Last week, entertainer extraordinaire Stevie Wonder blew off a dinner for the Friends of the Israel Defense Force after anti-Semitic petitioners by the thousands asked him to pull out of the event. Those petitioners told Wonder that Israel was an “apartheid state.” They suggested that Israel was a human rights violator. And Wonder, not used to receiving political pressure, fell for it, releasing this statement:
Given the current and very delicate situation in the Middle East, and with a heart that has always cried out for world unity, I will not be performing at the FIDF Gala …. I am and have always been against war, any war, anywhere.
Any war, anywhere? How about World War II? Or the Civil War? Would Wonder have cancelled a fundraiser for the Friends of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first all-black Army unit to fight in the Civil War?
But anti-Israel outcry has an outsized impact in the Hollywood community. The universities have long been a bastion of anti-Israel feeling; the professoriate prefers to think of Israel through a Marxist lens, as a colonial outpost in the midst of the Islamic world. That’s nonsense – Israel has always had a Jewish presence, and the Jewish State is no more a British outpost than India is, especially considering that the Jews had to fight the British to leave and that the British administration was utterly Arab centric.
Hollywood’s anti-Israel feeling is more knee-jerk – it comes from a perverse sense that Israel is an oppressor and the Palestinians are the oppressed. Hollywood is built on victimology; virtue comes from being weak, and evil comes from being strong. Never mind that Hollywood isn’t weak at all, but a cultural force colonializing people all over the world to leftist values. Never mind the huge estates off of Sunset Blvd. In their own minds, Hollywoodites are so much in solidarity with those they regard as oppressed that they’re oppressed themselves, and must now use tywoodheir power to tear down those who are strong. All that’s needed to convince Hollywood that the Jews are bad and the Arabs are good is to show the Arabs flinging stones and the Jews flying F-16s.
For those reasons, among others, the divestment campaign has been gaining steam in Hollywood, with stars ranging from Dustin Hoffman to Carlos Santana cancelling trips to Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians. Even Kim Kardashian has retracted her support for the State of Israel after she was inundated with divestment-minded nonsense from Twitter followers.
What does this mean? First, it means that the left has obviously turned against Israel – and that the Hollywood left is willing to be bullied by the overall left. Hollywood is a largely Jewish town, but we’ve heard nothing from Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, or Harvey Weinstein. All of them love talking about the Holocaust – in that situation, the Jews were clearly the victims – but none of them want to talk about Israel. And if Hollywood Jews won’t stand up for Israel, why should Stevie Wonder?
Second, the growth of the divestment movement means that Israel is losing the PR war. Because Israel, like the American conservative movement, believes in individual liberty, it does not like thug tactics directed at lone people. Where the left is more than happy to bludgeon Stevie Wonder into submission, Israel isn’t.
That’s a mistake. Israel can’t afford to play nice while its opposition plays nasty. In the cultural arena, Israel should shamelessly promote its own victims, rather than relying on Hollywood to recognize good from evil. Those victims are legitimate – people targeted by evil Islamists, not merely poor terrorists who can’t afford gas chambers or an AK-47.
Defeating the divestment campaign will require a ground shift in Israel’s PR efforts. That’s doable, but it may mean fighting dirty. It’s time for Israel to start.
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