- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

“Protocols of Zion” could probably use a different title. It never emerges as a systematic account of the infamous czarist forgery known as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which built on earlier anti-Semitic polemics of French and German origin, all intent on preserving the myth that Jews had contrived a master plan of world domination.

The movie was prompted by an allusion to the screed, mentioned in passing to filmmaker Marc Levin, a New Yorker in his early 50s, by an immigrant cab driver who repeated the libel cwhat no Jews had died during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, having been warned in advance by international Jewry. As gilt-edged historical authority, the cabbie referred Mr. Levin to “The Protocols.”

It’s not until the final segment of the movie that the filmmaker, who has specialized in topical documentaries, hits on a simple and eloquent way of refuting the specific big anti-Semitic lie of September 11. He interviews a medical examiner, also an assistant cantor at a synagogue in the Gramercy Park neighborhood, who has been preoccupied with the unfinished job of identifying the remains of World Trade Center victims. Although the city does not classify the deceased by religion, this insider confidently estimates Jewish victims in the hundreds, since “I worked with their families and attended their funerals.”

Mr. Levin also talks with the widow of one of the victims, still pregnant with her first child on the day her husband perished. At this point you rather wish Mr. Levin had devoted the entire movie to such testimony. Appeasing people who need to believe in malicious delusions would be an exercise in futility, but as September 11 recedes into the past and gets shrugged aside by antiwar and anti-Bush polemicists, it would be reassuring to know that there’s a centrally located archive teeming with testimony inconvenient for either confirmed or opportunistic anti-Semites.

Marc Levin inserts himself in “Protocols” as conspicuously as Michael Moore in pursuit of corporate or political bogeymen. The effect isn’t as one-sided, since Mr. Levin likes to mix it up with subjects he should profoundly distrust, in the interest of getting prejudice and hate out in the open.

He does not appear to be a virtuoso at argumentative dialoguing. He interviews a West Virginia distributor of Nazi literature and regalia who also handles “The Protocols” ($9.95 a volume). He shares airtime and video time of his own with a right-wing conspiracy monger from the Middle West who still had a radio talk show at the time the film was being compiled. He incites hostility in the “Arab Street,” a Muslim immigrant neighborhood in Paterson, N.J. He incorporates a couple of incriminating episodes from a notorious Egyptian miniseries based on “The Protocols” — including the ritual slaughter of a child.

Mr. Levin mentions that there’s a school of thought, exemplified by the Anti-Defamation League, that believes it’s unwise to respond to anti-Semitic propaganda on the ground that doing so abets the contagion. Better to act as if such provocation doesn’t merit a reply. “Protocols” reflects a haphazard, knee-jerk-liberal, let’s-have-it-out school, arguably justified by some useful information and cautionary glimpses beneath anti-Semitic rocks. At the same time, Mr. Levin invites the suspicion that he overestimates the chances of befriending or disarming sworn enemies.

**

TITLE: “Protocols of Zion”

RATING: No MPAA rating (adult subject matter, concerned with anti-Semitism past and present; occasional profanity and ethnic slurs)

CREDITS: Produced and directed by Marc Levin. Cinematography by Mark Bezarin. Sound by David Hocs. Music by John Zorn.

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

WEB SITE: www.thinkfilm.com/

protocolsofzion

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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