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Thursday, December 1, 2022

OPINION:

On Thursday, December 1, Netflix will start streaming a blood libel.

The Jordanian film Farha focuses on the experiences of a young girl during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The protagonist, Farha, spends much of the movie watching as fictionalized, heartless Israeli soldiers brutalize Palestinian families, viciously killing men, women and children in cold blood. There is of course no documentation (Israeli, British, or Arab,) of any of the events in the film because they never actually happened; at the very least the film admits that it is ‘dramatized’ and does not pretend to be factual. But that does not mean it will not have an outsized impact on anti-Jewish hate and violence. Many people will watch the movie; few will stop to wonder if perhaps the whole thing was made up.  


And it is not just the demonizing, dehumanizing, and deceitful depictions of the ‘Jewish soldiers’ that are problematic. The movie is meant to depict the events of the ‘nakba’- a fanciful retelling of the 1948 war in which the would-be genocidal Arab armies failed to destroy a newborn Jewish state (and kill all its inhabitants in the process), along with those who tried to help them do it are romantically recast as the helpless victims of a horrible catastrophe. The foundational myth of forced displacement is at the root of much of modern anti-Zionism, and it is demonstrably false. There are primary sources- from the Arab side- attesting to the fact that the vast majority of Arabs who left their homes did so voluntarily, or under orders from the invading, not the Israeli, armed forces. Facts do matter, even when the people you are lying about are Jewish, and the entire story at the heart of this film is a lie.

Here are some things that the movie will not tell you: From the moment the two-state solution was announced, the Jewish community consistently called for peace and cooperation with its Arab neighbors. Instead, five Arab armies immediately launched a war of extermination against them- and urged the Palestinian Arabs to help their cause by getting out of their way. Many of them did just that, confident that the combined power of the Jordanian, Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese, and Egyptian armies would make quick work of the Jews and then they would come home.

The contemporary accounts of these orders to leave come from a variety of Arab sources. For example, the Jordanian newspaper Filastin reported that “The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies.”  A refugee quoted in another Jordanian newspaper, Ad Difaa, explained: “The Arab government told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in.” In the words of Haled al Azm, the Prime Minister of Syria during the war, “Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. Only a few months separated our call to them to leave and our appeal to the United Nations to resolve on their return.”

The nakba myth removes all these facts- along with the Arab rejection of the UN Partition Plan; the additional wars designed to push the Jews into the sea; and the uncomfortable truth that an approximately equal number of Jews in Arab nations were forcefully expelled from their homes and absorbed into Israel. In its place, it presents a fabricated fairy tale that continues to serve as an open justification for killing Jews. The statements over time of Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, are a case study in the development of nakba mythology and the dangers it presents. 

In 1976, when he was the PLO spokesman, Abbas told Falastin a-Thaura (the PLO’s official weekly publication) that “The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny but, instead, they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live.” (emphasis added). By 2011, however, his historical memory had faded in direct proportion to the rising popularity of the nakba story, so he now believed “Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened.” This year, he used the commemoration of the ‘nakbah’ as an excuse to reaffirm and justify his government’s ongoing commitment to ‘pay for slay’- the Palestinian Authority policy under which terrorists who kill Israeli or American citizens are rewarded monetarily.

This is not a matter of perspective or worldview. A movie that malevolently depicts Israeli forces murdering defenseless Arab children at the founding of the State in order to feed the nakba mythology is nothing short of a modern blood libel. The nakba itself is a prime example of how dangerous lies, spun over time, eventually give license for rhetoric to turn into deadly violence.

In a world of rising antisemitism, demonstrably tied to anti-Zionism, it is dangerous and disgusting for Netflix to feed false and anti-Jewish information to the masses by giving a film like this a platform.

  • Dr. Mark Goldfeder is an international lawyer and Director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center


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