Jewish World Review Oct. 2, 2002 / 26 Tishrei, 5763
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.
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09/25/02: Bob Greene is a good man