Dear Jon Voight: A letter about Gaza
Does Jon Voight have his facts on Israel and Palestine right?
Last updated: 13 Aug 2014 11:35
by Gil Hochberg, Mark LeVine
As the carnage in Gaza reached a crescendo in the beginning of August, Jon Voight, one of Hollywood's most vocal conservatives, penned a harsh attack on fellow actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in response to a letter they signed condemning the latest Israeli bombing of Gaza in which he accused them of "inciting anti-Semitism all over the world". Many activists dismiss Voight's letter as the rantings of an unthinking actor who long ago lost touch with political reality - a poor relation of conservative icon Charlton Heston. But Voight's vitriol, and the narratives behind them, have for decades been quite effective in silencing criticism of Israel in Hollywood or among entertainers more broadly.
Indeed, they provide the intellectual cover for even more extreme attacks by celebrities like Joan Rivers, who in an "epic rant" worthy of an Israeli Knesset member, declared that Palestinians in Gaza "deserved to be dead". This level of hatred mirrors the increasingly genocidal discourse against Palestinians within Israeli political and culture.
Yet it also gives cover for a growing blacklist by "top industry executives" against actors like Cruz and Bardem who dare criticise Israel publicly and without the level of deference that has long defined Hollywood's treatment of the Jewish state.
Like most Hollywood scripts, the narratives on which the views of Voight, Rivers and other Hollywood Israel supporters are based are far removed from the historical and contemporary realities they purport to describe. Yet their power remains secure precisely because they are the same narratives used by the seemingly reasonable mainstream media and political actors - from the New York Times to President Obama - whenever the conflict is discussed.
There are three fundamental "myths", to borrow a phrase from one of Israel's founding revisionist historians, Simha Flapan, surrounding Israel's birth and subsequent history that cohere the traditional narrative Voight is re-voicing. The first surround's the state's creation itself: "when in 1948 the Jewish people were offered by the UN a portion of the land originally set aside for them in 1921... The Arabs rejected the offer, and the Jews accepted, only to be attacked by five surrounding Arab countries committed to driving them into the sea... The Arabs tried it again in 1967, and again in 1973."