I shouldn’t have been surprised. At the Forward, JJ Goldberg has translated portions of an interview of Woody Allen that appeared in Hebrew in Yediot Ahronot last week. Allen’s attitudes are very conventional, and generational. He isn’t religious, loves Israel, has never bothered to go there, doesn’t understand why those Arab countries didn’t embrace it, and expresses the mildest criticisms:
“…I don’t believe in organized religions. Most of them exploit people, and I think these clubs have nothing to do with God. Today I feel Jewish mainly when people attack me because of my being Jewish.”
About Israel, on the other hand, he has only good things to say. In practice, when Allen starts talking about Israel it’s hard to stop him. So hard that even his assertive, energetic publicist merited only a dismissive wave of the hand, indicating that she should wait until he was finished gushing about his love.
“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. Over the years Israel has responded to these attacks in various ways, some of which I approved of and some less so. I understand that Israelis have been through hard times, I don’t expect Israel to react perfectly every time and that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a wonderful, marvelous country. I’m just worried about the rise of fundamentalism in Israel, which I think damages its interests. I also have questions about your leadership, which doesn’t always act in Israel’s best interests. But even my criticism of Israel comes from a place of love, just like when I criticize the United States. It would be a mistake not to say something if you think a country you love makes a mistake and could hurt itself.”
Then why have you never visited Israel?
“I’m not a tourist. I travel regularly to three cities that I know and love — Paris, London and Rome — and that’s it. I don’t like to leave home because I’m a bit neurotic, and when I do leave home, it’s mostly for work. I don’t like flying and I don’t consider myself a curious person who wants to see new places. There are many states in the United States that I’ve never visited. My wife is of Korean origin and she’s been trying for years to convince me to go to South Korea with her — so far, unsuccessfully. She’s also very curious about Israel and wants to go there with the girls, so they can see and understand their father’s Jewish culture. I assume we’ll go and visit Israel soon. There’s no way around it.”