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October 14, 2014

By: Prof. Phyllis Chesler

Published: Monday, October 13, 2014 10:11 AM

Gloria Z. Greenfield’s third film, Body and Soul: The State of the Jewish Nation, is a cinematic and educational triumph. In only 65 minutes, the viewer comes to understand who the Jews are to the land of Israel and what the land of Israel is to the Jews, to Judaism, and to history.

This film is not propaganda. There is no doctored footage. This is the truth made visible, visual. It is also, potentially, truth’s weapon against falsehood and against a lethal Arab (and now universal) narrative that is, at its core, genocidal.  

Please understand: While the film is pedagogic, it is also easy to understand and entertaining. It is both profound and bracing.

The film also confirms my own view that the single “accomplishment” of the United Nations may be its legalization of Jew-hatred. Otherwise, it has proved completely ineffective in preventing genocides and other human rights atrocities.

The music enhances the words, it is subtle, it neither detracts nor intrudes. The most wonderful maps, illustrated manuscripts, archeological artifacts, ancient coins, drawings, paintings, photographs, legal documents, highlighted newspaper articles, and videos accompany a rapid succession of thirty six soulful and scholarly experts. Greenfield has carefully assembled ambassadors, archeologists, authors, experts in anti-Semitism, historians, journalists, legal scholars, parliamentarians, rabbis, Christian theologians—and one prominent Yiddishist.

Clearly, the Jews are the indigenous people of the Holy Land. Their history began more than three thousand years ago and all their sacred journeys, both religious and geographic, have been towards the Promised Land, the Holy Land, Jerusalem. No other destroyer or occupier ever came to stay in Jewish Israel. They massacred, occupied, dispersed the Jews—and then disappeared. Gone were the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arab Muslims, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Muslim Ottomans, and the British.

Some Jews always managed to remain there, century after century; some Jews consistently returned to Israel, either on pilgrimage or to stay. The evidence for this is overwhelming and is not only Biblical. It is archeological and historical and contained in pagan, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Ottoman sources. Ancients texts confirm this as do medieval and modern histories.

This film is the antidote to a world that has been taught to believe that a falsehistory is sacred,  namely, that the ancient “Plishtim,” or Philistines, were the ancestors of the people recently designated as “Palestinians.” But this is not true. “Palestine” was the name with which Rome punished the Jews who rebelled against them by linguistically wiping out what had long been known as Israel/Judah/Jerusalem/The Holy Land and naming it after their classic enemy of biblical times, the Philistines who invaded from the Greek Isles.

The contemporary “Palestinians” are not the original inhabitants of the Holy Land. Arab nomads, first pagan, then Christian, and then Muslim, traversed large areas of the Middle East but did not settle in any one place.

The Jews are not the Eastern European colonial interlopers. In fact, contrary to myth, Israeli Jews are not Eastern European (although those, too, are descendants of dispersed Jews who once lived in Israel),  but are, originally, from the Holy land itself; and thereafter, from Arab and North African countries, (Yemen, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia). Some were originally from southern Europe (Spain and Portugal); from India; and from central Asia (Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and from post-Soviet Russia.

On camera, one of the world’s leading experts on Anti-Semitism, Robert Wistrich,  reminds us that “at the end of the 16th century, there were as many as 30,000 Jews, which is a lot for that period, in Tzfat. The four holy cities of Palestine in this period were Jerusalem, Hevron, Tzfat, and Tiberias.” And, despite being “Muslim-controlled, in Jerusalem, from the 1840’s onwards, the Jews are a majority of the population.”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of England, teaches us that “the word ‘Zionist’…began really with religious thinkers, with two distinguished Rabbis, Zvi Hirsh Kalischer and Yehudah Alkali, who believed that in the rise of European nationalism, of nations coming together, that they could hear God’s call to us.” 

But, religion and ideology aside, over time, it became increasingly urgent for Jews to leave their homes in exile. Yossi Klein Halevi reminds us that Arab Jews had lived for “centuries or even millennia in Arab lands as second-class, third-class, or no-class citizens.”

The late nineteenth century pogroms in Russia, the ominous significance of the Dreyfus case in France, the Nazi-era Holocaust in Europe and in the Arab world, and the post-1948 pogroms in Arab lands—all meant that the Jews needed a safe haven, a national homeland, sovereign space. Uganda would not do. Jews prayed facing Jerusalem–King David’s city; their daily prayers remembered Jerusalem, where both the first and second Temples had once stood. This was where an “ingathering” of Jews had long been viewed as a Messianic time. Where else did the Jews come from, where else did they belong? 

The film gives us an excellent, graphic lesson in what the British did in terms of their Palestine Mandate (they appeased both sides but then fatefully sided with the Arabs against the Jews); an important account of the Soviet relationship with the Arab League and the incredibly invidious propaganda campaign they embarked upon; and the legal basis for the creation of the Jewish state, for its right to keep land conquered in wars of self-defense, and the Arab League’s systematic de-nationalization of its Jewish citizens. (Thank you Eugene Kontorovich, Irwin Cotler, and Alan Dershowitz).

The film also confirms my own view that the single “accomplishment” of the United Nations may be its legalization of Jew-hatred. Otherwise, it has proved completely ineffective in preventing genocides and other human rights atrocities.

An unexpected point of view is offered by historian, Dr. Anita Shapira. She says: “I think that the state of Israel was established despite the Holocaust, and not because of the Holocaust; because the great reservoir of the Jewish people that (had) dreamed about the state of Israel, (who) were potentially the citizens of the future state–perished in the Holocaust. The Holocaust was important in the sense that it galvanized the American Jewish community around Zionism, around the idea of the Jewish state.”

This is because America did not open its doors to the Jews who were in flight from certain extermination.

Today, the assault upon Israel is not merely military. According to MK. Dr. Einat Wilf, there is “an intellectual assault on Zionism which is unprecedented” in terms of its “ferocity.”

Itamar Marcus, the founder of Palestinian Media Watch, reminds us that “In the 1990s, soon after the signing of the Oslo Accords, there was a conference of Palestinian historians where it was stated explicitly that one of the goals of the Palestinian historian is to write a Palestinian history that won’t allow for the existence of any other people in the land.” And this is precisely what has happened.

Western intellectuals went along with this fake history because, as American military historian, Victor Davis Hanson, explains: Once indoctrinated with a “mythic pseudo-history,” the “elite culture” makes the “necessary” adjustments.

 “So if I am a classical scholar or I am an ancient historian or I am a Byzantine historian I know that if I insert a particular thought or idea about Israel taking land or Israel being illegitimate, […] I understand there is going to be benefits paid to me. I might get a professorship, I might get a medal, I might get a literary award.”

Luba Mayekiso, the National Director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, makes a strong and poignant point about where this “pseudo-history” leaves religious Christians.

“Jesus was a Jew. He was a devout Jew, so were his parents, so were the disciples. So, if you try and negate Jewish history and the claim that the Jewish people have to the land, we then as Christians have no faith.”

Gloria Z. Greenfield is both the film’s director and producer; George Violin is the executive producer; Adam and Gila Milstein and the Zionist Organization of America are associate producers. Richard Chisolm is the director of photography, Sharon Farber gave us the music. There are many others to be thanked and you will find them here.  

Greenfield is a new breed of documentary artiste. Her films are available online and accessible to people everywhere. They are available for live streaming on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and YouTube/Orchard Movies. Her films are also sub-titled in Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish.

But, although she sells her films online, Greenfield has also pioneered traveling with them. She organizes openings, panels, and discussion groups after the film has been viewed. Her previous films: The Case for Israel and Unmasked: Judeophobia have been screened countless times throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Hawaii.

One might say that Greenfield puts her own body and soul into this work and when she travels, she travels hard. Day after day, almost one day after the next, Greenfield accompanies the film across states and continents, traveling from coast to coast, often in back to back appearances. This intense pace is how she breathes.

I hope that the United Nations, and every single world government, are required to see this film. As important: I pray that every Middle East Studies program and the global media view it and then share it with their audiences. I challenge every church, every mosque, every Hindu temple, every Jewish Center and every synagogue to show it—and to then allow Greenfield to lead a civilized and fact-driven discussion.

Body and Soul’s world premiere, which is already sold-out, is in Jerusalem on October 20th at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.  The post-screening discussion features a panel with Robert Wistrich, Yoram Hazony, and Eugene Kontorovich, moderated by Melanie Phillips.  

The following week, on October 27th, the North American premiere will be held at Symphony Space in New York City.  Bret Stephens of theWall Street Journal is the Master of Ceremonies and Harvard Professor, Ruth Wisse, will present post-screening remarks.  

All I can say is: Brava, Gloria!

This article was originally published by Arutz Sheva and may be found here.

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