Why Do They Love to Hate Us?

Mel Gibson … Renaissance man?

Maybe, if you believe that there's been a renaissance of anti-Semitic rancor bound to a bias so deep, it's no wonder that the once hero-worshiped as Mel and Michael Richards go off the deep end without seeing the diving board crumple below them.

But is this a new New Year's resolution of the hate-monger, to let it happen, then apologize profusely when it's much too late? Has Rodney King's "Can't we all just get along?" really devolved into Gibson's dictum of "Get the hell over it"?

"Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century: The Resurgence" is a timeless cautionary tale about those who throw caution — and good judgment — to the wind, caught up in the breeze of bigotry.

The daring documentary, directed/written/produced by Emmy Award-filmmaker Andrew Goldberg, goes beyond American borders to where hatred borders on the incredible: The Middle East provides no middle ground for Jewish jeers and junked dreams of peace. It is all a piece of the aching action that is Goldberg's gold-standard of a film, airing Jan. 8, at 10 p.m., on WHYY-TV12.

Who do you trust? The Pew Charitable Trusts seem a likely ally for unalloyed facts. And in a poll it released just months ago, results showed that 97 percent — just a few tossed stones and tirades from 100 percent — of Jordanians and Egyptians have "unfavorable opinions of Jews."

How has a simple slogan segued locally from "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania" to the international slanders of "Watch Your Step, Mister" in the Middle East?

Let's look at the tape: All one has to do is tune in to Arab TV, and turn on to the topic as a 30-part miniseries takes some serious shots at Jews and their "responsibility" for blood libel.

Rated PG for Prejudice on the Gallop? It is the most frightening horror movie since "Saw" was last seen, with ugly myths ripped bloody from the soul of lies.

Roots Lie Elsewhere
Why do they love to hate us?

Ironically, says Goldberg, owner of Two Cat Productions, one should look to history for some meaningful clauses in the contract against the Jews: "America sees the Mideast as one big single unit and threat to the West."

But examine the archives carefully, and see the arc of hate and "anti-Semitism goes back to Europe and Russia," he adds.

Not that this means Mideasterners put out the peace pipe once they see Jews. "Collectively, they hate them," according to Goldberg, but it is the aggregate view that aggravates chances for people to get to know each other better.

"A typical Middle Eastern person is considered an anti-Semite; he dislikes Jews, is afraid of them. But this doesn't mean that if they met, he would start punching" or hurting the Jew standing in front of him.

Such a notion punches up the disarming power of this documentary, hosted by Judy Woodruff. Yet in examining the disturbing trend of anti-Semitic resurgence worldwide, Goldberg has deracinated the race issue to effect.

Is it good for the Jews? Never has been. "Resurgence … it never went away," says the filmmaker of anti-Semitism, well familiar with hate on a global scale. (Goldberg previously won acclaim for "The Armenian Genocide.")

"But it's come back with momentum never seen before."

Rarely discussed by other documentaries, but talked about onscreen here, is "the blurring of lines between Israel and Jews."

And the blurring has barbs to it: "It is very unsettling to see so many people hate Jews so much."

But, in a way, America has lucked out, "not having the anti-Semitism that has permeated Europe and the Mideast."

Proudly Jewish, Goldberg is also proud to note that "we had people from the right, middle and left" on camera offer their perspectives.

And while he distances himself from the title of Jewish journalist — he does not let his own upbringing overshadow his work — the Emmy Award-winning documentarian of "A Yiddish World Remembered" hopes that hatred will be a long and distant memory one day.

In the meantime, he's exploring the gold standard of cities, Jerusalem, in his next film.

"It is the celebration of the city, getting away from politics, [focusing on] its beauty and cultural" diversity.

And if he uses its special God-given light to kindle an understanding of Jerusalem, it is really no different from what he hopes to do with his current PBS project — shed light, too, but on an evil that has dogged mankind since the dawn of Judaism.


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