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When celebrities are drunk, on drugs or just high on their own egos, they often engage in rants. These days many such rants are captured on cell phone videos or audio tapes and go viral on the internet. Nothing surprising there. What is surprising to many is that the rant de jour these days seems to be directed against Jews.
Consider the former Dior designer, John Galliano, who was sitting in a bar in a Jewish section of Paris and announcing his love for Hitler and smiling as he told the people at an adjoining table, who he apparently assumed to be Jewish, that “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f—– gassed.”
Or consider Charlie Sheen who claims to be high on Charlie Sheen, attacking his producer by emphasizing the Jewish nature of his original name, Chaim Levine.
Or Oliver Stone telling an interviewer last year that too much attention is paid to the Holocaust because of “Jewish domination of the media.” And that Hitler wasn’t all that terrible to the Jews.
Then there is the Reverend Louis Farrakhan, ranting and raving about Satanic Jews controlling the world.
This is not an entirely new phenomenon. Mel Gibson delivered a similar rant when he was stopped by Los Angeles police in 2006. “F*****g Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Gibson then asked the deputy, “Are you a Jew?”
Generally, sobriety results in apology, but the damage has been done.
The question is why the Jews? There’s an old joke about a Nazi rally in Nuremberg where Hitler is screaming, “Who causes all of Germany’s problems?” An old man in the crowd shouts back, “the bicycle riders.” Hitler’s taken by surprise and asks, “why the bicycle riders?” To which the old man replies, “why the Jews?” That was the 1930s. But “why the Jews” in the second decade of the 21st Century?
Let me suggest two possible answers. The first is that little about the nature of prejudice has really changed, but the advent of the age of high technology has brought private prejudices into the public arena. In commenting on the Galliano outburst, Michael Goubert, a French DJ and music designer, observed that “virulent views like those expressed by [Galliano] are not rare.” But “the public expression” of intolerance is unusual and particularly troubling, according to patrons of the bar in which Galliano expressed his bigoted views. The pervasiveness of cell phone videos and the widespread use of the social media have blurred the line between private and public expression. What used to be only whispered to friends at a bar is now broadcast around the world.
There is a second, a far more troubling answer to “Why the Jews?” Prominent public figures have blurred another line as well—the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, between attacking the Jewish state and attacking the Jewish people. Consider widely publicized remarks made by Bishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the American Model of Freedom, and a man openly admired and praised by President Obama. He has called the Jews “a peculiar people” and has accused “the Jews” of causing many of the world’s problems. He has railed against “the Jewish Lobby,” comparing its power to that of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.
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