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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 8, 2019 PAGE 7A scar winner By Lior Zaltzman When "Green Book" won the Academy Award for best movie, arguably the most coveted prize of the ceremony, "BlacKkKlans- man" and "Do The Right Thing" director Spike Lee stormed to the back of the auditorium and kept his back turned for the entire speech. The gesture culminated a great controversy around the movie, which has been sweeping the awards this season despite some heavy consternation. "Green Book" has been accused of having a white savior complex, whitewashing racism and being inaccurate to the true story it's based on, among other things. The movie depicts Antho- ny "Lip" Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen, who is hired to drive around Don Shirley, played by MahershalaAli (who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe for the role), a virtuoso African-American jazz pianist, as he plays clubs By Ben Sales NEW YORK (JTA)--An American Orthodox Jewish group is defending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to work with a far-right political party. It is the first statement by a major American Jew- ish organization defending Netanyahu's decision. Last week, Netanyahu orchestrated an agreement between the ex- tremist Jewish Power and Jew- ish Home, a religious Zionist party. The mergerwillincrease the united party's chances of gaining enough votes to enter Knesset, Israel's parliament. An array of centrist and lib- eral American Jewish groups and religious movements has criticized the merger as giving legitimacy to a fringe, racist movement. But the National Council of Young Israel, a traditionalist Orthodox association of 175 synagogues that tends to take hawkish stances on Israeli issues, defended the prime minister's actions as a matter of political calculus. Young Israel also noted that the Israeli Supreme Court said in 2015 that a Jewish Power candidate should not be barred from running because of the party's platform. "Prime Minister Netanyahu acted to get right-wing parties to merge in order to meet the threshold necessary to secure a victory in the election," read a statement Monday by Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "We un- derstand what Prime Minister Netanyahu did, and he did it to have ministers of the national religious and national union parties in his coalition." The statement stands in contrast to an alphabet soup of major Jewish groups that have condemned Jewish Power-- in 1962's racist and segregated American South. The film was co-written by Vallenlonga's son and largely focuses on his perspec- tive-with which Shirley's family took great issue. The Shirley family claims that they weren't contacted or interviewed as preparation for the film, and subsequently the film is told only from the perspective of white people. Looking at the team behind the movie, it doesn't seem like a wild accusation: https://twitter.com/ira/sta- tus/1099885809748996097 And not only that, Shirley's family has argued that the movie is full of inaccuracies, going as far as calling it a "symphony of lies." In fact, in their acceptance speech, the filmmakers never even thanked Dr. Shirley. Yet I think it's fair to say that some people still don't understand why this movie riles so many people. But one man, Peter Birkenhead, has found the perfect analogy to explain the controversy to those who still don't get it. from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to the American Jewish Com- mittee to the Anti-Defamation League. In a rare instance of criticism of a sitting prime minister, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Orga- nizations, called the political deal "very disturbing." "He obviously has some political calculation that drove him to it, but politics can't dictate everything," Hoenlein told The Associated Press, referring to Netanyahu. "You have to take into consid- eration all of the ramifications and all of the concerns." With Netanyahu's interven- tion, Jewish Home agreed to include on its slate in April's elections Michael Ben-Aft and Itamar Ben-Gvir, self- professed followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated the expulsion of the Palestinians from territories controlled by Israel and a near theocratic state of the Jews. Ne- tanyahu would need the sup- port of successful right-wing parties in addition to his own Likud to form a government. The Young Israel statement likened Netanyahu's decision to the 1993 vote on the so- called Oslo II accords, when a left-wing government relied on votes from Arab-Israeli political parties to secure pas- sage of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. That argument echoes one made Saturday by Netanyahu himself on Twitter. "Such hypocrisy and double standards from the left," Netanyahu wrote. "They con- demn a bloc on the right with right wing parties while the left worked to bring extrem- ist Islamists into Knesset to create a bloc The height of absurdity." The Zionist Organization of America, a right-wing pro- Israel group, also called the Imagine, he wrote on Facebook in a post that's now been shared 1.4K times and counting, if a new movie came out about Anne Frank, but that it was focused on the experience and the bravery of one of her saviors, Miep Geis. That instead of the horror Anne and her family went through, the movie focused on"Geis's dawning realization that, since Anne is so well mannered and refined and cultured, perhaps not every Jew is a sniveling, greedy, termite secretly planning to destroy civilization." Feels wrong, right? Or imagine, Birkenhead urges, that the movie was filled with inaccuracies and poorly researched. What if the people making this hy- pothetical Anne Frank movie "never get in touch with any of Anne Frank's descendants, or even the Anne Frank mu- seum in Amsterdam. They don't do much research at all." Birkenhead's post (which really should be read in full) also reminds us that the tea- condemnations of Netanyahu hypocritical. The ZOA state- ment did not discuss the ac- tual positions of Jewish Power, except to say at one point that its critics were engaging in "Nazi-name-calling against Jewish candidates." "It is also mystifying that these Jewish-American groups condemned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for encouraging small right-wing Israeli parties to merge, so that Israeli voters on the right are not disenfranchised," the ZOA statement reads, telling otherAmerican Jewish groups to "direct their condemna- tion to those who oppose the State of Israel, and are truly racist and reprehensible, and a danger to the Jewish people and the Jewish State." The Young Israel statement also contrasts with statements condemning Jewish Power from the Reform and Conser- vative Jewish movements. In Israel, the Modern Orthodox leader Benny Lau condemned the merger, calling it "a vote for the racism of Kahane," The Jerusalem Post reported. Also, 80 rabbis signed onto a statement by Torat Chayim, an international association of Modern Orthodox Zionist Rabbis, saying that bringing Jewish Power into the govern- ment is "truly a lamentable failure" by Netanyahu. JTA has reached out to the Orthodox Union and Rab- binical Council of America for comment on the issue. RCA responded that it doesn't comment on Israeli politics. Two Democratic Jewish groups, the Jewish Demo- cratic Council of America and Democratic Majority for Israel, both spoke out against bringing Jewish Power into a potential coalition. The Re- publican Jewish Coalition said it has a longstanding policy of not commenting on internal Israeli politics. son "Green Book" is drawing so much anger is that it's not an outlier, but yet another film in a continuum of films, like "Driving Miss Daisy," which depictthe same dynam- ics and celebrate white saviors, created from the perspective of white people. Speaking of "Driving Miss Daisy," if you still need more clarity on that pop culture legacy, consider listening to this episode of the incredible New York Times podcast "The Daily" (hosted by a super talented member of the tribe, Michael Barbaro) that explores the problem- atic movie. You might think that Birkenhead's comparison and examples are a little exagger- ated; they are not. Racism is a scourge that would've been overcome if it were simply about white people just meet- ing people of color and getting along with them. A narrative that applauds a white person for overcoming his personal racism, and that skims and ignores what it means to live with racism every day, is crafted to make white people feel good and comfortable instead of thinking how they may or may not contribute to racism. You know the saying "some of my best friends are black/ Jewish/gay" from someone Collage by Lior Zaltzman/JTA who then goes ahead and expresses a racist or bigoted belief? It's entirely possible for white people to work for, or have people of color, work for them, or even have them as friends, and yet still benefit from systemic racism and hold racist beliefs. One can enjoy "Green Book"--see itas awell-crafted movie with a talented cast. But it's important to think twice about the good feeling it leaves you with, especially if you are a white person watching the movie. Maybe compliment it afterward with some Spike Lee movies. This article originally ap- peared on Alma.