out of stupidity or anger, or sadness. Sometimes, people hate to excuse their own deplorable behavior (the language and ideas of modern racism were in fact invented as an excuse for slavery, a justification for how moral, God-fearing people could condone the kidnapping and selling of fellow human beings). Levin seems shocked by the very principle that people hate other people for no good reason.
Levin finds no answers and asks no real questions. The film has little value as an educational tool, since it practices the same sort of closed-minded thinking that it attempts to debunk. By neither ascribing this anti-Jew attitude towards various ingrained prejudicial outlets or detailing the very real conditions in the world that bring about fear mongering nor finger pointing, Levin has created a documentary that will enlighten no one.