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February 18, 2020 1:38 pm

New Film Explores the ‘Virus’ of Global Antisemitism

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Jean-Luc Slakmon, who was taken hostage in a kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015. Photo: Still image from ‘Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations.’

Why has the virus of antisemitism endured so long and spread so far? “It is because of its power to adapt and deceive,” concludes director Andrew Goldberg.

His new film “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations” adopts a comparative approach. It canvases the globe and examines antisemitism among the far-right fringe in America, the far-right government in Hungary, the far-left in the United Kingdom and Islamic radicals in France. 

“Of its mutations, this is the story of four. It could have been 4,000,” Goldberg told The Algemeiner.

The film sets out to interview antisemites, victims, politicians and commentators, among others.  

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Goldberg was spurred a few years ago to begin making a film about antisemitism after learning about the defacement of two cemeteries in the US.  “This is a conversation that I thought we needed to have,” he said.

The film opens with audio of the 911 calls in Pittsburgh during the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who survived the massacre, later said, “Many are surprised it took so long before there was a shooting at a synagogue. I think it was inevitable that something like this was going to happen.”

In the film, former President Bill Clinton spoke of the promotion of racism, religious bigotry and paranoia: “If you do it long enough, you’ll pick up someone eventually crazy enough to do what was done in Pittsburgh.”

The film interviews a man who conducts defense training in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

There is one scene where a local rabbi shows a prayer book where a bullet cut through the name of God. 

After the segment on America, the next stop on the film’s odyssey is Hungary. There, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has waged a campaign against George Soros, depicting him as a wealthy bogeyman seeking to have Muslim immigrants to overrun the country. Some depictions depict a laughing Soros, showing a big nose, reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. 

In the film, President Clinton said, “If you are driven by your hatreds of other people because of faith or race, then you’re a walking target for every scoundrel that wants to use your anxiety and anger to get power. Most of the people who inflame all this know better. They do it because it works.”

After Hungary, the film turns to the UK. It shows MP Luciana Berger saying there was a time when leftists once actively confronted antisemitism. “Within the Labour Party, antisemitism is more commonplace, more conspicuous and more corrosive than before,” she said, with Jews often conflated with Israel and discussions of capitalism.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “Some of this leftist position comes from ignorance. Some comes from longstanding political views, but a lot of it is just people getting one side of the story around Israel, through not seeing a more balanced picture.”

When the film finally gets to France, the viewer meets Jean-Luc Slakmon, a survivor of a hostage standoff with a terrorist in a kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015. He is emotionally scarred from the ordeal and is taking self-defense classes.

The film recounts several notorious incidents in France involving terrorism. One young man was abducted in 2006 under the assumption that since he was a Jew his family had money and could pay a ransom.

Gunther Jikeli of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism estimated that 75% of antisemitic occurrences in France went unreported. 

At one point, the film offers a primer of “A Quick History of Jews Being Blamed for Things.” It lists the death of Jesus, the Black Plague, the kidnapping and killing Christian children, creating capitalism and running the media.  One of the more outlandish is that the Rothschilds control the weather, and therefore the Jews are the cause of global warming. 

Goldberg’s previous films “Jerusalem: Center of the World” and “The Armenian Genocide” aired on PBS.

“Antisemitism doesn’t get the media attention it deserves,” Goldberg told The Algemeiner.  He said that Jews were among the first communities targeted by hate groups. 

In the film, commentator George Will noted, “It’s been well said that in a healthy society that has problems, people ask, ‘What did we do to cause this?’ In an unhealthy society that has problems, they say, ‘Who did this to us?’ and the Jews are always a candidate.”

“Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations” will premiere in New York on Feb. 21 and later expand to more theaters in cities across the US.

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