The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman has recommended the Quentin Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds for an Academy Award, describing the film as “[p]utting a new twist on the Holocaust genre for a new time and a new audience.” Foxman calls the film “entertaining, yet thought-provoking” and said he hopes that “the millions who see it will understand the horrors of the Holocaust.”
Certainly Tarantino has done an admirable job of portraying the evil of the Nazis; however, without impugning Mr. Foxman’s reputation as a film critic, we can think of a few reasons why Basterds is not the “good for the Jews” movie of the year:
• At a time when Israel is facing libelous accusations of war crimes for its actions in Gaza, Basterds portrays a unit of Jewish soldiers as avenging murderers who gleefully discard niceties like the Geneva Conventions in slaughtering Nazis. So much for “purity of arms.”
• Revenge fantasies are the fantasies of the weak. The Jews of the shtetl invented the golem to wage mythical war with their oppressors; Jewish comic book artists created superheroes to win the battles they were losing in Brooklyn and their relatives were losing in Auschwitz. Tarantino isn’t Jewish, but in creating his Jewish avengers, he risks both underlining the actual futility of Jewish resistance in World War II, and validating the accusation that Jews were led like sheep to slaughter.
• Doesn’t alternate history falsify history as much as inaccurate history? Basterds is at least two movies — a terrifyingly realistic portrait of a Nazi Jew hunter and his cat and mouse games with his victims, and a cartoonish fantasy about a successful plot to assassinate Hitler and his henchmen. Does the “new audience” Foxman writes about know enough about WWII to separate the real from the fantastical?
• Would Mr. Foxman have been quite so enthusiastic if the same film had been made in Germany by a German director? We can just imagine the ADL press release: “While the director is to be praised for his clear anti-Nazi stance, his picture obscures the historical record of World War II and ignores, and thus threatens to trivialize, the real and insurmountable obstacles that prevented meaningful Jewish resistance to the Nazis’ Final Solution.”