Jon Voight was assisting two friends in navigating through the mountain of paperwork that was their ticket to retirement living in a well-known elder care facility in the Valley. Excusing himself momentarily, he meandered down the hallway, stretching the same legs that walked the streets of New York City with Dustin Hoffman in “Midnight Cowboy,” when he overheard the lilt of an Irish voice nearby. Peeking his head into my wife’s office, he said, “You know, I was just in Ireland.”
In a classic moment of delayed reaction, my wife looked up at the familiar face. Finally realizing who was standing in her doorway she got up to greet her famous visitor. “My husband is a huge fan of yours,” she managed to say.
“Well, get him on the phone, I want to talk to him,” bellowed Voight as my wife dialed my cell.
That was my first introduction to Jon Voight. My wife handed her phone to him, and in between his congratulations on my choice in women, I pitched him on the situation that I was involved in with the Motion Picture and Television Fund in trying to keep the Motion Picture Home’s Long Term Care facility open. He grew silent and began to listen intently. Interrupting only to ask questions that showed a deep level of understanding and concern. He ended our conversation with an assurance that he would be asking questions, and that he would be involved.
I hung up a bigger fan than I had been, and yesterday when I read his vituperatively focused response to Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz‘s ill-advised and clueless open letter that denounced Israel’s military action in Gaza, I may have fallen in love.
Since John Lennon made that cryptic comment to Maureen Cleve of the London Evening Standard that “The Beatles are bigger than Jesus Christ,” celebrities have been under the misguided assumption that their opinions on anything outside the realm of their core competency is either relevant, or interesting. With the advent of social media, everyone’s got an opinion that can be published, evangelized, broadcast or blogged.
The difference between what I write and what great actors like Bardem and Cruz say is that people will not only listen more closely to what a celebrity says, but they’ll also parrot that opinion while adopting it as their own. The dearth of original thought in most individuals is not unlike the group think that courses through the DNA of the ostrich. At the first sign of trouble they tend to bury their head, thereby exposing a huge target. And … if you can get your mind around that analogy, then you’ll be able to visualize exactly what I’m talking about.
I see nothing is lost on you, dear reader.
As much as I appreciated Jon Voight’s brave rebuttal to the ravings of Bardem and Cruz, it will probably crucify him in the realm of public opinion. Voight recognizes the plight of Israel, that’s clear. To some, it may be a reach, but I equate Israel’s survival to the survival of all Jews. Those who don’t live in Israel, yet feel that they can weigh in on Israel’s strategy to sustain itself, are probably more dangerous to the survival of Israel than Hamas: the government that rules Gaza — the same ones who rejoiced at 9/11, wishes death to every Jew on the planet, blessed the hands of the kidnappers/murderers of those three Israeli kids, and is closely aligned with ISIS (as they go around Iraq beheading non-believers, crucifying Christians, and mutilating women). When Bardem and Cruz step into the political fray to criticize Israel’s determination to rid the area of terrorists, they do so at our peril — not theirs. If Israel falls, America is the next domino to go down. That’s gonna ruin your day. Europe is already being eaten by the cancer that is anti-semitism and it’s reminiscent of the stirrings that led to the Holocaust.
Hatred that is based on ignorance and fueled by the vacuous words of celluloid heroes. As we understand illiteracy, we must not tolerate ignorance. Unfortunately, all too often ignorance prevails when a celebrity spits out social opinions while walking the red carpet — and if they don’t shut up, you may one day hear Joan Rivers comment:
“That’s a lovely burka Penelope, is it de la Renta?”
Celebrities often only speak after carefully learning their lines. The iconic dialog that we associate the great actors with are just that — words written by screenwriters. When they go off-script and start pontificating about world problems with absolutely no clue or experience (I’m not talking about those brave souls who actually walk the ground of where they speak), then their opinion is worth as much as yours, and no more. While we sit at our computers in cozy coffee houses, or comment on Facebook in between spoonfuls of Lucky Charms — there are people dying in that unholy desert halfway around the world, on both sides. Nearly all of us have never run for cover when an air raid siren sounds, and we certainly have not lived in fear that our child’s school will be hit because it secretly stores terrorist ordinance. Bardem and Cruz’s limousine sensibilities mean nothing — and thank God for Jon Voight in recognizing that both needed to be bitch-slapped and taken down a peg.
Voight’s characterization of their opinion as ‘ignorant of Israel’s history’ and that they should ‘hang their heads in shame’ doesn’t go far enough. And, true to form of those who love publicity more than they love the truth — Bardem “walked back his signature on a letter accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.”
No clarification is needed, Javier — your statement that ‘this is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means’ speaks volumes on where you’re really at. We get it. Jews have been on the receiving end of hate and hostility for generations. The difference now is that we’ve stopped playing the victim. Your ire directed at Israel would have been better crafted if you left out the word “extermination.” Your PR hack who most likely worked on your grammar must have known that this word would be a trip-wire to an explosion of attention. I hope you’re enjoying the attention and the respect that your idiocy brought to Jon Voight. Your retraction is flaccid and your original purpose is noted.
We’ve all seen the horrific images of death and devastation in Gaza. I also remember the devastating photos of Israeli citizens, many of them children, whose night on the town or ride on a bus was cut short by the shards of shrapnel and bb’s that are characteristic of sweater bombs. When Bardem takes Cruz out to Spago’s, the thought of his Schnitzel being blown all over Wolfgang Puck’s toque, along with his wife’s implants are the furthest thing from his mind. When Israelis go to a bistro in Tel Aviv, the possibility of their meal ending before the waiter is tipped is a nagging feeling that probably will never escape them. We don’t need celebrities to sway the visceral reaction that is the foundation for our own opinions. We get it. It’s war, and every innocent who is on the receiving end of either Israeli or Palestinian ordinance is paying for a tribalist mentality that gives birth to religious extremism. In this case, I’ve chosen a side. I don’t live in Israel, and I certainly don’t live in Gaza. I’ll leave it up to the duly elected government of the only democracy in the region to decide the best course of action. My opinion means nothing. Bardem and Cruz’s opinion means less to me than Mel Gibson‘s drunken rant against Jews.
It’s nothing but a ploy. Bardem and Cruz’ thinly-veiled anti-Israeli sentiments are merely an attempt for recognition by publicity addicted purveyors of entertainment. My plumber’s opinion is as valid.
As is yours.