The Worst 45 Minute Film You Will Ever See

Bianca Echa

The Worst 45 Minute Film You Will Ever See

Reports from the World Economic Forum at Davos cite CEO disappointment that the sensitive topic of rising global antisemitism after the Hamas attack on Israel received scant attention on the agenda, with just a single session. Following a showing there of the Israel military’s gathering of footage of the Oct. 7 atrocities, Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL commented, “People walked out of the room in silence simply crying or shell shocked.” Having now attended several such screenings of this exact same film, I saw leaders react in similar horror to the visual evidence of the butchery which once witnessed can never be unseen. But it must be seen. Leaders across sectors, nations, and religions must view the IDF’s footage to understand viscerally and emotionally that the atrocity deniers are wrong.

In fact, just last month, at a gathering of top business leaders attending our Yale CEO Summit, we showed one of the first U.S. screenings of this video, which was painstakingly compiled and put together by the IDF. The purpose of this viewing was to follow the lead of those throughout history documenting the realities of heinous inhumanity still present in society, just as museums have chronicled past cruelty. No one was eager to see this video, and yet all felt an obligation to watch every moment–to bear witness to suffering and as a call to action to stop such carnage.

This viewing can be understood as similar to visits to memorials to genocidal victims such as Israel’s Yad Vashem, The American Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the Hungarian Jewish Museum in Budapest’s stately Dohány Street Synagogue, the National Museum of the Holodomor-Genocide in Ukraine, Srebrenica-Potočari Genocide Memorial and Cemetery in Croatia, and Rwanda’s Kigali Genocide Memorial, among other infamous memorials of tragedy. None are pleasant tourist experiences, but they are vital landmarks documenting the historic truth of unimaginable human cruelty to innocent victims. The Israeli Defense Forces videos of the Hamas campaign of a single day’s carnage is a new opportunity to fortify these vital truths and knowledge.

Learning takes place not just through lectures, reading, and even discussions but also through feeling – or what philosopher John Dewey called “experiential learning” – a term much diluted and diverted from his intentions a century ago.  Marshall McLuhan’s 1967 book, the Medium is the Message was as much a celebration of media technology as it was a warning that it extends and overtakes our senses.  The renowned MIT political scientist, Ithiel de Sola Pool reassured us in his 1983 book Technologies of Freedom, that newly emerging digital media could save us from the oppression of bigotry. 

However, lately we have seen that over-lawyered, underprepared university administrators, cowardly political leaders, and naïve young social zealots have fallen victim to the filtering and distortion in social media in the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel. The documentation is available to correct these false narratives being promoted in social media, but is the truth too hard to view? What is the value in screenings of the newly assembled footage of the brutal Hamas assault on peaceful innocent civilians this past October and who should see these images?

Read More: An Unexpected Encounter at Davos and a Call to Action on Israeli Hostages

The appalling record of Hamas brutality has set a new standard in graphic evidence of unrivaled human atrocities. In the aftermath of the October 7 brutal massacre of 1,400 innocent Israeli civilians – including mass rapes, tortures, bonding and immolation of toddlers, beheadings, and live mutilation; the Israeli leadership wrestled with how to show the world these horrors without desecrating the memory and dignity of these victims, while also attentive to the privacy and suffering of the victims’ families. Massive horrifying video and photographic imagery of the grotesque scenes was available through the sickening scenes which greeted Israeli rescuers who found few victims alive, but even more footage was provided by the gleeful terrorists themselves from their own body cameras, dashcams, and the devices of victims as they were slaughtered.

The need for this documentation is profound, as internet bigots flood social media with denial of this savage, cruel assault.  For example, the fact that pro-Palestinian hashtags on TikTok have more reach than 10 top mainstream news sites from across the political spectrum combined, according to research conducted by data scientist Anthony Goldbloom, may not sound particularly disturbing on its own. And likewise with the fact there are 54 views of videos with pro-Palestinian hashtags for every view of a TikTok video with a pro-Israel hashtag in the U.S. or that #freepalestine is one of the top-performing hashtags across all of TikTok. 

But what is especially disturbing is that rampant atrocity denying antisemitic content abounds, as even cursory scroll through these TikTok videos and “Photo Mode” reveals. ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblat has catalogued the pervasiveness of such antisemitic denialism. NewsGuard recently discovered that blue-checked, “verified” users on X produce a startling 74% of the platform’s most viral false and unsubstantiated claims peddling  antisemitic denials of Hamas atrocities.

 Arthur Brisbain, a Hearst chain newspaper editor, is credited with the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” in a 1911 journalism forum. Psychological research has shown that taking, sharing, and observing visual photographic images promotes a mindful focus of an experience in the immediate, but also provides memory pointers to cue lasting emotional connectedness with the experience.  

In August 1955, Emmett Till, a 14 year Black Chicagoan visiting relatives in Mississippi was lynched by white kidnappers, pistol-whipped shot and dropped off a bridge.  He was beaten so badly he could be recognized only by family ring he was wearing. His murderers admitted to the brutal killing but were acquitted on a technicality. His mother Maime insisted that his casket remain open for five days leading into the funeral explaining, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” Tens of thousands of people viewed Emmett’s mutilated body with photographs published in Jet magazine and circulated widely. 

Presciently anticipating Holocaust denialists; when Allied troops liberated the emaciated, diseased skeletal survivors of Nazi concentration camps, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower insisted on the presence of global media to see the piles of bodies, many partially incinerated, and other horrors of the Holocaust. As Eisenhower wrote, “the visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty, and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me sick… we made the visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.”

This was a vital decision because based on US opinion polling data from the 1940s after the liberation of the death campus, some people believed that the Jewish victims must have brought this horror on themselves. Psychologist Melvin Lerner’s “just world hypothesis”  studies show that denial sets in so that people can come to terms with the widespread reality of innocent mass suffering which violates their sense of cosmic justice. He asserts that people adopt delusions of denialism to reaffirm their view of everyday order.

The phrase “never again” dates back, at least to the 1927 poem “Masada” by Yitzhak Lamden which salutes the Jewish martyrs who heroically  defended their desert plateau overlooking the Dead Sea from Roman invaders around 30 BCE. This expression was echoed by Buchenwald concentration camp survivors and appears at the memorials at other Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Dachau and the unmarked trenches of mass Jewish graves at Babi Yar near Kyiv. Leaders across sectors, nations, and religions must view the IDF’s new video footage to understand viscerally and emotionally that the atrocity deniers are wrong and that the struggle continues.

With a renowned imam and rabbi who delivered an interfaith invocation at our event, after the screening we turned to a Princeton theologian, David Miller as the only voice to close the evening: “What we’ve just witnessed adds to feelings of helplessness, anger, fear, outrage and pain…. frankly, I have no idea how to stop this, fix this, or find a way to end the pain in the horrific, barbaric, inhuman things we just saw…At some point, the impossible is made possible. That’s not just wishful thinking..” Throughout history, we have concrete evidence of those rare but real times when as Isaiah said, “the lion shall lay down with the lamb”. When the impossible became possible…And through this hope, may we find the peace .”

There can be no hope for a better world in the present, if we do not emotionally feel and intellectually acknowledge the reality of the horrors around us. Amidst the season of tributes to the film and TV showcased by The Golden Globe Awards, the Emmys, and the Academy Awards that reminds us of great films to see, we must also remember and watch this film.  There will be no award ceremony to prompt anyone to see the IDF documentation of human carnage by Hamas, yet this – the worst film you will ever see – is a dark reality which must be seen.  

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