If you were to judge only by what’s been said in the media firestorm it’s left in its wake, you might assume that the new Brad Pitt zombie extravaganza, “World War Z,” is so pro-Israel that by the time the credits roll, the audience members will be singing “Hatikva” just to inoculate themselves against the undead. The Times of Israel declared “World War Z” “the greatest piece of cinematic propaganda for Israel since Otto Preminger’s ‘Exodus.’” Al-Jazeera quoted several critics of Israel lambasting the film for defending “Israel’s apartheid wall.”
Jeffrey Goldberg, a columnist for Bloomberg View, hailed “World War Z” as “the most pro-Israel movie ever made” (though he added, “Or at the very least the most pro-Israel zombie movie”), and left-wing blogger Jesse Benjamin derided it as “zombie hasbara” (literally “explaining,” a Hebrew euphemism for propaganda). Paramount Pictures, the main studio backer of “World War Z,” was sufficiently worried that in the Turkish version, the subtitles reading “Israel” were replaced with “the Middle East.”
But the truth is, the producers of “World War Z” are not shills for Israel. While the movie does use Israel as an important symbol, it’s simply one of the more conspicuous pieces in a larger argument: to survive in this world requires a willingness to dispense with humanitarian niceties and take some ugly actions. (Spoiler alert!)
The movie begins with the simultaneous collapse of cities across the globe as the zombie infestation spreads and our hero, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt doing his best Bruce Willis impression), seeks safety for his family. Soon Lane, recently retired from the United Nations, is whisked off to learn that only two countries, North Korea and Israel, have so far survived the zombie onslaught: the Koreans by knocking out every citizen’s teeth, and the Israelis by constructing a massive security wall around Jerusalem (sound familiar?).
Once he is in the Holy Land, Lane learns that Israel’s survival is due to the Mossad’s policy of the “10th Man”: For every potential threat, one out of 10 men in the agency assigned to the case needs to take it seriously, no matter how far-fetched it may seem.