The Four Jewish Immigrants Who Created Hollywood as We Know It

The three eldest Wonsal brothers were born in the Russian empire; a fourth was born during a stopover in Canada during their family’s migration to America. Taking the name Warner, the Wonsals eventually settled in Baltimore where, even as teenagers, the brothers dreamed of making movies. Reviewing a new book by David Thompson about the brothers and Warner Bros. studio, Linda Tucker writes:

[The] book reveals the brothers’ underlying reason for the movies they chose: their desire to leave behind the ways of the old country and become steeped in the American myth, transforming the way they and the rest of the country saw themselves. . . . The brothers’ first significant production was My Four Years in Germany, based on a sensationalist book, in 1918—[a film intended to support the U.S. effort in World War I].

The Jazz Singer, which came out in 1927, was the historic turning point for Warner Bros. It was about one character’s struggle to be both Jewish and American—a cantor’s son and a vaudeville entertainer. Al Jolson, the star, personified Jewish storytelling for a universal audience. Sam Warner was the one who pushed for the movie to have sound, and Jack signed Jolson. . . .

But the Warners were anxious for theirs not to seem like a Jewish business; they wanted to be American. Casablanca, released in 1942, did not emphasize the Jewish experience. It is also the most celebrated movie the Warners ever made—and one of the most cherished in Hollywood. [Thompson writes]: “A big element in the charm of Casablanca is that underlying air of comradeship, and of an international cast coming together at a moment when everyone was appreciating how the war was turning strangers into allies. [Humphrey] Bogart and Dooley Wilson were the only Americans with sizable roles.”

Read more at Moment

More about: American Jews, History & Ideas, Hollywood, Immigration

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