World War Zionism?

A wall seems pretty reasonable to me

A wall seems pretty reasonable to me

I have to say, I’m fascinated by the response to the Israeli sequences in World War Z. The anti-Israel set is really freaking out about the implications of those scenes while the pro-Israel set is cautiously embracing the picture. (Some spoilers below.)

As I noted in my review, the film is, on the whole, something of a mess. For the most part it never really lives up to its name—we globe hop, but the sequences set in South Korea and Wales could just as easily have been set anywhere else given the lack of local color. It almost never feels like a “world war.”

The one exception is the 20 or 30 minutes we spend in Israel. It actually feels like we’re in the Middle East (though the film wasn’t shot in Israel) and the shots of the endless zombie hordes that pour into the country—toppling buses and mounting walls through sheer mass—are the only sequences that feel particularly unique.

But maybe I just liked this sequence because I’m a perfidious Zionist.

Some are arguing that the wall Israel builds to keep out the zombie menace is a not-so-oblique reference to the security wall that Israel built to keep out the terrorist menace emanating from the Palestinian territories. It’s, like, justifying apartheid or something! As a writer over at Mondoweiss put it:

Not only is Israel’s fanatical Wall Building proven to be justified, against the hordes of undead invaders, and not only are Jewish victimizations paraded to justify the aggrandizement of Israeli military prowess, but it’s Israel’s supposed humanism, and multicultural inclusiveness, which in the end weakens the fragile post-apocalyptic state and allows the zombies to overrun everything. Its pretty heady stuff.

The horror! (As an aside, you should really read the whole Mondoweiss review—and the comments—if you want some full-on crazy.) An “Angry Arab” reader had this to say:

I just watched this film and I clearly had no idea what I was walking into. It went from being an action film into Zionism pornography an hour into the film.  The film even justifies the Apartheid Wall and the institution of checkpoints which treat people like cattle as saving the world from zombies!

Al Jazeera is also nonplussed by the film’s daring to point out that walls help serve as an impediment to those who would harm you:

In the movie, an Israeli intelligence officer explains that his country built a barrier to keep zombies out. Many online drew parallels between the fictitious barrier and the separation wall that Israel built in the West Bank, which was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.

Over at the New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg says that we should applaud the film’s passing attempt at teaching us a valuable lesson about global warming: 

It’s clear that the movie started out as an earnest attempt to use the zombie-apocalypse trope as a metaphor for the need to deal with looming dangers like global warming and uncontrolled pandemics through concerted international action. Nothing wrong with that! On the contrary, it’s the kind of traditional Hollywood-liberal “message” of which, in principle, one must heartily approve.*

But the details about Israel are slightly more alarming:

What do the Israelis do? They build a wall. But they’re basically humane, civilized people, so in Jerusalem, where we join them, they keep a gate open to let in the as-yet-uninfected un-undead—Palestinian Arabs, by the look of them. All goes well until some Palestinians already in the city start singing too lustily, and the massed zombies, also seemingly Palestinian, decide that they want in, too. … We are left to infer that everything probably would have still been O.K. if only the gates had been kept shut.

It’s worth noting that the decidedly pro-Israel John Podhoretz came to a similar conclusion:

What does this teach us? Simple. Warble a peace song and zombies will rise to see to your destruction. So maybe the truth is that World War Z is actually the most virulently anti-peacenik movie ever made! Brad Pitt wants you to come away from his $200 million movie with this one message: Singing “Kumbaya” will kill us all.

As J-Pod notes elsewhere, the film is “actually pretty dumb.” It’s unlikely that Pitt and company were making the anti-Kumbaya case on purpose. World War Z is simply remarkably confused and its message is remarkably muddled (just as the anti-drone strike message of Star Trek: Into Darkness was horribly muddled).

Still. The response the film has generated provides us an interesting insight into the way some people view the world.

*In the unlikely event he stumbles onto this post in the course of a vanity search, I’d like to direct Hertzberg to this quote from my post on conservative message movies:

“Utility is a treacherous standard in art,” Stanley Kauffman wrote in 1959 of Stanley Kramer’s anti-nuke issue picture On the Beach. “The film must stand or fall by its effect on the viewer, whether he is American or Russian or Tasmanian; and that effect, as detailed above, is seriously qualified by mediocrities of writing, acting, and direction.”