Hollywood stars blast Nasrallah, but Spielberg, Streisand and others remain silent

August 20, 2006

* In a letter, non-Jews Stallone, Willis, Kidman, Hopper, DeVito speak out for Israel
* But left-wing Jews like Spielberg, Streisand and Allen remain silent



1. Hollywood stars blast Nasrallah
2. Left-wing Jewish stars keep their distance
3. Hollywood’s muted response to Mel Gibson’s rant
4. Adam Shapiro pops up in Lebanon
5. Son of novelist David Grossman killed in Lebanon
6. “Star Wars” agency helps Israel on rocket threat
7. Sign in Turkey reads “Israeli murderers keep out”
8. “Jokes” about the Holocaust and Richard Perle
9. Edinburgh film festival warns Israeli director not to attend film’s screening
10. “Have you heard the one about the Jews?” (Times of London, August 15, 2006)

(This is one of three dispatches being sent today and tomorrow. After that, I have other important outstanding work to attend to and there will be no more dispatches this month.)

[Note by Tom Gross]


Some 84 high-profile Hollywood stars, directors and studio heads have taken out a strongly-worded full-page advertisement in The Los Angeles Times condemning Hizbullah and Hamas terror attacks on Israeli civilians.

Among those signing the statement were Nicole Kidman, Bruce Willis, Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Don Johnson, Sylvester Stallone, James Woods, Dennis Hopper, William Hurt and Kelly Preston.

Ridley Scott (the director of Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down, and Gladiator), his brother Tony Scott (the director of Top Gun, The Last Boy Scout, and Spy Game), and African-American tennis star Serena Williams, also added their names to the statement.

The advert was also published in the Hollywood Reporter newspaper, and Variety, and goes against the grain of the usual left-wing Hollywood political activism.

The advert was paid for by the head of Twentieth Century Fox, Australian-born media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Fox TV network. Murdoch is a life-long sympathizer with Zionism and the Jewish people.


With the exception of Michael Douglas, none of the Hollywood personalities cited above are Jewish. At the same time, and true to form, almost none of Hollywood’s politically-active left-wing Jewish stars – include those who have made much of their Jewishness, such as Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen – signed the statement condemning Hizbullah and Hamas.

I have noted previously the absence of support for Israel by such stars: for example after the Netanya Passover massacre, in the dispatch Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Philip Roth, Daniel Libeskind: Where are you? (April 1, 2002.)

A more recent dispatch on Spielberg was Munich (1): “Spielberg is no friend of Israel” (Dec. 15, 2005.)

An exception among Jewish celebrities is the actor Adam Sandler, star of The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, who last week said he would donate $100,000 to help some of the tens of thousands of Israeli children traumatized after weeks of living in bomb shelters. Sandler also purchased 400 Playstation games for them.

With very few exceptions, Hollywood Jews were also remarkably silent throughout the Holocaust.


In an article last week in The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus noted: “The interesting thing about Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade doesn’t involve Mel Gibson [but] Hollywood’s reaction to it – or, more accurately, its cowardly lack thereof.”

“Imagine if Gibson had assailed African-Americans with the same kind of assault that he unleashed on Jews. I suspect Hollywood would have responded with the outrage it deserved – not with paeans to free speech, and psychobabble about healing,” wrote Marcus.


Adam Shapiro, the radical American Jew who infamously entered Ramallah to protect and assist Yasser Arafat when Israel responded to the Passover massacre of March 2002, has now organized a convoy to southern Lebanon, “to help local residents and show solidarity with the victims of Israel.”

Shapiro, 34, from Brooklyn, is a leader of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a pro-Palestinian group.

This is the first time that the ISM has worked outside the Palestinian territories. Israeli authorities view the ISM as trouble makers who sometimes incite violence.

Among one of the ISM’s most prominent activists was Rachel Corrie who led pro-Hamas rallies for children in the Gaza Strip and later died in a bulldozer accident. (For more, see The Forgotten Rachels.)

In the past, The New York Times has repeatedly referred to Shapiro as a “humanitarian worker.” This is curious, since Shapiro himself admits to support for “armed resistance” and a Palestinian “violent movement.” The NY Times forgot to tell its readers about Shapiro’s article in The Palestine Chronicle in which he referred to “suicide operations” as “noble.”

(For more, see All the news that’s fit to print? The New York Times and Israel.)

At Shapiro’s wedding to a Palestinian activist in Detroit, Old Testament passages were read in Arabic rather than in Hebrew. Shapiro, who told various news outlets he no longer considers himself a Jew, previously worked for Seeds of Peace, a summer camp that brings Jewish and Arab teenagers to Maine every year to learn about coexistence. (For more, see Israelis not safe outside Planet Earth either, May 28, 2002.)

Shapiro’s work in Lebanon last week has been widely publicized in English by the Reuters news agency, and has now been taken up in Arabic by a number of sources, including the Kuwaiti daily al-Rai al-Aam www.alraialaam.com/10-08-2006/ie5/international.htm, and this new website


For those who haven’t heard already, since this was noted in several international newspapers, Uri Grossman, the 20-year-old son of renowned Israeli novelist and “peace activist” David Grossman, was killed last weekend in Lebanon, just days after his father made a public call for the Israeli army to halt its military operation.

Uri Grossman was one of 24 Israeli soldiers to be killed last Saturday, as part of Israel’s final push into Lebanon aimed at maximizing Israeli gains against Hizbullah before a UN-ordered cease fire came into force early Monday.

David Grossman, whose novels and political essays have been translated into 20 languages, is an outspoken advocate of Israeli concessions. Like most Israelis, he supported Israel’s retaliation when Hizbullah militia attacked an army patrol inside Israel on July 12 and unleashed a barrage of rockets on civilians in the north.

But two days before his son’s death, he said the war had gone on long enough, and at a joint news conference with fellow novelists Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, Grossman denounced Israel’s continuing campaign as dangerous and counterproductive. “Out of concern for the future of Israel and our place here, the fighting should be stopped now, to give a chance to negotiations,” he said.


The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency last week began working with Israel to help find ways to counter enemy rockets. “We have begun working with the Israelis as they go through with development of their own indigenous capabilities for that threat,” the head of the agency, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering said on Tuesday. “It is not yet mature. It is still in development.”

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency grew out of the so-called “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative launched by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1983. It is building a multibillion-dollar shield designed to thwart all classes and ranges of incoming ballistic missiles.

The United States has a long history of high-tech joint projects with Israel, including co-development of the Arrow, the system Israel has deployed to defend itself against short- and medium-range missiles.

Israel’s defense ministry recently asked the Pentagon for information about a next-generation chemical-laser system for intercepting short-range Katyusha and Qassam rockets, the Israeli business daily Globes reported last week.


A sign reading “For children killers Israelis: No Sale, No Entry” was put up for Israeli tourists at some clothing stores in the southern Turkish seaside resort of Antalya, reported the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot. Antalya is a popular destination for Israeli tourists each summer.

In a separate development, the Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, will arrive in Israel today (August 20) for a brief working visit. He will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Talks are expected to focus on the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, and bilateral issues.


A writer for “The Ali G Show” has reported in The Times of London that “the anti-Jewish sentiment at Edinburgh [this year] is shocking.”

The world’s largest arts festival, in Edinburgh, Scotland, is held every August.

Jamie Glassman writes: “There have always been anti-Semitic jokes. But you know times are changing when you go along to a stand-up show at the Pleasance Courtyard at the Edinburgh Fringe and you hear audience members shouting ‘Throw them in the oven’ when the comic suggests kids should stop playing Cowboys and Indians and replace it with Nazis and Jews.

“Stand-up comedy is as good a prism as any through which to look at the changing attitudes in our society. If my past few days are anything to go by then it is becoming increasingly acceptable to hate the Jews. Again.

“I’ve seen two comics so far who have been happy to amuse their crowds with Holocaust gags. I’m not sure which to be the more concerned about. One was a left-leaning angry Australian conspiracy theorist, Steve Hughes, [who joked] ‘I want to bash Condoleezza Rice’s brain to bits and kill that f****** Jew Richard Perle.’

“… What is going on in Edinburgh now is no satire… It is a cultural trend that I’ve found increasingly evident but never before has the Jew-hating element been so overt.”

I attach Glassman’s full article below.


Reuters reports that Israeli director Yoav Shamir has been advised in an email by the organizers of the Edinburgh film festival (which is part of the wider Edinburgh arts festival in Scotland) not to attend the screening of his new work due to Israel’s “actions in Lebanon.”

As Reuters notes, Shamir himself is a leftist Israeli. Shamir’s previous films include the critically acclaimed documentary “Checkpoint,” which showed the daily travails facing Palestinians at crossings in occupied territory interspersed with interviews with Israeli military personnel.

Shamir’s new documentary, “Five Days,” chronicles Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip last year from the viewpoints of Israeli settlers, the Israel army, and Palestinians. The nearly two week-long film festival, which began on August 14, is one of the key events on the world movie calendar. Reuters quotes an Edinburgh film festival spokeswoman saying that the letter sent to Shamir asking him not to come was “an amicable, advisory note” and it would be in his “best interest not to attend the festival.”

Shamir, 35, vowed to attend the screening in any case. “The festival has not thought about banning American film makers because of what is going on Iraq,” he said. “When a festival decides to take a stance like this it is a very dangerous kind of step to take. Film has the potential to create dialogue which is essential for understanding between people.”


Last week saw the biggest single migration of Jews in a single day from the UK since the creation of modern Israel in 1948. One hundred and forty Jews, ranging from a three-month-old baby to an 80-year-old woman, emigrated from the UK to Israel on August 16, 2006.

Among the reasons cited by many, according to news reports, were actual anti-Semitic attacks as well as “an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the UK generated by sections of the news media.”

Security experts said that the Jewish community in Britain is facing a wave of anti-Semitic incidents as a result of the conflict in Lebanon. For example, references to Islam and the slogan “Kill all Jews” were painted on the windows at a Jewish doctor’s North London home, and hate signs were daubed outside a Glasgow synagogue. Other incidents involved abusive phone messages and hate mail.

Leila Segal, a writer and editor, described herself as living in a “mental ghetto” in London, where she felt she was “always censoring” herself when it came to her Jewish identity.

Over 500 Jews have left Britain for Israel so far this year. The numbers of Jews migrating to Israel from western countries including France, Canada and the U.S. is also rising.

-- Tom Gross



Have you heard the one about the Jews?
Jamie Glassman
The Times of London
August 15, 2006


As a writer on The Ali G Show I can do insulting jokes. But the anti-Jewish sentiment at Edinburgh is shocking

There’s nothing I like more than a Jewish joke. It’s the anti-Jewish ones I’m not so keen on.

Wandering through the streets of Edinburgh during the world’s largest arts festival, you never know what sight or sound you will be bombarded with next. Half-naked men on 6ft stilts meander by, half-naked girls rush to sell you their show, troops of Japanese acrobats tumble past. But I wasn’t prepared for the verbal assault I got when I wandered into a comedy gig this week.

There have always been anti-Semitic jokes. But you know times are changing when you go along to a stand-up show at the Pleasance Courtyard at the Edinburgh Fringe and you hear audience members shouting “Throw them in the oven” when the comic suggests kids should stop playing Cowboys and Indians and replace it with Nazis and Jews.

Stand-up comedy is as good a prism as any through which to look at the changing attitudes in our society. If my past few days are anything to go by then it is becoming increasingly acceptable to hate the Jews. Again.

I’ve seen two comics so far who have been happy to amuse their crowds with Holocaust gags. I’m not sure which to be the more concerned about.

One was a left-leaning angry Australian conspiracy theorist, Steve Hughes, whose show The Storm is an assault on all things Western. “I want to bash Condoleezza Rice’s brain to bits and kill that f****** Jew Richard Perle.” Hughes is the one at the Pleasance Courtyard while Perle is an adviser to George W. Bush as he was to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton on foreign affairs.

The second was a far more charming African-American comic who for much of the show was thoughtful, funny and even quite sweet. But he seemed to have a problem with Jews, too. Reginald D. Hunter is doing sell-out shows in the new E4-sponsored venue, the Udderbelly. Three hundred come along every night to see Hunter’s Pride and Prejudice and Niggas. You should see the poster.

I was laughing along until he announced that he was about to be extremely controversial and break the last taboo of stand-up comedy. Long silent pause. Jeeeeews. Another long pause with some giggles from the audience. You see, you’re not allowed to say that.

He went on to say how its illegal to deny the Holocaust in Austria. He has a good mind to go to Austria, stand in the street and say the Holocaust didn’t happen so that he could get arrested and tell the judge he was talking about the Rwandan holocaust. Whether or not he thought there should be a law against going to Rwanda and denying that genocide, he didn’t say.

By claiming that making a joke about Jews is the one last, great comic taboo, he simultaneously provides the moral justification for a crack at the Jews and he silences them from the right to complain, as this would only confirm the unspoken premise: that Jews are overprotected in society or even worse that Jewish media controllers are obsessed with silencing any criticism of their own.

His joke is essentially one about freedom of speech and selective Jewish control of that freedom, but he gives the lie to his true feelings by his choice of example. Of all the possible targets, of all the things he might wish to say, his complaint is that he is not permitted to parrot the greatest anti-Semitic slur of the last hundred years — that the Holocaust never happened. As a believer in free speech, I am not convinced by the criminalisation of Holocaust denial, but that does not mean I am confused about the motives of those who wish to utter it.

The great Lenny Bruce, a comedian who suffered endlessly at the hands of the American authorities for the right to freedom of speech and to break taboos, once did a bit that began: “Are there any niggers here tonight?” His liberal audience was initially shocked at this racist outburst, but as the monologue continued he made it clear that it was “the suppression of the word that gives it the power”. That was taboo-busting. That was a righteous plea for freedom of speech.

The African-American comedian Dick Gregory was in attendance that night. He subsequently published a book entitled Nigger, and dedicated it: “Dear Momma, Wherever you are, if you ever hear the word ‘nigger’ again, remember they are advertising my book.”

It’s hard to imagine a Jew reacting similarly to Hunter’s bit. The question of what is acceptable material for comedy is always going to be a complex one to answer. Comedians should certainly be allowed to say anything. In fact, it is their role and their duty to be breaking taboos where they need to be broken. But comics do have an obligation to think about whom they might be offending with their material and whether or not those who say they are offended are right to be.

These questions are not entirely foreign to me. As a producer and writer on The Ali G Show, I have been accused of racism, among other things, in the past. All three characters in that show had their prejudices but I hope all thinking people would see the satire not far below the surface.

Borat, the fictional Kazakhstani journalist, was overtly anti-Semitic. Sacha Baron Cohen would dangle Borat’s anti-Semitism in front of our interviewees and we would all be shocked and amazed at how many of them would take the bait and join in. The Country Bar in Phoenix, Arizona, where the crowd sang along to Throw the Jew down the Well, was a terrifying example.

Jewish communal organisations in the US were concerned at the time that the tune would catch on and spur a rise of anti-Jewish attacks. Fortunately, most people saw it for the satire it was intended to be.

Borat was also prejudiced against blacks and Gypsies. Ali G was a homophobe and a misogynist. Austrian fashion presenter Bruno hated the disabled, all fat people, ugly people and the Jews too. Apologies if I have forgotten some colour, creed or lifestyle that we would use as bait.

But what is going on in Edinburgh now is no satire. For me, Hughes represents a growing trend among left-thinking people in this country and around the world to accept as dogma that those on the Left should hate Bush, Blair, American imperialism, Israel and, while we’re at it, the Jews. It is a cultural trend that I’ve found increasingly evident but never before has the Jew-hating element been so overt. This week has confirmed that my Jewish paranoia is not entirely unfounded. As the old saying goes: “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.”

Hughes wasn’t one for the odd remark or the clever comment; he waxed lyrical on how Osama bin Laden is far less of a threat than Dick Cheney, before defending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, saying he has no intention of destroying Israel, he has just been misquoted.

Yet I sat in that audience and I didn’t heckle. In hindsight it is heartening that half of his audience sat in stunned silence, as I did, for most of his show; but at the time it was the other half of the audience who were whooping along and lapping him up that made the greater impression.

As for Hunter, he seems like a nice guy, well meaning and at times very funny. While Hughes did little to hide his Jew-hatred, in a way it is even more disheartening that Hunter is so keen to make the Holocaust fair game.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.