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Halle Berry & the Jewish Problem



So what Halle Berry got to do with the “Jewish Problem,” you may ask. And with the Jewish people, while at it. And what is that problem, anyway? Please trust me on this, and stay put as I explore this strange connection. Halle Berry of course, to those of you who have been living on Mars for the last twenty years, is the talented, beautiful, Oscar winning black actress. Mix-race parents, though, white mother and black father, like President Obama, and not Jewish. So where is the connection?

It all started on the road, some years ago. I was listening to an interview with Ms. Berry on the radio, not really paying close attention until I heard her saying something that almost caused me to run into the car ahead of me, or drive off the road altogether. I was surprised also that, whoever was doing the interview with her, did not reproach her on the outrageous statement she’d just made. And for that reason I suppose, and so untypical of me, this short segment of the interview had stuck in my mind all these years since then. It reminds me now a specific, disturbing problem I see in the attitude of some Jewish people I know – and others I don’t know, for that matter – here in America. However, in order to do justice to all concern, I researched that radio interview, and thanks to the Internet had no difficulty in finding it.

So first, here’s this segment of the interview as it was broadcasted on December 31, 2010, on NPR’s “All Things Considered” with Audie Cornish. BERRY: “And being a mother myself, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my daughter, whether it be legal or illegal. (Soundbite of laughter). CORNISH: She’s only like, what, three right now, so that can’t – hopefully you won’t have to test that. BERRY: No. But I can tell you, as sure as I’m sitting in this chair, if she killed somebody, I would help her bury the body. (Soundbite of laughter). And I would try very hard to protect her in any way that I could, and I think that’s just an instinct of a mother. And that’s probably wrong and people will probably – you’ll probably get mail that Halle Berry said she (unintelligible) and she blah, blah, blah. (Soundbite of laughter). But I don’t care. That’s my daughter, and I would take a bullet for her. I’d go to jail. I’d end my life. I’d do whatever it took to protect that little girl. I don’t care what she did, and that’s what I said and I said it.”

Wow. One can admire her for this kind of unquestionable love and devotion to her daughter. But what about this line: “…if she killed somebody, I would help her bury the body.” No questions asked; no explanations needed; no need to call the police; there’s no justice, or morale principles involved, when it comes to my daughter. “I don’t care what she did… my daughter, whether it be legal or illegal.” As I said, I couldn’t shake off my head these statements, and lately they came back to visit me in connection with the attitude of most (not all, though) Jewish Americans – yes, I know, it’s a stretch, but hang on a bit – towards Israel. They seem to be afflicted with this “Jewish Problem,” or even a syndrome of sorts. Let me try and explain this strange connection and problem.

Imagine, why don’t you, an average American Jewish man. Give him a name – whatever name you fancy. He’s an adult, of course – give him an age of your choice, whatever floats your boat. He is well educated – determine how well and in what field yourself. He’s married, and a good family man – determine how many kids he has yourself. He’s not overly religious, but nonetheless he’s a member of a religious congregation in town – determine the town and the religious affiliation yourself. He’s quite successful at his profession – determine his occupation yourself. But this I have to tell you about him: He’s probably a democrat, who’d voted for President Obama at least once. He’s quick to volunteer whenever there’s a need, or when the Rabbi requests that of the congregation. When evil strike, as it just did recently at the Church in Charleston, S.C., he’ll be the first to go to black churches in town and offer help and sympathy. He will demonstrate with them against injustice and racism, and will invite them to his congregation for services. If there’s famine in Africa; if there’s an earthquake in Haiti: if there’s a tsunami in the Far-east; our enlightened man would be the first one to stand and deliver. In short: he is an exemplary citizen.

And yet, when it comes to Israel, all his principles and senses seem to leave him. They simply disappear, as if by magic. If Israeli soldiers shot a missile that killed four innocent Arab boys playing soccer on the Mediterranean beach in broad daylight, so be it. Bad stuff happens in war. And why did they play there anyway, when there’s a war going on? If an F-16 fighter aircraft drops a huge bomb on an apartment building in Gaza, wounding or killing one Hamas terrorist hiding in the cellar, but also killing scores of families, women , children, babies and elderly men, so be it. They started it. If olive trees, which stood for millenniums are uprooted by settlers in the West Bank, sheep are slaughtered and mosques are desecrated, so be it. Why are they there, anyway? It’s our land. Read the bible, man. If the occupation continues now for almost 50 years, it’s not Israel fault; we just want peace. If there is a big separation wall, and roads designated only to be driven on by Israelis – in short, apartheid on the way – he, who had demonstrated (or his parents) against the white South African regime so fiercely, will surely turn his eyes away and will blame you for being Anti-Semitic. Or worse. No matter the crime committed by the Jewish state – he will turn gooey-eyed, will start waving the Israeli flag, will sing “Hatikvah” and dance the hora. In other words, when it comes to Israel, he will help it bury the body. No matter the crime. No matter whether it’s legal or illegal.

Case in point: The aforementioned recent terrible mass-murder in Charleston, S.C., where nine black parishioners were gunned down in cold blood by a white young man. According to reports, when the father of the murderer saw his son’s pictures on TV – he was still on the loose then – he called Charleston’s police to alert them; he identified his son and the car he was driving, even gave a description of the gun he was carrying. It doesn’t mean he loves his son and less than Halle Berry loves her daughter – or, for that matter, any less than our imaginary American Jewish man loves Israel – yet the father did the right thing. Otherwise, there’s no justice – only complete chaos.

* Published originally on “The Times of Israel of Israel.”            ** The “Leave a comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

A Tale of Two Women





This tale of two women is also a tale of two countries, of two democracies and societies, which are going in two different directions, and are growing apart and away from each other. As such, it represents a widening chasm not only between these two countries, but between the two largest Jewish centers in the world, and demonstrates a dangerous fallout, separation of ideas, ideals and codes of conduct and behavior, appropriate – and not so appropriate – to these evolving modern times. It seems ominously clear that, unless these issues are decidedly addressed, with immediate efforts in both countries being made to limit their scope and reach – and I don’t see that as being currently the case at all – it will bring the American Jewish people and the Israeli Jewish people into a major collision course.

Now, you ask, what about these two women of the title? Well, let me tell you. In the space of a month, in these two different countries, two women were appointed to uphold and protect the law of the land, in their positions as United States’ Attorney General and Israel’s Justice Minister. The first to be sworn into office, indeed after a protracted, lengthy and laborious process, was Loretta E. Lynch. She is the first African American woman to hold this important office, but was chosen for it not only because of her racial background – important a factor as it was – but rather because of her extensive legal background and work as “U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, (where) Lynch oversaw federal prosecutions in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island,” (according to Wikipedia). Her impressive legal work, to go along with her educational background – a “Doctorate from Harvard law School” – had prepared her for this crucially important job. As result, her nomination and candidacy withstood the extensive, grueling examination by the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate, led by republicans (she was appointed by president Obama ), which nonetheless voted to confirm her appointment. Following that, so did the entire Senate.

The other woman (so to speak) is Ayelet Shaked, who was just sworn in as Israel’s new Justice Minister. She has no legal background or training whatsoever, no working experience in the field, and no educational degree as an attorney. Apart from being young and pretty, two attributes the Israeli press and media had made a big hullabaloo about, she holds a degree in computer engineering, and had served for two years in the Israeli Knesset. She was also Prime Minister Netanyahu’s secretary for two years, before a breakout in relationships, until the latest political maneuver that has brought her and Naftali Bennett, chairman of The Jewish Home Party (a religious party, though she herself is secular) that favors annexation of large parts of the West Bank, and strongly opposes the Two-State solution, into the government at the last minute. And it so happened that a woman without any legal background, “a right-wing extremist who in the past has entertained quasi-genocidal thoughts will now be in charge of Israel’s entire justice system,” (as reported in Haaretz.) “Among other things, she is one of the originators of the so-called ‘nation-state bill’ that aims to turn Israel’s democratic values into unwanted subordinates of its Jewish identity.”

Loretta E. Lynch first action as US Attorney General was to visit Baltimore, following the riots and unrest there lately, the result of the killing by the police of an unarmed black resident in a mostly black neighborhood of the city. She came there to calm the boiling spirits and mounting rage of the local people, and to reassure them that a full investigation – her first major act in office – would be conducted by her office into the Baltimore Police Department response in this matter, and into the long, problematic relations between the police and the black community in Baltimore, citing a “serious erosion of public trust.” A thorough examination into the complex relationship will take place, including into allegations of excessive force, unlawful searches, seizures and arrests, and the results will be known to all. Her past legal work, her educational credentials, and her standing in the black community assured the local population, and America as a whole, of the respectful turning of a new page.

What Ayelet Shaked first action would be remains to be seen. Judging (what a loaded word in this regard) though by her past remarks and actions, and her party’s platform, including her party leader’s actions and remarks, it might be directed (as reported in The Times of Israel) towards “splitting the attorney general post into two or even three different offices, giving the Knesset the power to overrule High Court of Justice decisions, and reducing the voting power of Supreme Court justices on the Judicial Appointments Committee.” What next, maybe solidifying the Apartheid policies in the West Bank? Perhaps certifying the annexation of the occupied territories – against any and all international laws and courts – and declaring the Palestinians officially second class citizens? Perhaps deporting all African asylum-seekers? Passing her own, so-called “NGO bill,” which limits the donations received by human rights groups and other left-wing leaning organizations?

As I said, it remains to be seen. Maybe she will surprise us all, but I doubt it. What clearer to me is that Israel is moving away from its core Jewish values; a government with the slimmest of majorities, representing right-wing, religious orthodox polices, with a Justice Minister such as Ayelet Shaked, will move Israel farther away not only from America, and from the rest of the Western World, but mostly form the Jewish people of America. Especially the young ones. At the same time, it will bring Israel closer to isolation, apartheid-like state de facto, and a collision course – the Pope treaty of recognizing the Palestinian State is a case in point – with the rest of the world.

* Published originally on “The Times of Israel.”

** The “Leave a comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.


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