Monday, August 4, 2014

The Celebrities Who Get it Wrong – and Right – About Israel

Once Israel’s military operation got underway in Gaza, celebrity actors, who desperately want to be taken seriously, predictably took to social media to express their very special concern. An article in The Hollywood Reporter (THR) examined the differences between American and European celebrities’ positions on the conflict, and concluded, unsurprisingly, that European celebs are much harsher and more vocal about their opposition to Israel.

As partial evidence, the article noted that husband-and-wife stars Javier Bardem (in No Country for Old Men, most famously) and Penelope Cruz (The Counselor, most recently) joined more than 100 other Spanish actors and directors to issue a statement urging the European Union to formally condemn Israel for waging “genocide” in Gaza. THR reports that the letter essentially lays the blame for the entire conflict on Israel, because it “humiliates, detains, and tramples on the rights of the Palestinian population in all of the West Bank every day, also causing many deaths.”

In response to that statement, European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor criticized its “gratuitous use of the term ‘genocide’” and pointedly suggested that

Rather than outrageously attacking a fellow democracy for defending itself against radical terrorists, the time of Spanish public figures would be better put to use fighting against the rapidly growing hatred of Jews in their country, which according to recent surveys is one of the highest in Europe.

Bravo. He concluded that the statement “demonstrates grave ignorance or extreme malice.” I suspect it’s a combination of the two. When Bardem, for example, writes, “This is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means, confined to a miniscule territory without water and where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targeted and presumed to be terrorists,” there is so much grave ignorance there that one must assume extreme malice as well.

After taking some heat for their position, Penelope Cruz followed up with a statement trying to walk it back a bit: “I’m not an expert on the situation and I’m aware of the complexity of it.” Well, kudos to her for that admission – it has to be the first time in Hollywood history that a celebrity has acknowledged his or her own ignorance about an issue. She went on to plead that

My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a cease fire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace... I believe in a civilization that can be capable of bringing the courage to have a world where humans can live side by side.

That sounds nice, but if Mrs. Bardem really wishes for unity and peace, if she truly yearns for no more innocent victims on either side, if she really believes in a civilization capable of rising above this conflict, then her only logical choice is to support the civilized Israel unequivocally, because it is there and nowhere else in the Middle East that her dream of Jews and Arabs living and working side by side as equals exists.

They aren’t the only European celebrities to jump on the anti-Israel bandwagon. In May, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Nick Mason sent an open letter to the Rolling Stones urging them not to perform in Israel:

Playing Israel now is the moral equivalent of playing Sun City at the height of South African apartheid; regardless of your intentions, crossing the picket line provides propaganda that the Israeli government will use in its attempts to whitewash the policies of its unjust and racist regime.

To their enormous credit, Jagger and the Stones ignored the boycott letter and went forward with their concert in Tel Aviv.

American celebs who have spoken out against Israel have been, as THR put it, “careful to note that their sympathy for the civilians should not be equated with anti-Jewish sentiment.” Thus former actress Mia Farrow tweeted: “We can passionately protest Israel’s assault upon Gaza without descending, even remotely, into the hideousness of anti-Semitism.” That would carry more weight if, among her dozens of tweets about the Gaza hostilities, Farrow ever tweeted about Hamas’ assaults on Israel. Later, she added: “To be clear I do not support Hamas. I care about children everywhere.”

If she and other celebrities care about children everywhere, why do they consistently reserve their condemnation for Israel and not tweet their outrage about Arab terrorists targeting Israeli children, the deaths of Syrian children, or the hundreds of poor Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram (not to mention the boys slaughtered by those savages) who merited only some temporary “hashtag diplomacy” and photos of posers with scribbled “Bring Back Our Girls” signs shared on Instagram?

Daily Show host Jon Stewart took a similar tack: “Just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.” Actually it is, if you’re not also condemning Hamas for brainwashing their children to become Jew-killers, for creating a culture of martyrdom, for purposefully incurring the deaths of their own civilians in order to smear Israel in the media war. If you’re not openly condemning them for that, if you’re condemning only Israel, then whatever your intentions, you are supporting Hamas.

Act0r Mark Ruffalo clung to the same excuse, tweeting a link to an article entitled, “Empathizing w/Gaza does NOT make me anti-Semitic, nor pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It makes me human.” If you are an empathetic human, then your only rational choice is to support the Israelis, who love life, unlike the death cultists of Hamas.

It’s easy to dismiss celebrities who decide to weigh in on current events as uninformed and irrelevant, but unfortunately their opinions carry significant weight among their untold numbers of fans – not because those opinions are necessarily insightful or even correct, but because celebrities are cool, and fans don’t want to be uncool by having a different opinion.

And what about the celebs who do support Israel? Rosanne Barr, of all people, tweeted some stone cold truth about Hamas to her 250,000 followers: “They say they won’t stp fighting Israel til evry Jew there is dead. They say it everyday, repeatedly. If ur ignoring/excusing that-yr sick.” I can’t believe I’m saying this, but bravo, Rosanne.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 8/1/14)