Race Against Lies
The Race Against Lies

By Phyllis Chesler

Today, anti-Israel propaganda is all the rage at international film festivals and on television, world-wide. It passes for the truth and is considered "brave." In the 1940s, when the media and the American leadership refused to inform US citizens about the extermination of the Jews, a band of activists took it upon themselves to get the word out to the American people. Today, I will follow their inspiring example and make available two documentaries that honestly and accurately depict the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on my website, www.phyllis-chesler.com.

In 1942, Palestinian Jew Peter Bergson (a.k.a. Hillel Kook, the nephew of the first Chief Rabbi of Israel) and a small band of activists began an extraordinary and heartbreaking "race against death" as they tirelessly campaigned for American assistance to rescue the doomed Jews of Europe. When Kook began, two million Jews had already been exterminated. Tirelessly, Kook lobbied Congress, staged public and theatrical rallies, and placed paid ads in the nation's leading newspapers. His ads asked: "They Are Driven to Death Daily, But Can They Be Saved?" and "How Well Are You Sleeping?"

America's failure to respond was due to the lingering effects of the Great Depression, nativism, and anti-Semitism. In addition, Kook's efforts were actively obstructed by the American State Department, the media, (especially the New York Times), and the leaders of organized American Jewry (especially Rabbi Stephen Wise, Congressman Sol Bloom, New York state judge Samuel Rosenman, communal leader Nahum Goldmann and Ira Hirshmann of the War Refugee Board).

However, Kook was backed by Ben Hecht, Max Lerner, media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, many orthodox rabbis, and many Christian legislators such as congressman Will Rogers, Jr., and senators Guy Gillette, Edwin Johnson, and Elbert Thomas. When the New York Times refused to print the truth about what was happening to the Jews or when they buried it on back pages, Bergson had Hecht compose eye-catching paid ads in the New York Times and other papers.
In their riveting book, Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust, Professors David S. Wyman and Raphael Medoff carefully and dramatically document all of this. The heart of the book is a never-before-released twelve-hour interview with Kook himself which Wyman conducted in 1973. The parallels to today's world are chilling. Actually, in some ways, the situation today is worse. The propaganda campaign against the Jews and the Jewish state is far more global and technologically sophisticated. The receptivity to Big Lies, especially if they are visually presented, is even greater today than it was sixty-four years ago. Such propaganda not only flourishes on every continent, especially in the Islamic world, but is especially favored by progressives, humanitarians, academics, and leftists in the West.

There are about 14 million Jews left in the world. Each and every one, but the Jews of Israel most of all, are being systematically and perilously endangered by this non-stop onslaught of propaganda.

The Western media has still not caught on to the way in which Arabs and Palestinians are systematically using media technology to brainwash people with simplistic and highly biased versions of reality. Photo opportunity journalism, staged Israeli shootings and massacres, especially of children, are rampant; true depictions of Israeli security fence building, Palestinian home demolitions, and the alleged purposeful killing of political activists (such as Rachel Corrie of the International Solidarity Movement) are systematically presented out of context and in totally one-sided ways. The propagandists never, ever show the numerous acts of kindness and ethical behaviors on the part of the Israeli Defense Forces nor do they show the systematic slaughter of innocent Israeli civilians, nearly half of whom are women and children.

The Great Propagandists focus only on the Palestinian "refugees" who are seen as the innocent victims of Israeli aggression. They never show us the human face of the true refugees of the Middle East who are (persecuted) Jews from Arab countries whom Israel absorbed with no help from the UN, or from UNRWA, nor do they explain that Palestinian suffering is primarily due to corrupt and murderous Palestinian and Arab leadership. In my view, Israel is definitely and regrettably responsible for at least 5% of Palestinian suffering; but no more. I have gone on record over the years, as have many other Jews, protesting this 5%. It is important not to pretend that 5% responsibility is equal to 95% responsibility.

On August 12, 2004, HBO will be airing James Miller's BBC/Channel 4 film, "Death in Gaza," (in Arabic and English) in which he interviewed Palestinian children only. Presumably, Miller was going to interview Israeli children too but he never did. Miller's widow, Sophy, has gone on record accusing the Israelis of purposely killing him on his last day of shooting in Gaza; if this was indeed his last day then perhaps Miller did not plan to interview any Israeli children after all.
After his death, Miller's wife and colleagues finished the film for him, and began a campaign seeking "Justice for James Miller." The film has been aired at many film festivals to rave reviews. The fact that the script was written by acclaimed journalist, Saira Shah, with whom Miller worked on "Beneath the Veil," which was broadcast by CNN, ensures a devoted and vocal following. Shah, who is the English-born daughter of an Afghan father, is also the author of the "Storyteller’s Daughter," which is a beautifully written book about her search for her Afghan roots.

Nearly four years ago, propagandists claimed that Israelis purposely killed the young boy, Mohammed al-Dura; the photo of al-Dura in his father's lap instantly became the icon for the al-Aqsa Intifada. By now we know that the boy most definitely was not killed by Israelis; ongoing investigations may soon reveal that the boy either may not have died at all--or may have been killed by Palestinians on purpose. Crazy? But what if it's true? Mohammed Bakri's film "Jenin, Jenin," showed the Israelis committing a massacre there. Like "Death in Gaza," Bakri's film has also been acclaimed at numerous film festivals. But, although Bakri is the darling of the Israeli left, and has been protected by the Israeli Supreme Court, the film is a lie.

There is only one filmmaker who has presented the truth in the matter of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and his nom de guerre is Pierre Rehov. I interviewed him in my home a few weeks ago. Rehov lives in Paris and, until the al-Aqsa Intifada, only visited Israel "for fun in Eilat." That changed in 2000. Since then, he has made six films about the Arab-Israeli conflict and is currently working on a seventh. When he could not get a distributor in France for his first film, he simply enclosed it in the copies of the magazine that he himself distributed monthly in France. Soon, everyone was talking about--and pirating the film. His "The Road to Jenin" was a huge success on Israeli television.

Rehov has not yet attracted a network to showcase his six films nor does he have a distributor in the United States. His latest film, "Hostages of Hatred," will be shown at the upcoming Hampton International Film Festival. His films have been seen in both France and Israel. Indeed, on the anniversary of the Park Hotel Passover massacre in Netanya (which led to the Israeli incursion into Jenin), Rehov showed his film about Jenin and dedicated it to the 24 Israeli soldiers who died going into Jenin on foot from booby-trapped house to booby-trapped house, vulnerable to sniper-fire every inch of the way. Rehov invited the families of the dead soldiers and the survivors of the Park Hotel massacre. He personally fed 400 people. A former chief rabbi of Israel presided at a Passover seder table which stood in the exact spot where the suicide terrorist had blown himself and 32 Israelis to pieces. The rabbi said: "The only time that the blood libel against the Jews was ever true, (that Jews used non-Jewish blood to make matzot), was here, where the suicide bomber's blood mingled with Jewish blood on this Passover."

In Peter Bergson's/Hillel Kook's honor I have resolved that I must, in a small way, act as Kook would have done at this moment in history. Thus, starting today, on August 11, 2004, my website, (www. phyllis-chesler.com), will be hosting the recent films of Algerian born Jew, Pierre Rehov. I want those people who will watch "Death in Gaza" to finally have the option to see "the other side," in my view the truer side, which Rehov captures in his films. "Silent Exodus" is about the approximately one million Jews who had to flee Arab countries and about what their lives were like under Islam before Israel became a sovereign entity.

"Hostages of Hatred" is a film which primarily interviews Palestinians--including children--about their views. The hero of "Hostages" is, perhaps, Bassam-Eid, the Director of Human Rights Monitoring for Palestine who bravely "tells it like it is." "The Road to Jenin" is Rehov's film about what really happened in Jenin.

The esteemed Bergson/Kook paid for ads in the NY Times when the major media (other than Hearst's publications) refused to print the truth. I can do no less. It is little enough to do. Please view his films at my website. Please send us your comments. Please help him find a distributor and a network.

Point of Information: I have submitted three of Rehov's films to HBO and begged them to consider airing any one of them. I have been told that the process takes from 4-6 weeks. I have also asked for a review copy of "Death in Gaza." They have promised to get me one but as of this writing, I have yet to see the film. However, I googled more than 400 descriptions and reviews of it.

*This piece has also been printed in The Jewish Press, August 11, 2004.

New: View Pierre Rehov Films
 

AUTHOR BIO: Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D., is the author of twelve books including her latest, THE NEW ANTI-SEMITISM. THE CURRENT CRISIS AND WHAT WE MUST DO ABOUT IT. She is working on a new book about the importance of independent thinking for Palgrave-Macmillan (St. Martin’s). She may be reached through her website www.Phyllis-Chesler.com She wishes to acknowledge the support of Jerome Gordon, who suggested that she read RACE AGAINST DEATH and who is sharing the costs of mounting Rehov's films on her website; of Lisa Magnas, who is helping her get the word out about Rehov's films; and of Bill Lange who is ably assisting in the effort.

 

     

 

Reprinted by permission.