How Cowardice and Anti-Semitism Stopped One of the Earliest Anti-Nazi Films from Getting Made

In 1933, Herman Mankiewicz—a writer and producer with a successful career at MGM—authored a screenplay for a movie called The Mad Dog of Europe, set in Transylvania (an obvious stand-in for Germany) and focusing on two families, one Jewish and the other Christian. Deeply scarred by his service in World War I, a member of the latter family then falls under the influence of a deranged former housepainter named Adolf Mitler, and melodrama ensues. Mankiewicz teamed up with the producer Sam Jaffe to make the movie, but their efforts, which continued right up until 1939, were thwarted at every turn, as Sydney Ladensohn Stern recounts:

Although the studios’ top executives were almost all Jewish, they were well aware of anti-Semitism’s prevalence in American culture and the dangers it posed to them. While leaders in other industries were praised for fulfilling the American Dream, successful motion-picture business executives were routinely portrayed as ignorant, jumped-up former garment merchants—“pants pressers, delicatessen dealers, furriers, and penny showmen,” as Karl K. Kitchen wrote in Columbia, the official Knights of Columbus magazine. . . .

They were maligned as greedy capitalists whose sensational products corrupted wholesome Christian Americans, especially during a time when the Depression fueled so many resentments. They knew that if they depicted Nazi abuses, they risked being branded as warmongers, trying to pull the United States into a European problem to help their co-religionists.

Even as Mankiewicz and Jaffe had little luck finding backers, they soon encountered more active opponents, including Will Hays, the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA):

Hays summoned [Jaffe] and Mankiewicz to his office and accused them of greed: they were exploiting “a scarehead situation for the picture which, if made, might return them a tremendous profit while creating heavy losses for the industry.” Then he asked, even if they were to find a studio willing to rent them production facilities, how could they exhibit the film if all the major theaters refused them? . . .

As Jaffe set up an office and hired the playwright Lynn Root to work on the script, a number of Jewish organizations mobilized. They, too, wanted Americans informed about Hitler and the Nazis, but they wanted the word spread by non-Jewish messengers. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which had been organized in 1913 specifically to combat anti-Semitism, joined studio heads and the MPPDA in actively opposing the realization of Mad Dog. They feared it would provoke accusations of Jewish warmongering, and they worried that if it failed commercially, it would demonstrate American apathy to Hitler or even pave the way for pro-Nazi films.

Read more at Commentary

More about: ADL, American Jewish History, Anti-Semitism, Hollywood, Nazi Germany

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia