The 21st Century’s Faces of anti-Semitism
By Ziva Naftaly
In the past few weeks we’ve seen several anti-Semitic occurrences in the media. First, in yet another crazy self-indulgent rant, Charlie Sheen, announced to the world, that Chuck Lorre, his TV producer for Two and Half Men, is really named “Chaim Levine.” There is no problem, that he used his Hebrew name, it’s the idea, that in a hateful speech about the TV producer, he used his name as a negative connotation. Sheen does not usually address Lorre as “Chaim Levine,” so why now, on a radio program does he feel the need to tell the world this. Its as if, Sheen is outing Lorre, to show the world that Jews are controlling the media and are hiding their true identity and need to be ousted. Second, came WikiLeaks fugitive Julian Assange, who allegedly complained that a “cabal of Jewish journalists was out to discredit his organization.” Then, fashion designer John Galliano was caught drunk on camera a yelling at a restaurant patron, at a Paris café, “I love Hitler,” and that her forefathers should all have been “f—ing gassed.” And lets not forget, Mel Gibson’s, drunken Semitic slurs, “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” The question to be asked is “Why now? Why is anti-Semitism back or did it never go away?”
The answer, anti-Semitism never went away. After the Holocaust, it became a social stigma, to make Jew jokes, and they were saved for inside the home or for waspish country clubs. Today we live in an age of technology, where the lines of what is a private conversation and what is public are blurred. With, cell phone video cameras, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, TMZ, its easier to get caught and what you say, even in a drunken stupor it never goes away, and its never forgotten. What you say is alive in the world wide web for all to see, and send to their friends.
There’s a new form of anti-Semitism upon us. This anti-Semitism is not only ok to discuss openly but it’s the norm throughout mass medias. This anti-Semitism is the use to de-legitimize Israel as a state or to attack the character of the Holy Land in reference to its Jewish Inhabitants. Massacre in Itamar, bus bombing in Jerusalem, missiles fired from Gaza, Israel condemned by the media to quietly subject itself to these assault without defense. The world stands silently through the atrocities Israel endures. However when Israel builds a home on its land, the world is up in arms.
The 21st century’s faces of anti-Semitism are hard to spot. Before, when anti-Semitism or racism was the norm and socially accepted, it was easy to know where one stood. Today, there are two forms of quiet anti-Semitism. One is the do nothing, when you hear it type. Second, is the defense type. The defense type, is the medias use of words such as, allegedly or drunk when creating excuses for peoples actions. In the case of Galliano, CNN picked all kinds of excuses for his actions, he was drunk, he was in mourning for the passing of his partner over 5 years ago, he was in a bad place in his life, which one sounds the better? Even, Sex and the City stylist Patricia Fields, ran to Galliano’s defense, by sending 500 emails to key fashion players, in support of the designer. Field’s stated that Galliano was “acting out a character,” while making those hateful remarks. In an interview to Women’s World Daily, she explained that “John lives in theatre. It’s theatre. It’s farce. But people in fashion don’t recognize the farce in it.” Giorgio Armani and Italian Vogue editor, Franca Sozzani, have sympathized with Galliano, and I’m sure there are more who do, its just not popular to jump to his defense just yet. You cannot deny Galliano’s greatness, his work is exciting and riveting. Hate is not something that is limited, to race, class, religion, or intelligence, after all Hitler, himself was an artist too, a mediocre one at best but still an artist. Galliano’s genius is not a license to live life free of consequence, which in today’s age of glorified celebrity we bestow upon them the ultimate get out of jail free card.
Amidst the world’s silence, there are voices rising to our defense. Academy award winner, Natalie Portman and spokesperson for Dior’s perfume line, stood up for herself, stating, “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.” Thankfully Galliano got, fired. At Dior’s runway show, the last showing of Galliano’s work, chief executive Sidney Toledano made an unusual appearance before the show, instead of the disgraced designer addressed fashion on lookers with a stated that Dior is “France’s image and its values around the world” and it was “deeply painful to see it [Dior] associated with the disgraceful statements attributed to the designer . . . It is our collective duty never to forget the Holocaust . . . We must publicly recommit ourselves to the values of the House of Dior.”
This is a time to stand up for ourselves and be proud to declare ourselves Jews. Now especially when the worlds silence may be dephening its time to make some noise. Let’s find the light in the darkness and find the good in every situation. Finding some inspiration from Natalie Portman’s words, “I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”
May we merit to have Moshiach come speedily in our days!