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November 27, 1981 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-11-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, November 21, 19131 29

Christian Viewer Finds TV Movie 'Skokie' Unsatisfactory

By FRANKLIN LITTELL

National Institute
on the Holocaust

PHILADELPHIA — In
spite of some great acting,
especially by Danny Kaye,
the recent TV program
:'Skokie" was profoundly
unsatisfactory. And the at-
tempt to hook up ACLU
public relations efforts with
it was, although not as
obscene as the constant ad-
vertising interruptions in
the showing itself, out of or-
der.
First, for dramatic and
moving moments the show
rates an "A." But second, for
making sense as a whole the
show rates an "F." The basic
defect was one that becomes
more and more dangerous:
to make a "Jewish issue" of
something that rightly in-
volves a larger consti-
tuency.
The deliberate offense
tendered the survivors in
Skokie centered on the fact
that they were Jews, and
that the misguided and doc-
trinaire young idealist who
represented Collins for
the ACLU was a Jew. But
that is only the occasion of
the offense, not the sub-
stance of it so far as life and
liberty in America is con-
cerned.

The religious and fami-
lial issue of the Holocaust
is a basic matter, suitable
for religious com-
munities and families to
deal with. The legal issue
is a public matter, and
-every loyal American
should be aroused when
a group of American citi-
zens is threatened in life
and liberty and privacy.

If America has reached
the point where only Jews
are concerned about Jews,
we had all better start look-
ing at flight schedules.
So far as law is concerned,
the KKK bullyboys
threatening a fishing com-
munity of Vietnamese on
the Texas coast with
Thompson submachine
guns and, Garand auto-
matics is just as much an
issue as American Nazis'
threat to decent citizens in
Skokie, Ill.
The TV show muddied the
waters on this issue, and left
the impression that the al-
ternatives were only sub-
mission to a 19th Century
fundamentalist interpreta-
tion of the First Amend-
ment or accepting and as-
serting one's Jewish iden-
tity.

Danny Kaye tried to
pull things together at the
end by stoutly affirming,
"At least this time we we-
ren't killed." True: but no
thanks to the American
Nazis and their sym-
pathizers, and no thanks
to the American Civil
Liberties Union.

There was only one to-
tally false set of statements
in the film, and they were
made by the ACLU repre-
sentative from New York. It
is not true that the Weimar
Republic deliberately failed
to uphold the rights of its
citizens. It is not true that
justice failed in the Weimar
Republic because the judges
were all Nazi sympathizers.

Even in the Third Reich_
the Nazis had to set up a
separate line of "Peoples'
Courts" because with all
their power and manipula-
tion they still could not to-
tally corrupt the regular
courts.
What failed in the
Weimar Republic is pre-
cisely what failed in the TV
show. The situation was
allowed to develop where
the Jews were pitted
against the bullyboys. Al-
though there was reference
in the show to the concern of
Jews and Christians, and
certainly the mayor and the
police chief portrayed ad-
mirable roles as gentiles,
there was no reference to
the extensive mobilization
of church action by the
Chicago Church Federation
and the association of
Catholic nuns.

There was no reference
to the fact that the Na-
tional Conference of
Christians and Jews sent
a top officer into the area
(a Disciples of Christ
minister), and that he had
5,000 church members
ready to march with the
Jewish community if it
came to marching and
counter-marching.

The only alternative por-
trayed to the bullyboys was
Jewish, apart from the town
officials — except of course
for the other gang of
roughnecks mobilized by
the doctrinaire left-wingers
from the city. And this gang
was used to push the picture
of Jewish resistance to the
extreme, thereby discredit-
ing the opposition as a mob
or potential mob.
And this too was false— a
false portrayal which was
substantively more damag-
ing than the false state-
ments about conditions in
the Weimar Republic.
In pre-Nazi Germany the
abuse and threat to the

Jews was also treated as a
Jewish issue. The doc-
trinaire "liberals" recited
mindlessly their slogans
about "freedom of speech,"
and the doctrinaire lawyers
and judges codified a false
freedom into a suicide pact.

their people.

If the day comes, God
forbid, when Jewish citi-
zens can only count on
Jewish defense organiza-
tions, then they will de-
serve center stage. Now

The Jewish defense
also put its trust in the
"rule of law," not sensing
and acting upon the real
truth: that law_ was
breaking down. One
could wish that doc-
trinaire generalizations
might, in concrete situa-
tions, be chastened by
common sense. But that
didn't happen in the
Weimar Republic, and it
is slipping badly today in
America.

Why are legal fundamen-
talists so enraptured of slo-
gans and so indifferent to
elemental justice? The
Weimar Republic was de-
stroyed not only by overt
threats by terrorists. It was
destroyed by infiltrators
and fifth columnists who
weakened the nerve of gov-
ernment. And it was de-
stroyed by self-styled
champions of freedom who
floated with sovereign indif-
ference above the anxieties
of other people.
What was different in
Skokie was that the whole
community responded in a
way worthy of Americans.
And what was additionally
important was that Ameri-
can Christians responded
differently from the way
German Christians re-
sponded in the Weimar
days. That needs to be
brought out, and the TV
show failed to do it.
It remained stuck in the
old picture of the Jews
against their enemies,
standing virtually alone. To
this false picture the Jewish
defense organizations con-
tributed, eager as they were
to be seen as champions of

in America, however, it
would help if they would
think about the best de-
fense for all of America's
loyal citizens.

Skokie was not a Jewish
issue, so far as the law of the

land is concerned. It was an
American issue. To date, so
far as real justice is con-
cerned we are still mired in
the polarities that de-
stroyed the Weimar Repub-
lic.

ASSOCIATION OF REFORM
ZIONISTS OF AMERICA
(ARZA)

presents

DR. NISSIM ELIAD

Chairman of the Israel Movement for

Progressive Judaism, former secretary general

of the Independent Liberal Party

and member of the Knesset for eleven years.

Tuesday, December 1st

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