section Break or continuity? "Anti-Zionism" and anti-Semitism under socialism and afterwards

Israel 74

  • Sabine Katins
  • DDR
  • 1974
  • 2x37

“We took a look into the interior of the country, into the faces of its inhabitants in the weeks after the October War of 1973,” writes Neues Deutschland, at the very time when GDR television was broadcasting the two-part documentary ISRAEL 74, in March and April 1974. Political propaganda meets travel reportage.

In ISRAEL 74 television viewers were, for the first time, able to see extended footage of a country and its people – something rather unusual, since no film team from the GDR had previously been able to film on the ground due to an absence of formal relations between the two countries. The footage, as well as the interviews with Israelis and Palestinians, were naturally carefully selected and put together for manipulative ends: Arab villages in ruins and “heavily armed occupiers”, the Tel Aviv diamond exchange and slums, “Israeli bourgeoisie” on the one hand and “Oriental Jews” and “Arab slave labour” on the other. Anti-Semitic clichés and analogies with Nazi Germany and South Africa were mixed with so-called class issues. The report was shot by the prolific yet mysterious “Gruppe Dr. Katins”, a collective of West European camerapeople and interviewers and East German copy and film editors. At the International Leipzig Documentary and Short Film Week in 1975 ISRAEL74 received the PLO Award – starting in 1973 a PLO delegation regularly took part in the festival, with participants including Palestinian graduates from the Babelsberg Film and Television Academy; here the PLO awarded an honorary prize and was able to extend its network of contacts. Excerpts of the footage from ISRAEL 74 were incorporated into later co-productions between DEFA and the PLO, such as GEBOREN IN PALÄSTINA (PLO/GDR, 1975, D: Rafik Hajjar).

Double Feature DIE STÜRMER & ISRAEL 74

After a brief phase of sympathy for the young Jewish state, Israel was increasingly demonised by the GDR government and media – all in accordance with the logic of the Cold War and heavily influenced by the conflict between East and West Germany and an anti-Zionist paradigm. The effect was occasionally disastrous. Anti-Semitic imagery and narratives were reproduced, atrocity propaganda was spread and, ultimately, Israel's right to exist appeared to be in question.

Text: Lisa Schoß
English: Peter Rickerby

Both screenings will be followed by a talk with Dr. Lisa Schoß, cultural scientist and consultant for the series “Break or Continuity?”


original title Israel 74

international title Israel 74

german title Israel 74

JFBB section Break or continuity? "Anti-Zionism" and anti-Semitism under socialism and afterwards

  • director Sabine Katins

country/countries DDR

year 1974

duration 2x37