‘Documentary’ Gives a Window into Pathological Antisemitism Behind Much Anti-Israel Activism
Earlier this month, The Atlantic posted a short film in its video section promoting the claim that Israel is “behind every regional war that’s happened in the last 70 years.”
The film, styled a “documentary,” is titled I Signed the Petition, and Now I’m Freaking Out, written by Mahdi Fleifel and produced by Nakba Filmworks. Incredibly, even days after an article about this was published on CAMERA’s site, and after some of CAMERA’s members and others contacted Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg, the film remains online with no disclaimer.
The introduction to the video, written by Atlantic film curator Emily Buder, relays that it captures an actual conversation between filmmaker Fleifel and a friend named Faris, who lives in the UK. The film begins with Fleifel calling his friend Faris, and waking him up due to the time difference between their locations; we are treated to overhearing Faris in the bathroom early in the film.
Gritty shots of what is presumably Fleifel’s apartment are interspersed with black and white footage — of what exactly, we don’t know — as well as more modern protest scenes and shots of desolate streets and houses. The audio of the conversation plays over these scenes, and we never see images of either Fleifel or Faris. It’s all very artsy.
The subject of the call, and the backdrop for the baseless accusations, is Fleifel’s anxiety over having signed a petition asking the band Radiohead to cancel a concert in Israel. He is afraid that, having signed the petition, he will be “red-flagged” and not allowed into what he refers to as “Palestine” in the future.
The film debates and ultimately promotes the cultural boycott of Israel — and of course the de rigueur false comparison of Israel with South Africa, without which the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement would not have much to go on.
The Atlantic’s Buder claims, “Ultimately, [Fleifel and Faris’s] anxiety, frustration, and pain are a window into the meaning of Palestinian identity in today’s world.” In fact, however, the film gives us a window into the pathological antisemitism that is behind much anti-Israel activism.
It doesn’t take long for the conversation to veer into conspiracy theory territory. At about three minutes in, Faris says, “The program of ethnic cleansing is carrying on, and the Israelis keep telling us openly that the job will be finished at some point, including all the Palestinians inside Israel and everywhere else.”
The claim that Israel is engaging in ethnic cleansing, while baseless, is a common one in anti-Israel circles and a staple of the antisemitic BDS movement. Faris, however, takes the canard a step further, claiming that Israel is — openly — planning to ethnically cleanse Palestinians not only in Israel, but also “everywhere else.” (How Israel plans to accomplish such a feat, he doesn’t say.)
As noted above, however, it gets worse. Closer to the end, Fleifel wonders why he “poke[d] the bear,” with the “bear” obviously being a metaphor for Israel. Faris then tells him, “The bear is behind every regional war that’s happened in the last 70 years, pushing a sectarian agenda. The bear has got you so f***ed, that you don’t know left from right.”
Really? Israel is behind the civil war in Syria? Behind Iran and Saudi Arabia’s proxy war in Yemen? Behind Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait?
The claim is delusional — it’s simply another unhinged conspiracy theory. Yet this is what drives Fleifel and his friend Faris to ask the band Radiohead to boycott Israel. What drives The Atlantic, whose editor-in-chief surely knows better, to promote such drivel is still unknown.
Karen Bekker is the Assistant Director in the International Letter-Writing Group at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.