Woody Allen and Natalie Portman have both lately made pro-Israel statements in the context of anti-Semitism. Their comments are an indication of the broad support Israel continues to enjoy in American liberal culture as some kind of ideal place– another symptom being the attack on Max Blumenthal’s new book from inside The Nation, of all places. American Jews don’t want to surrender their ideal of Israel. (South Africa of course never enjoyed such transnational appeal.)
Allen and Portman live in the United States; but both portray anti-Semitism as pervasive, with Portman saying there’s hostility toward Jews “pretty much everywhere”–except LA, NY, and Israel. (I disagree with these statements, as a Jew who’s traveled widely, and been to 48 states.)
The actress was interviewed by Elaine Lipworth for the Telegraph:
Fulfilling another closely held dream, Portman is about to direct her first film, A Tale of Love and Darkness, based on the bestselling memoir by the Israeli author Amos Oz. She also wrote the screenplay.
“It is his coming-of-age story set during the creation of the state of Israel.” …
She describes working in Israel as “absolutely fascinating. It is the kind of country where you put your finger on a windowsill and you get an interesting story. It’s interesting to be from a place and feel part of a place, but also a stranger in it.
“I’m definitely a foreigner here. People here would not think of me as an Israeli. The culture I grew up in, the way I look at the world, is American,” says Portman, a practising Jew, who is raising her son in the religion….
“The older I get, the more I realise how different it is to be a Jew in a Jewish place as opposed to a Jew in a non-Jewish place,” she says. “It’s definitely a different feeling in terms of how freely you can be yourself and celebrate your culture and religion.
“It’s very different being in Israel than in cities that don’t have big Jewish populations, where it can sometimes feel dangerous to be Jewish, and you understand why there is a need for a place where you don’t feel that way. I feel it in lots of places. Pretty much everywhere.
“New York and LA [where she currently lives] are the exceptions. On holidays in New York the city shuts down. My non-Jewish friends know how to wish you Shanah Tova, Happy New Year in Hebrew. In other places in the world it ranges from people who aren’t familiar with Judaism to people who are hostile towards it.”
Here’s Woody Allen, 12 days ago in the Jerusalem Post:
In an interview with Lior Friedman of Channel 2 television that aired on Monday, 77-year-old Allen, born Allen Konigsberg, said that political criticism of Israel can conceal a deeper hatred – that of the Jewish people.
“I do feel there are many people that disguise their negative feelings toward Jews, disguise it as anti-Israel criticism, political criticism, when in fact what they really mean is that they don’t like Jews,” he said.
Allen did, however, have praise for his native country for its acceptance of Jewish people.
“America’s always been – you know by the low standards of tolerance for Jews all over the world – America’s been a very tolerant country,” he said.