By Stephen Schulman
I must apologize if I have never heard of you before, but neither being a reader of the tabloids nor a follower of all the fashionable internet podcasts, I had never come across your name until now.
Nevertheless, while appearing in the podcast of Marc Maron to plug your latest film, promote yourself and widen your fan base, you held forth and bared your soul to all and sundry on the subject of Judaism and Israel. After reading reports of your words, myself, both being a citizen of and living in this country, I feel that your words are in dire need of an emendatory reply.
“To me it just seems an antiquated thought process. If it is for religious reasons, I don’t agree with it, because I think religion is silly. If it is truly for the preservation of the Jewish people, it makes no sense, because again, you don’t keep something you are trying to preserve all in one place – especially when that place is proven to be pretty volatile, you know? I am trying to keep all these things safe, I’m gonna put them in my blender and hope that’s the best place…..that’ll do it. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Your message is clear:
You have negated Israel’s existence as a home for the Jewish people, seeing its purpose as illogical, senseless and useless. Furthermore, in your opinion, since all religion is a baseless mumbo jumbo; Israel has no religious justification for existence at all. Sweeping statements indeed!
Seth, your ignorance is abysmal, appalling and frightening. You are 38 years old. Have you never read any books? Have you never attempted to broaden your knowledge? Have you never progressed beyond that of a muddled pre-adolescent? For a person of your age, I find your mental vacuity simply breathtaking.
Israel has had a Jewish presence for millennia. Towards the end of the 19th century, many young pioneers, identifying themselves primarily as secular and socialists but aware of their heritage, fired with ideals of social justice came to then Palestine from exile; to rebuild a homeland for the Jewish people. With the passing of time, amongst other social organizations, the Histadrut (the Labour Federation) that saw to the rights of the workers and Kupat Cholim (the sick fund or NHS) were founded for the benefit of all the occupants of Palestine irrespective of background or religion. Was all this done for the sake of religion?
Return to Zion has always been a central tenet of Judaism and the Land of Israel features prominently in our prayers. Jerusalem and the Land of Israel is not only part of Jewish history; it plays an integral role in the Hebrew Bible and is an inseparable part of our faith. You choose to view this as antiquated and valueless.
Throughout our history (and yours too!), there have been pogroms, expulsions, forced conversions, massacres and persecutions of our nation in Christian and Muslim lands. When so many Jews were desperately trying to escape the clutches of Nazism, where were the countries of the world offering them a safe haven? In 1939, the steamship St. Louis with close to a thousand Jewish refugees on board seeking refuge was denied docking rights in many countries and it returned to Germany with its passengers ultimately dying in the concentration camps. Amongst the countries denying them entry was Canada – your birthplace – where a member of parliament stood up to say that letting in one Jew was one Jew too many! Yet, these same countries that denied Jews entry, after the war opened their gates to let in many Nazi collaborators. Canada, your Canada, in the post WW II period, opened its arms to and turned a blind eye to the influx of these criminals. Today Canada boasts the dubious record of having the largest number of memorials to Nazi collaborators.
With the termination of WW II, there were many Jews who had survived the Holocaust scattered in DP (Displaced Persons) camps throughout Europe, my late parents-in-law being amongst them. Why in these camps? Why didn’t they return to their former homes? The answer is very simple. They had been taken over by others and to assert their property rights was tantamount to asking to be murdered. When my father-in-law returned to Bialystok, his former neighbours made this very clear to him and his example was one of many. Where was the one place they wanted to go to that would be free of post war pogroms and anti-Semitism? You guessed it: Palestine – shortly to become Israel.
You clearly don’t know it but prior to and after the declaration of the State of Israel, the 850,000 Jews living in the Arab countries were persecuted, disenfranchised, dispossessed and expelled thus bringing to an end of Jewish presence that had existed for over a thousand years. The Arab countries are now ‘Judenrein‘ – an accomplishment the Nazis would have applauded! The great majority of the refugees found their home and rebuilt their lives in Israel – the country whose existence you find senseless!
Many peoples have their own ancestral homelands. Do the Jewish people not have the same right, or have you conveniently ignored that fact? Just ponder this: Had there existed a Jewish state prior to the Second World War, countless lives could have been saved!
Yes, Israel is located in a ‘volatile’ region. It is indeed so, not of our own volition but due to the fact that our neighbours refuse to accept our right to exist. Peace has been signed with Jordan and Egypt albeit a cold one with calls within these countries for our destruction. A Hezbollah controlled Lebanon with its huge arsenal of rockets sends daily threats while Hamas in the Gaza Strip sends incendiary balloons to torch our land. Dear Seth, you with your wisdom and perspicacity, what do you suggest we do? Close shop and move en mass to Canada?
‘And I also think that as a Jewish person, I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life! They never tell you that – oh, by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was just sitting there, oh like the f***g doors open!…. They forgot to include the fact to every young Jewish person.’
Dear Seth, in your settling of accounts, is this all that you can remember about your Jewish education? Have you never progressed beyond that? Any thinking person is inclined to disbelieve that Palestine simply comprised one big vacuum beckoning to be filled by Jewish settlements! It wasn’t the moon! A perfunctory perusal of history books would inform you that there was an Arab presence there too. In 1917 the Jewish population of Jaffa/Tel Aviv was forcefully exiled to some parts that today are in the West Bank, in 1929 the Jewish population of Hebron was slaughtered, and in 1936 there were riots in which many Jews were killed. Who carried them out? It wasn’t pixies!
Once again, your reasons for Jews supporting Israel: ‘They want to make you feel frightened enough about your own survival to the point that when you are old enough, you will make sure money goes to Israel, and that trees are planted and that you will always speak highly of Israel and Israel will survive no matter what.’
Dear Seth, when Israel comes to your mind, is your sole connotation that of trees? Possibly you can’t see the wood for all the trees? For your elucidation, Israel is a thriving country of 9,000,000 people that in spite of being surrounded by enemies is prospering. Amongst other achievements, it boasts a stable economy, a booming hi-tech industry and is a world leader in agricultural technology. It is the only true democracy in the Middle East; and guarantees religious freedom to all faiths in it. There is a large LGTB community that openly asserts its rights; and members of it serve in our Knesset (Parliament).
Diaspora Jewry openly identifies with the state and supports it. There is an awareness of our security problems – with Iran and its proxies openly preaching genocide against us – and they take pride in the strength and ability of the Israel Defense Forces in protecting its citizens and borders.
I have yet to encounter a Diaspora Jew who has been so brainwashed that his/her knees are perpetually knocking in terror and his/her trembling hands continually writing out cheques for the state! Methinks you are getting carried away by one of your film scenarios!
‘As I get older, I appreciate that religion you know……….it puts you to work and it forces you to do stuff.’
Dear Seth, kindly make up your mind and be consistent. On one hand you say that religion is claptrap and on the other hand praise it for helping you during a period of mourning. Your paucity of vocabulary attests to the shallowness of your thoughts.
‘I remember my dad frankly telling me, People hate Jews. Just be aware of that. They just do.’
Your dad knew what he was talking about. Institutionalized antisemitism was part of life in Canada. There was a quota on Jews entering higher institutes of learning and many clubs and societies restricted their membership. Unfortunately, today in this turbulent time of fear and uncertainty, antisemitism has grown and become a multi headed monster assuming many shapes and forms, the old tropes have taken on different guises and conspiracy theories abound. A Canadian Polish newspaper has printed stories unequivocally stating that Jews have devised and spread the Covid-19 virus in order to profit from it – a modern twist to the medieval accusation of Jews poisoning the wells.
And you Seth, at this heightened period of antisemitism, with your appearance on the podcast, with your self importance, eagerness to self publicize and ingratiate yourself and with your ‘progressive,’ ideas have made yourself the darling of the BDS camp, providing grist to the mill for the detractors and deniers of legitimacy of Israel. Even with your mother twisting your arm, you simply ‘clarified’ your ideas and said some remarks were made in jest. Some jest! Your lack of sensitivity is shocking.
Seth, it appears that as a standup comedian, you spent some lean years before producing your cinematic tour de force: ‘The Pickle Barrel.’ I wish you every success with it. Just do yourself and us all a favour: Before making your next public appearance, buy some books, do some much needed reading, consult with those more learned than you and then think before you open your mouth.
About the writer:
Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.
Feature Picture: Sarah Snook and Seth Rogen are husband and wife in the new comedy “An American Pickle.” (Credit –
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