Shalom Belfast

This documentary, made by a Jewish-Israeli living in Northern Ireland, is a remarkable collection of perspectives on conflict and identity.

Ithamar Handelman Smith begins by investigating Unionist culture to find out why they identify so strongly with Israel. He finds it is because of their right-wing nationalism, and the similarity they see between criticism of Israel and criticism of militant Unionism in Northern Ireland. He then interviews Jews in Ireland – both people who were born into Jewish families, and people who have converted to Judaism who are also militantly pro-Israeli. Those born into Jewish families express hesitancy at the flying of Israeli flags by Unionists. Those converting or converted to Judaism express radical settler anti-Palestinian ideology, very far to the right of the journalist’s own stance on Israel. When he talks with Catholics that support Palestinian rights, he finds that it is always connected with a discourse of anti-oppression, although he never actually comments on or recognizes this.

The film ends with the filmmaker making a comment on how “ridiculous” it is that the people of northern Ireland would take up the middle east conflict after their conflict is “solved” (he does not address ongoing problems with the Good Friday agreement, such as the rise in Loyalist organized street violence or the unification of the Republican dissidents). The final claim made is that identity should not be based on states or nations but on one’s own decisions – a claim that totally ignores realities of oppression along national or ethnic lines.

Overall, I think the filmmaker is much less insightful than the film he has produced. But perhaps for this reason, it is a film very much worth watching.

EDIT: the film is back up on Youtube 


One thought on “Shalom Belfast

  1. Any idea where/how it can be viewed? It has been removed from Youtube and I neeeed to see the end of it. I got interrupted. I was so shocked to find this identity issue going on in Ireland. I had no idea.

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