As the violence in Gaza got worse at the beginning of August, one of Hollywood’s most outspoken conservatives, Jon Voight, wrote a harsh letter to fellow actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, accusing them of “inciting anti-Semitism all over the world” because they signed a letter against the latest Israeli bombing of Gaza. Many activists think that Voight’s letter is just the ramblings of an actor who doesn’t think and has lost touch with political reality. They say that Voight is just a poor cousin of Charlton Heston, who is a conservative icon. But Voight’s hatred and the stories that go along with it have been very effective for decades at putting a stop to criticism of Israel in Hollywood or among entertainers in general.
In fact, they give celebrities like Joan Rivers the intellectual cover they need to make even more extreme attacks, like when she said in a “epic rant” that Palestinians in Gaza “deserved to die.” This level of hatred is a reflection of how Israeli politics and culture are becoming more and more genocidal toward Palestinians.
But it also gives “top industry executives” an excuse to blacklist actors like Cruz and Bardem who dare to criticise Israel in public and without the respect that has always been shown to the Jewish state by Hollywood.
Like most Hollywood scripts, the stories that Voight, Rivers, and other Hollywood stars who support Israel use to explain their views are very different from the historical and current facts. But they still have a lot of power because the mainstream media and politicians, like the New York Times and President Obama, use the same stories about the conflict whenever it comes up.
Myths about the past
Simha Flapan, one of Israel’s first revisionist historians, said that there are three fundamental “myths” about Israel’s birth and history that hold together the traditional story that Voight is telling. The first one is about how the state came to be: “When the UN offered the Jewish people a piece of land that had been set aside for them in 1921, in 1948… Arabs turned down the offer, and when Jews took it up, they were attacked by five Arab countries that wanted to push them into the sea. The Arabs tried again in 1967 and again in 1973.”