Thats what we will get to.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Look Elder! A movie about your book!

Documentary examines anti-Semitism of 'Protocols of Zion'

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Protocols of Zion

Opens in New York on Oct. 21.

Directed by: Marc Levin

Running time: 93 minutes

Not rated

Paterson's own Walid Rabah has made the big time, appearing in a new documentary with some of the top anti-Semites of the last century.

There's Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad; there's George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party; there's Henry Ford, the car manufacturer; Father Charles Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest; and then Rabah, in his Main Street office, talking about why he published "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in 2002.

Director Marc Levin sought out Rabah for the film "Protocols of Zion," an energetic 93-minute journey into the world of Jew hatred.

Levin, who was raised in Elizabeth and Maplewood and now lives in New York City, uses as the film's jumping-off point the belief by some that Jews were responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center.

An Egyptian taxi driver told Levin soon after Sept. 11, 2001, that no Jews died that day, linking his assertion to a book, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." The book has long been a favorite of those wanting to stir up anti-Semitic hatred in their communities, including, but not limited to, Russian police in the late 1800s, Adolf Hitler and modern-day white supremacist groups.

"The Protocols" is a fake document purporting to be the minutes of a secret meeting of Jewish leaders in the late 19th century, in which they lay out a plan for world domination. Historians have long denounced "The Protocols" as fake, the product not of a secret conclave of Jews but of the Tsarist secret police, who wanted to justify the Jews' persecution.

The documentary is an account of Levin's search to understand why "The Protocols" have had such staying power, why, even after they have been widely debunked, people persist in distributing and reading them. It is also about why anti-Semitism has been on the rise since Sept. 11.

"I was sensitive to it because I hadn't heard it before. Or if I had heard it before, it was so much on the fringe," Levin says. "Who would have thought that at the dawn of the 21st century we'd wake up in the Middle Ages?" He was referring to an age of renewed religious fanaticism in which secular people are often the targets.

Levin frequently appears in his film, interviewing and sometimes arguing with a variety of anti-Semites, philo-Semites, Jewish Semites and non-Jews who do not necessarily announce which side of the fence they're on, even after it becomes clear.

Enter Rabah.

A little history here. Rabah, publisher of the free Arab-language weekly The Arab Voice, printed excerpts of "The Protocols" in August and October 2002. He told the Herald News in 2002 that he published the fake document because a reporter submitted it and Rabah thought it would be educational for the newspaper's readers.

Several years later, he tells Levin in the film that he believes "The Protocols" are fake. "The problem is I don't write it, I just publish it to educate the people," Rabah says.

Rabah wrote a note at the bottom of the newspaper page on which the excerpts were printed, he says, stating they weren't true.

"I don't think that hate is just from the Muslims," he says in the film. "Many people in Europe and United States, they all believe in that."

At the end of the interview he says, "The Jews, they control everything."

Reached for comment about his words in the film, Rabah drew a distinction between Judaism, the religion, and Zionism, the political philosophy. He complained that Zionists "control" politicians, corporations and the media.

But let's not dwell just on our local guy, because the film is about much more than one publisher.

Levin, often donning a hip black leather jacket, also goes to the headquarters of the hate group the National Alliance, where he is told "The Protocols" will always sell. He's a guest on a radio show hosted by a white supremacist and gamely responds to callers.

He interviews inmates at New Jersey State Prison and tries to convince black prisoners that Jews were not responsible for the slave trade. He talks to Christian evangelists about Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ." He visits a gathering of Muslims in Sunset Park mourning the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, founder and leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

He also talks to a Holocaust survivor; a Kabbalah scholar; Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League; and Matisyahu, a Hasidic reggae singer.

There is no dearth of people who have something to say on the subject. The film includes clips from an Arabic-language movie version of "The Protocols" broadcast on Arab television, and from an interview with an Egyptian girl, 3 or 4 years old, who without pause recites slurs against Jews.

What worries Levin is the new shape of anti-Semitism, spread widely and easily by the Internet.

"It has blossomed in a way that is frightening," he says.

And not just anti-Semitism but all religious zealotry.

"Violence is blessed and sacred and hate can be holy. That is what scares me more," he says.

The documentary is well edited by Ken Eluto, and John Zorn's score alternates between serious and subtle tracks and what might pass for Middle Eastern lounge music.

Although Levin was shocked by the apparent flare-up of anti-Semitism after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, some might argue that hatred of Jews in some of its various permutations never went away, even in this country.

Levin is sometimes accompanied by his filmmaker father Al Levin, who appears almost like Virgil to his son's Dante, leading Marc through the family's past and accompanying him on interviews.

"Certainly what we talked about when we were putting the film together was it could be interesting to people to see two different generations dealing with the social reality," Al Levin says.

That is not how his son originally intended it. In fact, Marc Levin filmed his father more for personal reasons than to include him in the movie. But after the urging of colleagues to include other emotions besides hatred - because hatred and only hatred is too much to watch - Levin decided to insert scenes with his father, to show, in essence, a Jewish elder and his son.

This is his way of responding to the virulent anti-Semitism of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

"The Jewish elders, they've got the secret and it's passed on from elder to son," Levin says about the document. "My father is my elder. What secrets is he passing to me? What are the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the end?"

For Levin the secrets are the love between father and son. And without giving away too much, they are about what his grandfather used to say: "Go do good."

Reach Andrea Gurwitt at (973) 569-7159 or



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