Among the celebrities I wrote about last week who are speaking out for and (mostly) against Israel during the Gaza conflict were Spanish husband-and-wife actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. They, in addition to dozens of other Spanish artists, signed an open letter condemning Israel for its “genocide” of the so-called Palestinians. In response, Jon Voight, Hollywood’s most vocal conservative actor, penned a strong open letter of his own for The Hollywood Reporter, advising Cruz and Bardem to “hang your heads in shame.”
In a statement on Wednesday Penelope Cruz tried to walk back her denunciation of Israel. After prefacing her clarification with an acknowledgement that she is “not an expert on the situation,” Ms. Cruz explained that “My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza.” Well, that’s what we all hope for, but some of us understand that peace is not going to come from the hatemongering terrorists of Hamas, and some of us, like Ms. Cruz and her husband, seem to believe that Israel is the problem.
Bardem released a statement as well, in which he tried to clarify his position and complained of the backlash against him and Cruz: “I am now being labeled by some as anti-Semitic, as is my wife — which is the antithesis of who we are as human beings. We detest anti-Semitism as much as we detest the horrible and painful consequences of war.” Bardem went on to try to make a distinction between his criticism of “the Israeli military response” and his “great respect for the people of Israel and deep compassion for their losses.”
As I wrote last week, that distinction would carry more weight if Bardem and others like him didn’t always direct their condemnation toward the one nation in the Middle East that holds the values which liberals like Bardem and Cruz claim to cherish: human rights, women’s rights, gay rights, equality between Jews and Arabs, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and all the rest.
Instead, in addition to his signature on the open letter, Bardem had also written an op-ed for a Spanishnewspaper, in which he unjustly labeled Israel’s military operation “genocide” and “a war of extermination… where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targets and presumed to be terrorists.” “Right now,” Bardem wrote in the op-ed, “there is NO place for distance or neutrality.” He’s right about that, but unfortunately he chose to throw his support behind the terrorists.
In his more recent statement, Bardem noted that “Too many innocent Palestinian mothers have lost their children to this conflict. Too many innocent Israeli mothers share the same grief… There should not be any political reason that can justify such enormous pain on both sides.” But there is a reason for the enormous pain – the Palestinian leadership’s relentless determination to kill Jews and wipe Israel off the map. Any further pain would cease overnight if the terrorism ended and Palestinians demonstrated a willingness to coexist in peace.
Incensed by what Jon Voight calls their “ignorance,” he lashed out at the couple in defense of Israel. “I am more than angry,” his open letter began. “I am heartsick that people like Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem could incite anti-Semitism all over the world and are oblivious to the damage they have caused.”
Voight proceeded to deliver a thumbnail history of the Arab-Israeli hostilities and to remind his readers that the current conflict began after the “travesty” of Hamas kidnapping and murdering three Jewish teenagers. He concluded thusly:
After years of trying to make peace, the wars they had to fight, being attacked by their enemies, and still being attacked, and finally after years of running into bomb shelters and having hundreds of civilians killed by suicide bombers, civilians being killed in their sleep, stabbed to pieces, finding enough is enough and finally retaliating, instead of my peers sticking up for the only democratic country in that region, they go and take out poison letters against them.
Voight didn’t let his acting colleagues get away with claiming no ill will against the Jewish people, asking
all my peers who signed that poison letter against Israel to examine their motives. Can you take back the fire of anti-Semitism that is raging all over the world now?… You had a great responsibility to use your celebrity for good. Instead, you have defamed the only democratic country of goodwill in the Middle East: Israel.
The actor concluded by admonishing Bardem, Cruz, and the rest to “hang your heads in shame. You should all come forth with deep regrets for what you did, and ask forgiveness from the suffering people in Israel.”
As is typical of artists, Bardem and Cruz believe that violence is always wrong, that fighting back against terrorism only breeds more violence, that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a “cycle of violence” which it is incumbent upon Israel to end, that 1400 years of religious enmity can somehow be erased by a simple plea for coexistence, and that Israel is an oppressive occupier and the Palestinians are helpless victims. “My signature [on the open letter] was solely meant as a plea for peace,” Bardem tried to explain. But Israel has tried such pleas for decades. The time for pleading for peace with an enemy who will not rest until you and all your kind are violently eradicated is over. Now the time has come for the extermination of the Jew-hating Palestinian leadership. That way lies peace.
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