In Defamation, director Yoav Shamir sets out to discover the realities of anti-Semitism as an identity issue. Is it an extant threat continually on the verge of coalescing into a second Holocaust? Or is it a scare tactic used by right-wing Zionists to discredit their critics? Most opinions fall in the gray area between two vastly different poles. Representing one end of the spectrum is Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League and ardent advocate of the theory that anti-Semitism is ubiquitous and requires constant vigilance to be kept in check. His foil in the debate is Norman Finkelstein, a controversial author, professor, and son of Holocaust survivors, who asserts a vast conspiracy orchestrated by Israel itself to undermine critics of its policy. Through Shamir's evenhanded lens, both men have moments of visionary clarity as well as unhinged ramblings. And they are only two voices in a cacophonous global debate.
Defamation brilliantly and humorously parses an overwhelming glut of contributions to a debate often muddied by misinformation, bias, and ulterior motives. For Shamir, this epic debate is symbolically waged over the malleable young minds of a group of Israeli high school students on their annual "March of the Living" pilgrimage to concentration camps in Poland. Their ultimate conclusions about the state and health of the anti-Semitism movement are, like his own, both shocking and wryly funny.