Woody Allen: World’s Most Forthright Jewish Artist, or Cravenly Ambivalent?

Reflecting on his recent biography of Woody Allen, David Evanier describes conversations and correspondence with the filmmaker, discusses his cinematic oeuvre, and investigates his attitudes toward Jews, Israel, and the Holocaust. Calling Allen “the most identifiable, brazen, and forthright Jewish artist in the world,” Evanier claims that he could also still be afraid of being marked as “too Jewish”:

Allen told [the Israeli newspaper] Yediot Aḥaronot in 2012: “I support Israel and I’ve supported it since the day it was founded. Israel’s neighbors have treated it badly, cruelly, instead of embracing it and making it part of the Middle East family of nations. . . . I don’t expect Israel to react perfectly every time, and that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a wonderful, marvelous country.”. . .

However, he also told Marlow Stern of the Daily Beast in July 2014 of his feelings about the situation in Gaza, that it was “More terribleness. . . . It’s a terrible, tragic thing. . . . But I feel that the Arabs were not very nice in the beginning, and that was a big problem. . . . They were not nice about it, and it led to problems, and over the years, both sides have made mistakes. There have been public-relations mistakes, actual mistakes, and it’s been a terrible, terrible cycle of mismanagement and bad faith.”

Not very nice? Actually I think I left this quote out of my book because I found it distasteful, especially that childlike reversion to words like “not very nice.” Suddenly we are back in nursery school with little Woody at his wooden desk, an innocent except that he wants to shtup all the girls. Here he blathers on, keeping his head in the sand about all the rockets shot at Israel, wringing his hands and blaming both sides. The language, the evasion, the absurdity of this is undeniable. This is pragmatism and it is cowardice. He saw dead children and he didn’t want to be involved defending Israel.

And more than that, it is that full-fledged ambivalence that is an essential part of Allen’s personality. It is cowardice behind the courage about Jewishness and the Holocaust; in effect, he is still hiding from the goyim. He is not alone, and I do not condemn him for it. How often did Sidney Lumet, Paul Mazursky, Mel Brooks, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Arthur Penn, Clifford Odets, and countless other directors, playwrights, actors, and screenwriters speak out for Israel? In the history of Hollywood, Ben Hecht was one odd and brave exception, obsessed as he was with the Holocaust. When have we heard from Judd Apatow?

Allen has the perspective of many entertainers who, as assertively Jewish as they are, still do not want to be pigeonholed as “too Jewish”—too narrowly focused on Jewish issues and Israel at a time when Israel is a very unstylish subject for an important, fashionable segment of the public, including the media. It will hurt the box office.

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewry, Arts & Culture, Film, Hollywood, Holocaust, Israel, Woody Allen

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security