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Is Ed Zwick's 'Defiance' anti-Israel?

I've never been a big fan of Ed Zwick's movies and the feeling is mutual--he's not a big fan of my writing. But I feel compelled to stick up for Zwick, whose new film, "Defiance," about a group of tough Jews during World War II who fought back against the Nazis, opens wide this weekend. For some bizarre reason, someone--either the knuckleheads at Paramount Vantage, the studio releasing the film, or Zwick's personal publicist--allowed him to do an interview with Debbie Schlussel, a maniacal right-wing columnist/blogger/anti-Islamic crusader who is a star in the Rush Limbaugh/Fox News firmament, but a person who clearly loathes liberal Hollywood and all the pop culture it produces.

I'm not talking quibbling. I'm talking hating. In her review of "Notorious," the new film about rap icon Christopher (Biggie Smalls) Wallace--a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., Schlussel wrote: "The best part of 'Notorious,' the movie that whitewashes and glorifies this sleazebag, was when Wallace was shot and killed. 'Just die already,' I thought in the critics screening I attended."

Apparently accustomed to missing the point of every movie she writes about, she quickly tossed off an accolade for "Defiance," acknowledging that it was a "great movie," before getting to her real agenda--bashing Zwick for all sorts of ideological offenses, even going so far as to bludgeoning his 1998 film, "The Siege," which she seems to believe was somehow pro-Muslim. Schlussel led off the piece with the Ann Coulter-ish boast: "As I always say, Hollywood loves the dead Jews, but they hate the live ones. Hollywood loves the Holocaust, but hates Israel."

To give you a little flavor of the hysterical tone of the attack, check out this Schlussel-esque observation:

"I asked [Zwick] why Hollywood is so anti-Israel and when would he come full circle and make a movie that shows the Jews who are now the victims of the new Nazis in the Middle East, in Israel. Edward Zwick's squirming was so loud, I felt like I was watching worms crawl through the phone."

To his credit, Zwick responded that he didn't realize Hollywood had made any anti-Israel movies (and if Schlussel  has any evidence, she didn't present it). He added, quite rightly I think, that when it came to the horrific enmity in the Middle East, "it's so full of moral complexity that I'm not sure I could address it in a two-hour movie." He also said he was loath to "analogize" between the "Defiance" story and the contemporary Middle East situation, explaining that when you talk about the Middle East today, "you're not talking about genocide."

This only further infuriated Schlussel, who described Zwick's perfectly lucid response as "pyscho-babble gobbledygookish squirming." Noting that "Defiance" opens in Israel next week, Schlussel ended by saying "Let's hope the Israeli soldiers connect the dots that Edward Zwick--and the rest of Hollywood--won't. They are fighting the same Nazis, the same evil the [heroes of "Defiance"] fought."

First conservatives bashed Hollywood for not making movies about the threat of terrorism, now they are complaining that it's not good enough to celebrate Jews in history--Hollywood must honor today's stalwart Israelis too. For all our past disagreements, Zwick couldn't be more correct on this count. Filmmakers have every right to see the world as a place teeming with moral complexity, and their films have every right to reflect it. It's one reason why so few conservatives ever make it as serious filmmakers--their world, the world of stark good and evil, is a convenient ideological construct that has very little to do with the world of today.

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"I've never been a big fan of Ed Zwick's movies and the feeling is mutual--he's not a big fan of my writing."

Interesting opening sentence, but what does it mean? Should I know something about the relationship between Patrick Goldstein and Ed Zwick? For that matter, should I know who Patrick Goldstein is beyond being the author of this piece?

For the record, I have been a fan of Ed Zwick, though curiously he has never been a fan of my posts. Why? I am not telling.

Bravo. I myself squirmed in anger at Schlussel's gobbledygookish assumptions. How about a movie with a true Palestinian point of view of things? If anyone is guilty of using cinema which is three things, a business, entertainment and art, for propagandist purposes is the Jewish community. There hasn't been a year in history in which there wasn't a hollocaust-jewish pride-anti-anti-semitic movie movie made for tv and theaters.

Mr. Goldstein,

I'm wondering if you're attempting to overcome your problem with Mr. Zwick by allying against the enemy of your enemy (political conservativeness) - at the expense of your pre-warning Hollywood against producing a film which addresses the global jihad against infidelry - and the Jews who resist that.

You say "Filmmakers have every right to see the world as a place teeming with moral complexity."

You acknowledge that Mr. Zwick told Ms. Schlussel that the Middle East is full of moral complexity. Shouldn't that make it a a ripe fruit?

Then why should filmmakers (e.g., Mr. Zwick) thus be excused for avoiding addressing the complex issue of "the Jews versus the Islamic terrorists in and against Israel?"

Unless, you're presuming that it's

a) assumed that anything marginally supportive of Israel is likley be an unpopular box office in the liberal-Palestinian propagandized, international markets; or

b) uncomfortable for liberals in Hollywood risk their professional reputations to stand against a perceived underdog (Palestinians), or Jewish professionals appearing 'too-Jewish;'

As series like "Sleeper Cell" and "24" have demonstrated, the Jihad against Israel and the rest of the West certainly has enough moral complexity to be spun to satisfy left, center, and right political viewers to qualify as worthwhile "show-biz" fodder.

But as long as you overstep your professional station to warn Hollywood against taking on this complex issue, which could include exposing the mainstream-media's (L.A. Times included) complicity in buying-into Hamas' al-Dura-affair exposed, "Pallywood" propaganda system to the foreign press - the public will increasingly look to sites such as Democracy (winner of annual Weblog Awards' 5th Best Video site this week) for the truths that leftist Angelenos abuse Hollywood to keep from the world.

By the way, if you'd like to watch what Mr. Zwick discloses are his motivations in making a Jewish film with particular Jewish themes, you're welcome to browse over to Democracy

Yeah, Zwick clearly entered the lion's den with that interview, but give him some bravery points for doing so.

That said, Schlussel's film analysis is flawed for a number of reasons - no. 1, "Defiance" nearly botches an amazing true life story.

But she does have a point regarding the current Hamas/Israeli war. Geez, one side loathes killing civilians, the other side props civilians up in front of their soldiers so they die first. There are elements of the conflict that are morally complex, but there's also enough raw material for artists to dig through here. But that's the kind of bravery lacking in today's Hollywood - offending the UN-sanctioned thought police abroad. You have to dig through a lot of her boisterous writing to find that point, but it's still worth noting.

Perfect timing! Just what the world needs right now... as Israelis are massacring thousands of Palestinians, Hollywood opens a movie to revive public compassion towards Jews.

How is that the GOP is now advocating Social Realist art? Wasn't that a Soviet thing?

IMHO Defiance does have an interesting answer to the question of why European Jews didn't in the main fight back - that they were mostly urban intellectuals with no training in combat, and that in this case it fell to a couple of peacetime criminals to effectively protect Jewish refugees.

BTW, for all you wingnuts out there, I'm a firm believer that Israel must cease being a Jewish State - a mistake America pointedly avoided; that a single truly secular and non-discriminatory state encompassing the West Bank and Gaza is the only solution that would inevitably lead to regional peace, together with eliminating rife Palestinian gangsterism through education and economic opportunity. My various recent forbears sponsored the Shanghai Ghetto, presided over the British Mandate, and helped Philby in Saudi Arabia. And yes, I have cousins in Beersheba, within Qassam range. So there :-)

I think this film is missing the piont of the eastern front not mentionning the fact that this is the under told story of Ukrainian grollia movement not some Jewish brothers. Bandera led this effort and I have seen no mention of this. Stalin with the help of the poles killed 15,000,000 Ukrainians and When the Germans first came they were greeted as liberaters, but that soon changed when their true agenda was realized. That sparked the gorilla move to hide in the forests that they knew so well, hiding women and children of all religions not just jews. I wish more people new the truth about that part of the war but the Americans practically helped Stalin starv the Ukrainans buy turning a blind eye to russias and polish efforts to wipe out they old ukrainains from the face of the earth. Read the bottom section of this page get some perspective. hitler and Stalin are both evil and the boshlvits don't seem alot better, they lie like a rug for pitty from the world. Lots of people died in the worst man made famin in history right in the bread basket of Europe and Asia thats a film that should be made.

Photos speak louder than words. Palestinian leader, the Grand Mufti of Jeruslem with his "troops" during WWII.

For Israel's sake, end the cruel occupation of Palestinian lands, destruction of their homes, civilians and hospitals, as Menachin Begin warned in 1969. All perpetrators of blockade horrors and recent massacres should be cited at the Internatyional Court of Justice.

I've always been a big fan of Ed Zwick's movies and the feeling is mutual--he's a big fan of my writing!

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