For More Than a Century, Cinema Has Portrayed Jewish Soldiers as Cowardly, or Worse

Created during World War II, Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) is the rough equivalent of the American Delta Force or Navy Seals. A recent BBC miniseries, SAS: Rogue Heroes, offers a fictionalized version of its creation and operations in Africa in 1941. Benjamin Vos notes that the show follows a long line of war movies that depict Jews as unmartial and unmanly:

SAS Rogue Heroes features one Jewish character, the fictional French soldier Halévy. Unlike the rangy, fit SAS men, he is small and portly, can’t mount a truck without help, is bullied, and almost flunks a test of bravery. While his comrades seem inherently warlike, Halévy fights specifically to avenge his deported family. His graduation to bravery necessitates his own death, as he immolates the traitor Brückner, himself, and others in an explosion.

Halévy first appears when, among a group of soldiers standing to attention, he sneezes and is laughed at. Halévy’s humiliation, unsoldierly reticence, moral preoccupation, and self-sacrifice continue a grisly dramatic tradition of fictional Jewish soldiers being bumbling, cowardly, or otherwise unfit to fight. The lucky ones die quickly.

This comic-relief role for Jewish soldiers has been a constant for well over a century. In Cohen Saves the Flag (1912), two Jews at Gettysburg put romantic rivalry above the interests of the Union Army. The running joke about lascivious and cowardly Private Lipinsky in What Price Glory? (1926) is the size of his nose.

Vos traces these tropes in films over the decades, and also notes some even more insidious stereotypes—which persist into the 21st century—of Jews as treacherous or lecherous. In other movies, their deaths provide salvation for their Gentile comrades:

Stalag 17 (1953) is a tense tale of betrayal among angry, violent POWs, within which Harry Shapiro is unreliable, vulgar, and indebted—and lusts after female Russian prisoners. . . . Corporal Gabby Gordon in Objective, Burma! (1945) is a standard-issue daft Jewish soldier. In the film, a Lt. Jacobs is tortured by the Japanese but passes on a vital message before dying. Jews [tend to] die to impart benefit to other characters or even moral instruction to viewers. In The Deep Six (1958), Frenchy Shapiro dies after rescuing his Quaker friend from Japanese soldiers. More significantly, Anzio (1968) features licentious Corporal Rabinoff who dies while drawing German fire from his non-Jewish comrades. Rabinoff’s death inspires a moral epiphany in a cynical war journalist.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Film, Jews in the military

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy