Hollywood and Israel

Jon Voight, a seasoned Hollywood professional, has been principled enough to understand that ‘Israel the Movie’ is sequel material.

netanyahu huckabee voight 311 (photo credit: GPO / Amos Ben-Gershom)
netanyahu huckabee voight 311
(photo credit: GPO / Amos Ben-Gershom)
During a visit to Israel this week, actor Jon Voight was interviewed by national daily Israel Hayom. In the course of the interview, he commented that “Israel has a lot of support and many friends in Hollywood.”
If this is indeed the case, it is clear that few are as vocal as Voight, a gentile who has emerged as the strongest supporting voice for the Jewish state emanating from Hollywood.
In truth, since its founding in 1948, Israel’s relationship with America’s Hollywood royalty has been temperamental. In its early days, the plucky young state’s compelling narrative of courage and redemption captured the artistic hearts.
Productions such as Exodus, Raid on Entebbe and The House on Garibaldi Street captured Israel’s struggle to garner international respect and security for its citizens.
In more recent years, however, the tone in Tinseltown has shifted, reflected in productions such as Munich and Waltz with Bashir (which, though not a Hollywood production, was widely acclaimed in Hollywood circles). The new tone portrays Israel as an established and robust entity, hunting down those who dare cross it, while the very human characters struggle with the “unjust” nature of their assignments.
THE STORYLINE in all these films is essentially the same: Israel comes under attack and is forced to respond.
However, in the earlier portrayals, those tasked with coming to its defense are painted as messengers of righteous retribution. In later years, their image has shifted to vengeful and at times heartless killers.
The list of politically active Jewish superstars includes Natalie Portman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jerry Seinfeld, Scarlett Johansson, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Silverman, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Yet, as pointed out by Michelle Oddis in Human Events, at a rally following international condemnation of the flotilla incident last year, “of 25 speakers that stood in support of Israel, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the only ‘Hollywood type’ was Voight.”
At a Los Angeles event aiming to address this subject, organized by the World Alliance for Israel Political Action Committee, producer Marc Platt explained that “Hollywood loves an underdog, always has.” He continued, “Because Israel is now in a position of power, power can be abused, and that leads to criticism.”
It may be true that Israel’s status has shifted, which in and of itself is a travesty, but that is perhaps just another symptom of the country’s failure to harness and convey its own narrative. It seems that the Jewish state has all but relinquished control over the chronicling of its story.
Hollywood’s attention span is limited; a film never captures a complete picture.
When the Lone Ranger rides off into the sunset, the happy couple embraces or the enemy is vanquished, what happens after the credits roll is rarely explored, and the viewers move on. It seems to me as if in the Hollywood mind, Israel’s movie came to an end in the early ’80s, and now its collective chronicle has become mundane. The latest Palestinian Arab release is more compelling. Who cares if it flies in the face of moral conventions? The only equation that matters is its ability to captivate an audience.
VOIGHT, A seasoned Hollywood professional, has been principled enough to understand that “Israel the Movie” is sequel material. The components that captured hearts and minds across the world just a short while ago are still part of the fabric that makes up Israel’s story. It is still that plucky, resilient nation of visionaries, once separated and now reunited with their beloved land. Its enemies have assumed new forms, but are still bereft of moral compass, slinking in the dark, awaiting the opportunity to pounce.
As the storms gather, markets tremble, Islamists seize control, and the menace of Iran looms, the script for “Israel: Part 2” has yet to be written.
The writer is director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF. www.algemeiner.com efune@gjcf.com