Born in 1960 in Brooklyn, New York, Marty Rosenbluth prides himself on being soft-spoken and calm, and he speaks the language of human rights, but his message is incendiary. Once an impassioned Zionist who supported the right-wing Kahane movement, he “made the transformation from being a right-wing Zionist to being an anti-Zionist” when he met Palestinian students while in college.
Rosenbluth did not merely change his views. He became an anti-Zionist activist, or as Dr. Alex Safian of CAMERA put it, “a virulent anti-Zionist.” “I don’t mean this to sound glib,” he said in 1998, “but I think it’s true: it was easier for me to make the transformation from being a right-wing Zionist to being an anti-Zionist, than it would be for a liberal Zionist to become an anti-Zionist.” Rosenbluth moved to Ramallah for seven years, where he worked for Palestinian organizations and found his calling as a documentary filmmaker. He was a researcher for an anti-Israel, error-riddled documentary, Journey to the Occupied Lands. He then went on to make a controversial documentary of his own, Jerusalem: An Occupation Set in Stone? (1995), that is shown frequently on campuses and in the larger community. Today Rosenbluth is Amnesty International‘s Authority Country Specialist on Israel, the Territories, and the Palestinian Authority. He runs his own video company (named Insightment Video Productions) and speaks for the Palestinian cause.
Rosenbluth’s positions are expressed in a petition, titled “The RETURN Statement, which he signed in 1990:
“The Zionist structure of the state of Israel is at the heart of the racism and oppression against the Palestinian people, and should be dismantled.”
”In its operations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Israel represents a major link in the world network of repressive and racist regimes.”
“Against the Israeli Law of Return — For the Palestinian Right of Return.”
“We . . . declare our opposition to the state of Israel as a Jewish state and to the Zionist movement.”
Rosenbluth’s two videos show:
The “evils” of the Occupation and the oppression of Jerusalem Arabs.
That Jerusalem is “the historic…social…economic [and] religious capital of the Palestinian people.”
That Israel’s policies in Jerusalem are designed to ethnically cleanse the city and end its pluralism.
Rosenbluth praises the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), about which he says: “The work of the International Solidarity Movement in no way that we can see presents a security risk to the Israelis…The work they’re doing is important. Without the presence of international observers, it’s a very dangerous situation.”
Marty Rosenbluth grew up in Brooklyn, where, he says, he was an ardent Zionist from the age of nine. His support for the right-wing Kahane movement began to erode when he went to college at Wayne State University and met Palestinians. There, he “began to discover that so much of what I had been taught simply wasn’t true. I call it an ‘unlearning process.’” He seemed to leap from one extreme to another and became an ardent proponent of, and activist for, the Palestinian cause. He went to Ramallah in the West Bank in 1985, where he worked for Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights group that repeatedly brought charges against Israel. Finding that journalists ignored his detailed research of Israel’s human rights abuses, he realized that “if we wanted to get the word out through the media, we would have to make our own media”; thus he decided to become a documentary filmmaker.
Rosenbluth’s opportunity came when he became the senior researcher for Michael Ambrosino’s “documentary” Journey to the Occupied Lands (1992). The film was widely distributed and shown on PBS, but it raised a storm of protest for its inaccuracies, manufactured evidence (such as fake satellite images to show that Israel is “taking over” Palestinian lands), and one-sided reporting. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) exposed the inaccuracies, which forced PBS to demand that some changes be made.
Rosenbluth went on to make his own, equally controversial documentary, Jerusalem: An Occupation Set in Stone? (1995). Though it received awards from Jewish and non-Jewish groups, its one-sided presentation led a pro-Palestinian reviewer to title his article, “Palestinians Find an Unexpected Supporter.” The film was produced by the Palestine Housing Rights Movement (PHRM), “a coalition of Palestinian and Israeli human rights and peace organizations in Jerusalem, formed to educate the public, both locally and internationally, about housing and residency rights, and the efforts of the Israeli government to alter the demographic balance in the city.” Arab Film Distribution distributes it and promotes it for detailing “the devastating effects of Israel’s urban planning policies that, according to many, aim to uproot the Palestinian presence in the Holy City.” Anti-Israel groups enthusiastically promote it. Al-Awda (the Right of Return Coalition) encouraged activists to use the documentary as “another way to reach out” to the public about its message. Not in My Name (NIMN) recommends it, and progressive groups frequently show it.
Rosenbluth returned to the U.S. after seven years in Ramallah. He started his own video company, and became Amnesty International’s Country Specialist on Israel, the Territories, and the Palestine Authority. In this position, Rosenbluth also became a frequent lecturer and speaker on public radio.
After his return, Rosenbluth remained avowedly anti-Zionist. He tried to raise funds for a documentary about his own political odyssey from extreme right to anti-Zionist left, which, he explained, adopted “a clearly anti-Zionist perspective.” His political positions were so marginal that his search for funding “got rejected by every liberal and progressive foundation in the U.S. that funds documentaries.”
Rosenbluth’s political transformation did cause him some discomfort. When a Palestinian interviewer asked him in 1998 if he ever saw his old Kahane friends, he answered: “That was in fact my greatest fear when I was living here, that I’d be driving in a service somewhere and we’d get stopped at a settler roadblock and one of the settlers would recognize me, and say ‘hey, Marty! Long time no see, how ya doing,’ or something like that. . . . People here mostly knew who I was and that I worked at al-Haq, and almost everyone knew that I was Jewish and it wasn’t a problem, but why a settler would ask how I was doing would not have been easy to explain.”
Rosenbluth remains enmeshed in anti-Israel groups that purportedly stand for human rights. Amnesty International itself is highly controversial, and many accuse it of the anti-Israel, anti-U.S. bias typical of many leftist groups. Amnesty International did not condemn Palestinian atrocities against Jews until 2002. Some anti-Israel activists complained that Amnesty was not doing enough to end Israeli “torture” of Palestinians, and they blamed Rosenbluth but acknowledged that “[t]he problem isn’t that Rosenbluth isn’t committed (which many who know him insist he is).”
Rosenbluth also remained active in pro-Palestinian groups, participating in Al-Awda “Right of Return Rallies” (for example the Sept. 16, 2000 rally in Washington, DC) and International Day of the Child rallies (for example the New York rally November 20, 2002), which create a moral equivalence, condemning Israelis and Palestinians equally for children’s casualties. He maintained ties with Palestinian groups in the Territories and his one-sided preoccupation with finding abuses committed by Israel. The Arab Human Rights Association reported in 2000 that it “coordinated 2 days of touring and meetings with activists, ex-landowners, and unrecognized villagers for an American film director, Marty Rosenbluth, who was making a film on human rights violations in Israel.”
Rosenbluth’s organizational affiliations include the following:
Palestinian Housing Rights Movement
Al-Haq (Palestinian human rights group)
Al-Awda (Right of Return Coalition)
American Friends Service Committee (recommended speaker)
This profile is adapted, with permission, from Stand4Facts.org.