Sunday, December 31, 2017

Israelism, Upcoming Documentary On The Strange Relationship Of American Jews And Israel

Last night I had the rare good fortune to be part of a group in Skowhegan, Maine premiering clips from Eric Axelman's upcoming documentary, Israelism. The film's working title used to be 70 Years Across the Sea: American Jews and 21st Century Zionism and its facebook page still is for the time being.

As a half Jewish man raised as a Jew, Axelman is fascinated by how devotion to Israel replaced devotion to Judaic teachings for so many of his and his parents' generations.

To kick off his documentary, Axelman took a free trip from the Zionist organization Birthright Israel, bringing along camera and recording equipment. He was amazed at the extent of apartheid in Israel, and returned even more fired up to continue the project.

Then, he scored an interview with Noam Chomsky early on that helped immensely with fundraising. Clips of the interview are incorporated into the first trailer for the film, which you can see here.

A salient Chomsky quote from the interview:

Loyalty to Israel simply meant whatever they do, we support it -- even if we don't know what it is.

Other notable interviews already in the can include one with Cornel West on "the battle for public opinion" so that "AIPAC doesn't take up all the air in the room." 

Also activist Issa Amro of occupied Hebron in the West Bank. A new trailer shows Amro  blindfolded and arrested for the umpteenth time for nonviolent resistance to settlements crowding out Palestinian families in what the UN said in 1948 was supposed to be Palestine.

Also Rabbi Alissa Wise, the first rabbi banned from entry to Israel because of her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to support Palestinian rights in the occupied territories.

Also Simone Zimmerman, a Jewish outreach coordinator who was fired quickly by Bernie Sanders' campaign for a social media post where she called the Israeli PM (Bibi) Netanyahu an "arrogant, deceptive, cynical asshole" and wrote, "Fuck you, Bibi...

He does not speak for me as a Jew, an American, and as a thinking person."

In the clips I saw last night, Zimmerman in particular details how the ugly truth of Israel's human rights abuses was hidden from her as she was growing up. "My questions about Israel were met with radio silence," she told another interviewer. Not surprisingly, Zimmerman began to wonder what was so awful that it had to be so carefully hidden.

All great stuff, and I cannot wait to see the finished film in a year or so.

Pushed Learning and Media is producing the film,  a non-profit that Axelman co-founded while a student at Brown University. Their stated mission: We use performance and multimedia to start conversations about privilege, identity, and oppression.

Donate at to help finish post-production on Israelism.

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