* This dispatch concerns film and theatre personalities and the Middle East conflict
1. Where is the outcry from Jewish Hollywood?
2. "Weeping at 'Sophie's Choice,' while sniffing at the State of Israel"
3. Oliver Stone came to offer Yasser Arafat his "moral and emotional support"
4. But there werent any Palestinian women demonstrating against terror
5. "The silence of the Hollywood lambs" (By Jack Engelhard, Dec. 21, 2002)
6. "Loudmouth stars are remaining surprisingly quiet about Israel" (By Dennis Prager, Oct. 2, 2002)
7. "If I forget thee, Jerusalem" (By David Mamet, Forward, Dec. 27, 2002)
8. "Jane Fonda's mideast mission" (AP, Dec. 19, 2002)
9. "Jane Fonda visits refugee camp, Ramallah hospital" (AP, Dec. 22, 2002)
10. "Friends like these" (Jerusalem Post editorial, April 1, 2002)
[Notes by Tom Gross]
I attach several articles relating to film and theatre personalities and the Middle East conflict, with a brief summary first. Some of these pieces are not particularly well written, but nevertheless interesting. May I wish everyone on this list all the best for 2003.
1. "The silence of the Hollywood lambs" (By Jack Engelhard, Dec. 21, 2002). Engelhard (who is the author of Indecent Proposal, the best-selling book on which the movie of the same name is based) asks: "Where is the outcry from Jewish Hollywood about the murdering and maiming of Jewish children? The silence is deafening, as it was in Ben Hecht's day when that legendary journalist tried to raise awareness for the plight of those trapped in Nazi Europe [and the Jews of Hollywood turned a blind eye]."
2. "Loudmouth stars are remaining surprisingly quiet about Israel" (By Dennis Prager, Oct. 2, 2002). Prager asks "Is there an issue that some Hollywood star director, producer, actor, actress has not publicly commented on? It's hard to name one [from smoking to fur to Iraq] ... There is one issue, however, about which one hears nothing from Hollywood: the terror against Israeli citizens... As one Hollywood insider, screenwriter Dan Gordon ('The Hurricane,' 'Murder in the First'), told the Los Angeles Times: 'There's been a puzzling silence. We're in an industry that takes stands on everything. People can't shut us up! I'd love to see the indignation about homicide bombers that is reserved for smokers.'"
“WEEPING AT “SOPHIE’S CHOICE,’ WHILE SNIFFING AT THE STATE OF ISRAEL”
3. "If I forget thee, Jerusalem" (By David Mamet, Forward, Dec. 27, 2002). The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and filmmaker, who visited Israel last summer as a guest of the Jerusalem Film Festival, published this essay on December 27, 2002 in The Forward, the old Socialist Yiddish-language newspaper of New York, which is now published in both Yiddish and English as a weekly. It may be too long for many of you to read, but I recommend reading the end where his strongest points are made. Mamet criticizes "assimilated Western Jews" and others for the dichotomy they have created "between the Real and the Imaginary. Imaginary Jews are the delight of the world. They include Anne Frank, Janusz Korszak, the Warsaw Ghetto fighters and the movie stars in 'Exodus.' These Jews delight the world in their willingness to die heroically as a form of entertainment. The plight of actual Jews, however, has traditionally been more problematic, and paradoxically, those same folk who weep at 'Sophie's Choice,' sniff at the State of Israel..."
"Here, in Israel, are actual Jews, fighting for their country, against both terror and misthought public opinion, as well as disgracefully biased and, indeed, fraudulent reporting. Here are people courageously going about their lives, in that which, sad to say, were it not a Jewish state, would, in its steadfastness, in its reserve, in its courage, rightly be the pride of the Western world," writes Mamet.
OLIVER STONE CAME TO OFFER YASSER ARAFAT HIS “MORAL AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT”
4. "Jane Fonda's mideast mission" (AP, Dec. 19, 2002).
5. "Jane Fonda visits refugee camp, Ramallah hospital" (AP, Dec. 22, 2002). The two-times Oscar winner Jane Fonda accompanied by Eve Ensler (the writer behind the off-Broadway hit The Vagina Monologues) last week made a three day visit to Israel and the West Bank aimed at promoting peace. During their visit Fonda and Ensler spoke to Jewish and Arab doctors and patients at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital. Fonda appeared emotionally moved when she met 23-year-old Sharon Maman, who suffered brain damage after two suicide bombers blew up simultaneously in downtown Jerusalem on Dec. 1, 2001. Sharon only began speaking again three months ago.
Many Israelis were furious, however, when Fonda went on to visit Yasser Arafat and the mothers of two Palestinians who had died while carrying out acts of violence against Israeli civilians. This latter point was omitted from the AP stories I attach, but received widespread coverage in the Israeli press.
There were also a number of articles from right-wing Israelis attacking Fonda, who went to communist North Vietnam in 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War, and posed on an anti-aircraft gun, and thirty years later, despite her apologies, is still widely known as "Hanoi Jane." I do not attach these rather vicious attacks on Fonda here, but instead include:
BUT THERE WEREN’T ANY PALESTINIAN WOMEN DEMONSTRATING AGAINST TERROR
6. Extracts of an editorial from Yediot Ahronot (December 24, 2002). Israel's best-selling newspaper says: "It would be natural to expect that Fonda and Ensler [after accompanying extreme left-wing Israelis in anti-Israeli demonstrations] would also take part in a demonstration by Palestinian women against terror. But this is impossible. There haven't been any... Fonda and Ensler could have called on Palestinian women to take a stand against the suicide bombs and the continuation of violence. Instead they chose to ignore this and to focus on condemning Israel. And really why should they get caught up in taking a stand on very unpopular and politically incorrect issues in their society? For this, a lot of courage is needed courage which Jane Fonda and Eve Ensler lack."
7. "Friends like these" (Jerusalem Post editorial, April 1, 2002). I originally sent this article out on April 1, and do so again now as many of you have joined this list since then. The paper asks "where are Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, Philip Roth, Daniel Libeskind. Some are prominent memorializers of the Holocaust. Yet in the face of the present assault, they are lending neither their bodies, nor their voices, nor their pens. It's as if Israel has been erased from their Jewish consciousness. In fairness, this failure of responsibility is not theirs alone. It has been abetted by the Western press, so wondrously evenhanded over the years regarding events in Israel that it has created the intellectual underpinnings on which Palestinian terrorism flourishes. And it has been abetted by Israel's uniquely incompetent public relations machine." One Jewish Hollywood celebrity that did come, Oliver Stone, came to visit Yasser Arafat and offered him his "moral and emotional support". "We can only hope that events in Israel will not someday make Diaspora Jews bitterly regret their present silence," the paper adds.
-- Tom Gross
THE SILENCE OF THE HOLLYWOOD LAMBS
The silence of the Hollywood lambs
By Jack Engelhard
December 21, 2002
This week Sean Penn, the famous Hollywood actor, is touring Iraq, mostly hospitals. I wonder are there any famous Hollywood actors visiting hospitals in Israel?
Let others quarrel about Penn's wisdom and patriotism though I do admire him for saying that he would not speak out against America while overseas.
In fact I have no quarrel at all with mainly liberal performers, except to ask... where is the outcry from Jewish Hollywood about the murdering and maiming of Jewish children?
The silence if you'll pardon the cliche is deafening, as it was in Ben Hecht's day when that legendary journalist tried to raise awareness for the plight of those trapped in Nazi Europe.
Strangely, most of his early support came from gentile performers. Jews were afraid to speak up. Either they didn't care or were afraid to spur on (more) anti-Semitism.
Today there is so much anti-Semitism around there's not much chance of making it worse. (Okay, that is debatable.) This leaves us to conclude that Hollywood so quick to defend the widow and the orphan does not care.
This is something I do not believe. I believe Hollywood does care. So if that's the case, why the silence? Why is Penn not in Israel? My guess, as to this Silence of the Hollywood Lambs, is that Israel has lost the public-relations war and has allowed itself to be portrayed as Goliath when in fact Israel is David.
Israel is not a fashionable cause. Israel is not a liberal cause. Some of this is Israel's fault for its failure to get the message out.
Much of it, though, is the fault of what I dare refer to as a "media pogrom." This media pogrom extends from Australia, throughout Europe up to and into our own doorsteps.
Just the other day the Philadelphia Inquirer (carrying AP) referred to the Palestinian terrorist group Fatah as "activists." So as this is being written, as Penn visits Baghdad hospitals to bring a smile to Arab children, Israel weeps alone.
You would think that Hollywood would embrace Israel since Hollywood was founded by Jews. Hollywood is Jewish glory. The studios were founded by Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, Samuel Goldwyn and the like, onto today's Katzenberg, Geffen, Spielberg. Our cast, past and present, includes such luminaries as John Garfield, Jeff Chandler, June Allison, Natalie Wood, Kirk Douglas, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Lee Grant, Harrison Ford, Winona Ryder, Billy Crystal, Ellen Barkin, Alan Arkin, Goldie Hawn, Michael Caine and yes, I know, some of these are but partly Jewish and there are questions about Cary Grant.
But that is a game we all play in Jewish homes.
This, however, is no game, what's going on in Israel. Jewish blood is flowing, once again, only this time there is no Ben Hecht to energize an outcry.
For all I know there may be a Sean Penn equivalent in Israel right now bringing comfort to thousands of Israeli children who managed to survive suicide attacks. If such a performer is out there, I have not heard his name. I have not heard the names of any Hollywood stars Jewish or gentile who have bothered to visit Rambam Hospital or Hadassah Hospital to bring a smile to the face of a Jewish child who has lost arms and legs. There are so many of them, children and grown-ups. All victims of these "activists." I may not agree with Penn's politics, but I like the fact that he is not afraid, not silent, and that he cares about people other than himself.
THIS SILENCE WILL BE A LONG-LASTING STAIN ON HOLLYWOOD’S MORAL RECORD
Loudmouth "stars" are remaining surprisingly quiet about Israel
By Dennis Prager
Jewish World Review
October 2, 2002
Is there an issue that some Hollywood star director, producer, actor, actress has not publicly commented on? It's hard to name one.
Producer, director Rob Reiner has devoted years to imposing onerous taxes on poor people who smoke and to putting perhaps half of California's cigar and pipe stores out of business. Barbra Streisand has devoted yeoman efforts to promoting leftist causes (sometimes with malice, as in her recent letter to House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt in which she writes that "... industries, run by big Republican donors and insiders, clearly have much to gain if we go to war against Iraq"). Ed Asner has devoted much of his life to defending leftist tyrannies.
Almost everyone in Hollywood has signed on to anything promoting gun control, higher taxes, saving whales and undoing global warming, while various actresses have posed nude to protest the wearing of fur. The list of stars and causes is almost endless.
There is one issue, however, about which one hears nothing from Hollywood: the terror against Israeli citizens. Far more has been said by Hollywood against potential threats to endangered insect or bird species than against actual attempts to render Israeli Jews an endangered species.
As one Hollywood insider, screenwriter Dan Gordon ("The Hurricane," "Murder in the First"), told the Los Angeles Times: "There's been a puzzling silence. We're in an industry that takes stands on everything. People can't shut us up! I'd love to see the indignation about homicide bombers that is reserved for smokers. You smoke in this town, and you're dead. Rob Reiner will come after you."
Let it be said loudly and clearly that this silence will be a long-lasting stain on Hollywood's moral record. The Palestinian/Islamic/Arab war to destroy Israel is the moral test of our time. If you are silent on this issue, you are either morally confused, immoral or lack courage.
In the case of Hollywood's silence, the first and third are the more likely reasons.
First, the confusion. In an article on the silence of the Jews in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Times quotes writer-director Michael Tolkin, author of "The Player" and "Changing Lanes": "Liberals are on the side of the underdog. The people who've had their cities turned into rubble look like the underdog."
This is a very revealing statement. Many of us have long argued that leftists do not ask, "Who is right and who is wrong?" but rather, "Who is strong and who is weak?" in determining their positions on world and national issues. The substitution of power criteria for moral criteria is one of the reasons the left so often takes immoral positions. It is, therefore, helpful to hear such a candid acknowledgment of Hollywood liberals' moral confusion. Not to mention ignorance no Palestinian city has been "turned into rubble."
The other reason for Hollywood's silence on the moral litmus test of our time is lack of courage. Absence of moral courage is in no way distinctive to Hollywood; indeed, it is the rarest of humanity's good traits. But one suspects that many in Hollywood pride themselves on having moral courage, so it is important to set the record straight.
It is sadly illuminating that it takes courage for a Hollywood insider to publicly support Israel. The Jewish state is, after all, one of the most enlightened and liberal democracies in the world, and it is fighting against one of the most morally backward cultures in the world.
With all the prominent Jews in Hollywood, this silence is even more remarkable, but not surprising. Most of Hollywood's Jews have little or nothing to do with Jewish causes, Jewish communal life or Judaism. Their causes are those of the left, their community is largely like-minded Hollywood folks, and their values come from liberalism, not Judaism. Moreover, the silence on Israel of Hollywood's most prominent Jews enables the non-Jewish stars to remain silent. If the Jews don't care about Israel, why should they?
Ever since I learned that Richard Wagner whose music is among the greatest ever written was a racist anti-Semite, I learned that I had to disassociate artists from their art. So, I never expected anything morally significant from artists, in Hollywood or anywhere else, and am therefore not surprised at Hollywood's silence about Israel's suffering. But it remains a moral failure.
“WHY HAS THE WESTERN PRESS EMBRACED ANTI-SEMITISM AS THE NEW BLACK?”
"If I forget thee, Jerusalem" The power of blunt nostalgia
By David Mamet
December 27, 2002
(David Mamet, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, visited Israel recently as a guest of the Jerusalem Film Festival. His experience gave rise to the following essay.)
I am reading in Jerusalem. I read, in Azure, a scholarly Israeli publication, an article by historian Michael Oren that Israeli opinion is split on Orde Wingate. Wingate was a Brit philosemite (the exception that, et cetera), creator of the doctrine of desert guerrilla warfare and godfather of the Israeli military. I read that the jury was still out on him, as he ate raw onions, strained his tea through his socks and greeted guests in the nude. Now, as to particulars one and three, I have been guilty myself (though never in conjunction). As to particular two, I must ask, did he, in the absence of a strainer, improvise brilliantly with a pair of clean socks, or, did he (disons le mot) utilize the very socks in which he trod that desert land he was to aid in Making Free? But, perhaps, there are some doors History was never meant to open.
My accommodations in the Mount Zion Hotel are superb two large picture windows overlook the Old City. To its left, modern Jerusalem, to the right, the Mount of Olives, East Jerusalem and the descent to the Dead Sea. Looking east, before actual dawn, and just before sunset, the light is extraordinary. The Old City is the height of land it rises from the sea to the Temple Mount and falls away to the Dead Sea and the desert.
A tour guide, a committed amateur archaeologist, gives me a tour of the south and east walls.
"Look up," he says, "what do you see?"
"The land rises and then falls away," I say.
He nods. "The clouds come in from the sea and deposit the rain at the highest point: the Old City. To its west, the land is tillable. To its east is desert. This is the division," he says. "This is the spot where..."
"Two cultures," I suggest.
"Not two cultures," he says, "but two mentalities, two spiritualities meet: the people in the land toward the sea, in biblical Canaan, were concerned with commerce, with trade, with agriculture. The people to the east, the people in the desert, were concerned with spirit, with visions. The two have always met in Jerusalem."
We walk toward the cemetery at the Mount of Olives. Below he shows me the City of David, that is, Jerusalem, as it existed at the turn of the common era. In those days, he says, it had more than 100,000 inhabitants. The July heat is killing me. It is not hard to imagine the relief of the desert traveler, coming to the high, watered ground. The cleansing, insistent influence of the desert to the Westerner does not need to be imagined; one feels it.
The Old City is fairly empty. It is usually, of course, steeved, if I may, with tourists and pilgrims. The current intifada has discouraged them. We stop for lunch in a Palestinian falafel place my friends recommend as the best around. We eat under a large poster showing the growth of Medina from the desert crossroads into the modern shrine. "Excuse me," I say, "but is it dangerous to be eating in a Palestinian restaurant?" I am assured that the proprietors, like most of their co-religionists in the Old City, are Israeli citizens and that they would not think of committing antisocial acts. I am puzzled to find this suggested suspension of human nature, and not gratified when, several weeks later, I find my friends' opinions proved too sanguine.
I am invited to Sabbath lunch in South Jerusalem, in a house one block from one of the latest bus bombings. My hosts are the Horensteins, close friends from Newton, Mass. I get out of the cab, and they greet me warmly. There is a group standing outside the front door, among them a nice-looking, obviously Christian gent, around my age. How like the Horensteins, I think, to extend their hospitality, to share their Jewish home with a non-Jewish friend.
The ringer is, of course, not him, but me. He is Michael Oren, the Horensteins' cousin, author of the piece on Wingate and, incidentally, of "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East." He is a scholar and saw the eponymous war (1967), and several others, as a paratrooper in the IDF. With him is his son, Yoram, an 18-year-old on half-day leave from his unit, an ultra-elite helicopter rescue squad in the IDF. The young man leaves, and Michael says, "When he came home last night, he was short one of his uniform shirts, so I lent him one of mine." This offhanded statement is the greatest expression of parental pride I have ever heard.
I am overcome by a sense of grief. We sit there, at the ritual meal, talking about Jerusalem, about the war (Michael's sister-in-law was killed in one of the recent bombings) about being Jewish.
To me, a Diaspora Jew, the question is constant, insistent and poignant while in Israel at this meal it is more than poignant, it is painful. How, I wonder, can I not be here; and how is it possible that I did not come here (as did Michael Oren) in my youth, and "grow up with the country," instead of wasting my time in show business? I am full of grief, as at a middle-aged meeting with the girl I did not marry.
Now, this blunt trauma of nostalgia is a dead giveaway, signaling not an inability to relive the past, but to face the present. The present, to me, consists in this: that I am an aging Diaspora Jew on a junket, and that my cheap feelings of personal loss could better be expressed as respect and homage.
Israel is at war and has been at war since its inception. Much contemporary opinion in the West is antisemitic. Before my trip, I was strolling through Newton. There, before me, was a broken-down Volvo of old, the vehicle of my brethren, the congenitally liberal. It was festooned, as are its kind, with every sort of correct exhortation: "Save James Bay," "Honor Diversity" and so on. A most interesting bumper sticker read: "Israel Out of the Settlements." Now this is a legitimate expression of free speech. Israel has been involved, as we know, in a rather protracted real estate dispute with several hundred million of its neighbors. This legitimate political expression, however, had all its "S"s transformed into dollar signs. Here we have, one would have supposed, a civilized person one would assume that one could reason with the owner of a Volvo sporting a slogan which could best be translated as "Hook-nosed Jews Die." My very airplane book, my refuge on the endless flight to Israel, is Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears," in which I find the major plot point, the misplacement, by Israel, of an atom bomb. As per Mr. Clancy, in this otherwise ripping yarn, the world is going to end because these lazy or distracted Mockies have committed a blunder no civilized folk would make.
It is I cannot say "refreshing" a relief to trade a low-level umbrage at anti-Israeli tripe for the reality of a country at war. Israel, at war, looks very much like Israel at peace. Life, as the phrase has it, goes on. Six thousand people have bought tickets to the opening night of the Jerusalem Film Festival. Nine thousand show up and are seated. We are in The Sultan's Pool, a natural open-air amphitheater, just under the walls of the Old City. Lia Van Leer, the festival's founder and complete enchilada, asks me to accompany her to the podium to open the ball officially. I do so, in English, and add "Shalom, chaverim" ("Hello, companions"), thus, exhausting my conversational Hebrew. And we watch Pedro Almodovar's "Talk to Her," with 9,000 mainly young Israelis. They laugh at the film, cordially boo the mayor and, during the speeches afterward, smoke cigarettes, sitting under the open sky. Such beautiful young people. Even the old people here look young to me. But, then, I am in love.
I tour the sites of bombings on the Jaffa Road, accompanying Mayor Ehud Olmert. The tour ends at the house of Boris Schatz, the founder of the Bezalel School, the Jewish state's first school of art. Jimmy and Micah Lewensohn, his great-nephews, are my hosts. It is crammed with workbooks, plaques, sculptures, paintings, ceramics, weavings. Schatz, once court sculptor to the King of Bulgaria, had an unfortunate marital experience, around 1904, and it drove him back to his Judaism. Theodor Herzl enlisted him as the "First Artist of the Yishuv" (the pre-statehood settlement). Schatz came out to create a new Jewish art. Micah tells me that Shatz's wife, once a lover of Gorky, ended up screwing half the men in the Yishuv. It was, he said, like the Wild West. They went up to the Galilee on retreat, got whacked out on the native weeds, and it was one big orgy. These were disaffected youth, he said; they were, in effect, hippies, the early Zionists. Schatz dressed in a white djellaba, kept a pet peacock and held court in the Galilee. Herzl comes up to see him, there he is: the peacock, half-naked girls, Shabbos dinner and somebody's playing the flute. "And you know," Micah says, "the flute is prohibited on Shabbos."
So I am nostalgic for the days of '48, and Schatz's great-nephew is nostalgic for the 1910 Wild West, as he puts it, of the Galilee. "He was insane," Micah lovingly says of his great-uncle. "Here is the burial plaque he designed for Ben Yehuda. You will see he dated it 'In the Year Seven.'" He shrugs. Ben Yehuda died in '24, and Schatz reinvented the calendar to reflect "seven years since the Balfour Declaration."
In my study, in the U.S., are two World War I posters. The images are identical, but the text of each is in a different language. They show a gallant squad of British soldiers in khaki, charging off. In the foreground, another soldier uses his bayonet to free a bound man. This man is a heavily bearded, tubercular, bowed endomorph in shirt sleeves. He has a hooked nose, essentially, a cartoon tailor of 1917. He gazes at the soldiers, whose ranks he will now join, and says, "You have cut my bonds and set me free. Now let me set others free." The superscription says, in the one poster in English, and in the other in Yiddish: "Jews the World Over Love Liberty, Have Fought, And Will Fight for It." And, below the pictured scene: "Britain Expects Every Son of Israel To Do His Duty: Enlist with the Infantry Reinforcements." Well, it is a various world.
Assimilated Western Jews say, "I don't like this Sharon," as if to refer to the prime minister simply as "Sharon" were to over-commit themselves. They are like the office assistant raised to executive status who immediately forgets how to use the fax machine. "This Sharon" indeed. Well, there are all sorts of Jews. One dichotomy is between the Real and the Imaginary. Imaginary Jews are the delight of the world. They include Anne Frank, Janusz Korszak, the Warsaw Ghetto fighters and the movie stars in "Exodus." These Jews delight the world in their willingness to die heroically as a form of entertainment. The plight of actual Jews, however, has traditionally been more problematic, and paradoxically, those same folk who weep at "Sophie's Choice," sniff at the State of Israel.
Here, in Israel, are actual Jews, fighting for their country, against both terror and misthought public opinion, as well as disgracefully biased and, indeed, fraudulent reporting. Here are people courageously going about their lives, in that which, sad to say, were it not a Jewish state, would, in its steadfastness, in its reserve, in its courage, rightly be the pride of the Western world. This Western world is, I think, deeply confused between the real and the imaginary. All of us moviegoers, who awarded ourselves the mantle of humanity for our tears at "The Diary of Anne Frank" we owe a debt to the Jews. We do not owe this debt out of any "Unwritten Ordinance of Humanitarianism" but from a personal accountability. Having eaten the dessert, cheap sentiment, it is time to eat the broccoli. If you love the Jews as victims, but detest our right to statehood, might you not ask yourself "why?" That is your debt to the Jews. Here is your debt to the Jewish state. Had Israel not in 1981 bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, some scant weeks away from production of nuclear bomb material, all New York (God forbid) might have been Ground Zero.
I had two Tom Clancy books to while away the eons on the plane. One, as I say, was "The Sum of All Fears," which I discarded on the trip out. Alone, in my Jerusalem hotel room, I turn to my second Clancy novel, "The Bear and the Dragon." A subplot deals with the Chinese custom (reported by Clancy) of female infanticide. An American operative falls in love with a Chinese young woman and is informed of this crime and is, rightfully, horrified, as is Clancy. How can these little children be murdered? He writes, "If it were the Jews, the world would be Up in Arms." What can he mean? As the world was in 1941, when they rushed to the defense of 6 million innocents? Or as the world is today, in its staunch support of Israel's right to existence, and in opposition to the murder of its children? What can Clancy mean? Is there no beach novel to rest my overburdened sensibilities? Where do I belong? What will bring peace to the Middle East? Why has the Western press embraced antisemitism as the new black? Well, Jerusalem has been notorious, since antiquity, for inculcating in the visitor a sense not only of the immediacy but of the solubility of the large questions. I recommend it.
JANE FONDA’S MIDEAST MISSION
Jane Fonda's mideast mission
The Associated Press
December 19, 2002
Jane Fonda visited Israelis wounded in suicide bomb attacks and met with Israeli peace activists Thursday.
The 64-year-old actress and activist is on a weeklong trip to the region and plans to attend meetings of Israeli and Palestinian women organized by a global movement to stop violence against women.
The movement, called V-Day, was inspired by the off-Broadway hit "The Vagina Monologues" and its playwright, Eve Ensler, who is also in Israel.
Fonda and Ensler spoke Thursday to Jewish and Arab doctors and patients at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital after a performance of selected passages from "Monologues" put on by a group of Israeli women.
Earlier, Fonda, a two-time Oscar winner and fitness guru, visited Israelis recovering from chronic injuries at the hospital's rehabilitation center.
She appeared emotionally moved when she met 23-year-old Sharon Maman, who suffered brain damage after two suicide bombers blew up simultaneously in downtown Jerusalem on Dec. 1, 2001. The young man, who lay flat on his stomach on a hospital bed, only began speaking again three months ago.
On Saturday, Fonda is to visit the West Bank town of Ramallah to see a physical rehabilitation center, a Palestinian refugee camp and Yasser Arafat's headquarters complex, most of which Israeli troops have destroyed.
JANE FONDA VISITS REFUGEE CAMP, RAMALLAH HOSPITAL
Jane Fonda visits refugee camp, Ramallah hospital
The Associated Press
December 23, 2002
Actress Jane Fonda visited a refugee camp and a hospital in the West Bank on Saturday, capping a three-day visit to the region aimed at promoting peace.
Fonda, who was celebrating her 65th birthday, traveled through the Kalkilya crossing, trudging through mud and clutching a bouquet of red roses given to her by a Palestinian women's group.
She toured West Bank villages and was led through a Palestinian refugee camp near Ramallah in a daylong tour hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Women.
It was the final leg of a trip organized by a global movement to stop violence against women.
The movement, called V-Day, was inspired by the off-Broadway hit "The Vagina Monologues" and its playwright, Eve Ensler.
Ensler accompanied Fonda and led discussions with Palestinian women.
"This is the focal point of so many conflicts," Fonda said. "Both sides aren't hearing each other's narratives, and maybe that's our role as artists."
In an emotional moment, Fonda and Ensler met with Fatima al-Kasba, 37, who lost two teenage sons in the conflict. Fonda embraced Kasba, both women in tears, as the mother of five described the pain of losing her children and her hopes for peace.
Later, Fonda and Ensler toured the Abu Raya Rehabilitation Center, where victims of violence and spinal cord injuries are treated and provided with physiotherapy.
Fonda, a two-time Oscar winner and fitness guru, said she had been to Israel and the West Bank in 1980, but what she saw today was dramatically different.
She said she was most surprised by the number and proximity of Jewish communities to the Palestinian population.
NOT STEVEN SPIELBERG. NOT BARBARA STREISAND. NOT PHILIP ROTH.
Friends like these
The Jerusalem Post
April 1, 2002
Yasser Arafat may be holed up in dimly lit quarters, but it's not as if he lacks for photo-op flash. Last month we watched as a claque of literary and Hollywood heavies Nobelist Jose Saramago and mega-director Oliver Stone among them tramped through Arafat's offices, lending moral and emotional support. Now the Palestinian leader has been joined by French antiglobalization leader Jose Bove, several members of the European Parliament, and about 600 Italian and French "peace activists," who have volunteered their services as human shields. Arafat, an expert in putting innocent people in harm's way, has been happy to oblige.
Meanwhile, here in Israel, we have... Not Steven Spielberg. Not Barbara Streisand. Not Philip Roth. Not Daniel Libeskind. Not the March of the Living. We do have Karrin Wheeler, an American Jew who's here "to tell the Israeli government... that the source of terror and violence is the Israeli government and racism." But that's not exactly the kind of support Israelis were hoping to get from their American cousins.
As we write, the bloodiest month in the 18-month-long intifada has just ended. Arab anti-Semitism is at fury pitch, Hitlerian in its rhetoric and medieval in its deeds. Newsweek's cover story wonders whether Israel has any future to speak of. Yet notable exceptions aside, the reaction of the Diaspora has to a depressing extent amounted to little more than diffident handwringing. When the history of this phase of the Arab-Israeli conflict is written, this diffidence will surely count among its more lamentable chapters.
This is not to say that the average Diaspora Jew is to be blamed for shying away from Israel, though surely it doesn't take an extraordinary measure of courage to pay a week's visit. But people like Spielberg, Streisand, Roth, and Libeskind have a different level of responsibility. Each has "spoken" for the Jewish people. Some are prominent memorializers of the Holocaust. Yet in the face of the present assault, they are lending neither their bodies, nor their voices, nor their pens to the defense of an embattled Jewish homeland. It's as if Israel has been erased from their Jewish consciousness.
In fairness, this failure of responsibility is not theirs alone. It has been abetted by the Western press, so wondrously evenhanded over the years regarding events in Israel that it has created the intellectual underpinnings on which Palestinian terrorism flourishes. And it has been abetted by Israel's uniquely incompetent public relations machine.
Still, given the train of events from Camp David onward, it cannot be too much to ask of Diaspora Jews to figure it out for themselves. Put simply: Their correligionists and ethnic kin are being killed, a dozen at a time, in their homes, cafes, cars, and grocery stores, because they are Jews. Not Israelis, mind, but Jews. So if Diaspora Jewry will not speak out for Israel because they object to Sharon, or to the settlements, or to this or that aspect of Israeli domestic policy will they at least speak out for themselves?
It bears notice that the people who have recently paid court in Ramallah are among the worst the West has to offer. As an editor at the Diario de Noticias, the Portuguese Saramago put his newspaper behind the abortive 1975 Communist putsch by sacking every reporter who would not report the party line. Stone is notorious for films that bend truth and invent facts in the service of his message. Bove is the man who led the violent Seattle WTO protests that inspired an explosion of anarchist and neo-Nazi violence throughout Europe. Thus do the unrepentant, the mendacious, the violent, and the radical come together in common cause with the Palestinian Authority.
That said, the inability or unwillingness of their more moderate peers Jewish ones especially to offer some kind of riposte marks the gravest sort of failure. Saramago, Stone, and Bove may be an execrable bunch, but they have opinions aplenty, and the courage to express them. We can only hope that events in Israel will not someday make Diaspora Jews bitterly regret their present silence.