Hollywood has an Israel problem

The great American actor Dean Stockwell passed away on November 7. His career spanned over 70 years and began in 1947.

In 1947, Hollywood gave us “Gentleman’s Agreement,” a thoughtful and compelling portrait of anti-Semitism in America in the period directly after World War Two and the Holocaust. Americans were reminded of this multiple Academy Award-winning movie with the passing of acting legend Dean Stockwell. Stockwell played the central character’s elementary school-aged son, and his storyline involved being bloodied by anti-Semitic bullies who mistakenly believed he was Jewish.

Hollywood has an Israel problem

Dean Stockwell in Gentleman’s Agreement

“Gentleman’s Agreement” is a further reminder of an era when a select cadre of Jews and non-Jews in Hollywood and the other arts stood up for the rights of Jewish victims of persecution and violence. It was a time when false moral equivalence had not yet reared its ugly and dangerous head.

The movie won the Best Picture and the Best Director Oscars and multiple nominations: Dorothy McGuire for Best Actress, Gregory Peck for Best Actor, Anne Revere for Best Supporting Actress, Harmon Jones for Best Film Editing, and Moss Hart for Best Adapted Screenplay. Stockwell’s co-star Celeste Holm won for Best Supporting Actress.

Moss Hart is also remembered for penning the play “You Can’t Take It With You” and the movie “A Star Is Born.” In “Gentleman’s Agreement,” Hart took aim at both liberal hypocrisy and the American Jewish inclination towards assimilation.

Hart was Jewish, and his parents were from Europe, but “Gentleman’s Agreement” may directly result from his involvement with Ben Hecht, the Jabotinsky Zionists, the Irgun, and efforts to save Europe’s Jews. Hecht was a prolific screenwriter, playwright and wrote “The Front Page” and the original “Scarface.”

After hearing a pitch by Hecht for help with the Irgun’s rescue activities, Hart replied: “I thought I’d tell you that if I can do anything definite in the way of Jewish propaganda, call on me.”

Hecht called on Hart. They were joined by composer Kurt Weill, Broadway producer Billie Rose, and others, and they created “We Will Never Die,” which was performed at Madison Square Garden on March 9, 1943. The purpose of the show was to generate awareness of the Nazi massacre. It was the single largest effort in America to publicize the plight of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust. [See the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website at http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007047 for more information.]

Hollywood has an Israel problem

Far too many American Jews are unfamiliar with the heroic initiatives launched by Jabotinsky’s activists in the 1940s. And this unfamiliarity is no accident.

Professor Daniel J. Elazar (1934-1999) was a scholar of the Jewish political tradition. Elazar was a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, and Temple University in Philadelphia and a prolific author.

In the May 15, 1981 edition of the Jewish journal Sh’ma, Elazar recalled Jabotinsky’s legacy and wrote:

“Would there be a serious public commemoration of the 100th birthday of Zev Jabotinsky had it not been for the fact that the Likud won the election in Israel in 1977? Not likely. For thirty years and more, Jabotinsky was one of those non-persons in Israel and the Jewish world… The ruling Labour Party made him a non-person for the same reasons that it portrayed Menachem Begin and his supporters as uncivilized fascists — it is easier to beat the opposition by painting it as irrelevant, intolerable, and non-existent until it is too strong to be dismissed.”

The work by Moss Hart, Ben Hecht, and other entertainment luminaries in support of Jabotinsky’s followers during World War Two, and the subsequent fight to create a modern Jewish State, has been ignored by U.S. Jewish establishment elites for decades.

And while that is tragic in its own way, what is worse is that so few in today’s Hollywood can be counted on to stand up for Israel at all.

Movies like “Gentleman’s Agreement” do not get made anymore. The Hollywood that delivered such pro-Zionist films as Kirk Douglas’s “Cast A Giant Shadow,” Paul Newman’s “Exodus,” and Dana Andrews’s “Sword in the Desert” are alas no more. In its place, there is a liberal Jewish elite that would rather praise Spielberg’s “Munich” and its portrayal of a conflicted and disillusioned Israeli counter-terrorism agent than make genuine pro-Zionist movies. After all, what would their liberal friends say if they abandoned political correctness and supported the human rights of Israeli settlers in Judea-Samaria and not those of the Arabs in Gaza?

After World War Two, many in the arts continued to support the Irgun’s efforts to create a modern Jewish State. When they saw Ben-Gurion’s war against the Irgun turn bloody many of them too became “disillusioned.”

When did liberals turn their backs on Israel and Zionism? Mostly, it was long after Hart and Hecht had died.

Hecht penned the pro-Zionist play “A Flag is Born,” which opened in New York on September 5, 1946.  By1949, his disappointment in Israel’s leftist leaders knew no bounds.

Hecht detailed his feelings in his memoir “A Child of the Century.” He wrote:

As the deeds of the Irgun increased, a drama of dual courage came out of Palestine. It was the courage of a handful of young Jews hurling themselves onto the bayonets and gallows of the British. And it was also the courage of standing up against the roar of invective set up by the Jews of all the lands–including the one for whose liberation they were battling. Here, fanned by the Socialist Ben-Gurion and the Zionist Weizmann, the Jewish bitterness against the Irgunists sounded its fiercest snorts.

(…)We did not know that the pre-battle surrender had been determined. As the Weizmann-Ben Gurion government had bowed to the British tyrant, so they knelt now to their new master – the United Nations.

The Jewish government had called for the Irgun to help it stay alive against five enemy armies. But they would never dare welcome an Altalena loaded with enough arms to rescue beleaguered Jerusalem or to enable an army of victorious young Hebrews to sweep through Eretz Israel and win the land on both sides of the Jordan! There would be no Hebrew nation, no room for cattle and grain, no cities, no freight yards, no ancient capital revived, no space for industry or destiny. There would be a beachhead called Israel, to which the Jews could cling, as they had always clung, like castaways.

Hart died in 1961 and Hecht in 1964, and the two did not live to see Jerusalem and the Judean Hills liberated in the miraculous Israeli victory in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Earlier this year, actor Mark Ruffalo, a political extremist known for starring in the Marvel superhero movies, tweeted: “1500 Palestinians face expulsion in #Jerusalem. 200 protesters have been injured. 9 children have been killed. Sanctions on South Africa helped free its black people – it’s time for sanctions on Israel to free Palestinians. Join the call.” After receiving considerable criticism for his hateful comments, Ruffalo later tweeted an apology.

And now there is no one the likes of a Ben Hecht or a Moss Hart left to tell the truth about Israel and Zionism in Hollywood and stand firm against BDS. When will the next great movie about Israel be made by Hollywood?


Hollywood has an Israel problem

Hollywood has an Israel problem

Hollywood has an Israel problem