Seth Rogen’s comments on Israel underscore strained ties with diaspora

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It started as a light-hearted conversation between two Jewish comedians, scraping a podcast about the idiosyncrasies of their shared heritage. But after the talks turned to Israel, it didn’t take long for Marc Maron and Seth Rogen to spark an uproar.Their comments on Israel – particularly Rogen saying the country “does not make sense” – infuriated many Israel supporters and highlighted the country’s tenuous relationship with progressive young Jewish critics in the Diaspora.

Israel has long enjoyed the financial and political support of American Jews. But in recent years, the country has faced a wave of opposition from young progressives, disillusioned by the aggressive Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, its perceived exclusion from liberal currents of Judaism and the warm relationship of Prime Minister Benjamin. Netanyahu with President Donald Trump.

“What Seth Rogen has said is normal for our generation and the Israeli government must wake up and see that its actions have consequences,” said Yonah Lieberman, spokesperson for If Not Now, an American Jewish organization opposed to the occupation rooted by Israel. the West Bank.

Rogen’s remarks follow a radical shift from an influential American Jewish commentator who recently endorsed the idea of ​​a democratic entity of Jews and Palestinians living with equal rights to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Peter Beinart’s argument that a two-state solution – Israel and Palestine – is no longer possible has sent shock waves through the Jewish establishment and decision-making circles in Washington.

Change of opinion

For many Jews, Israel is an integral part of their identity, for religious reasons or as an insurance policy in the aftermath of the Holocaust and in the modern era of resurgent anti-Semitism. But polls have shown that while most American Jews identify with Israel and feel a connection to the country, that support has waned in recent years, especially among millennials.

Some have even embraced the Palestinian-led movement calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel to protest what it says is Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Israel accuses the movement of leading a campaign to delegitimize its very existence.

In the podcast, Rogen, who has appeared in such shattering comedies as Great times and Blistered, spoke about attending Jewish schools and a Jewish summer camp while growing up in Vancouver. He said his parents met in an Israeli kibbutz.

WATCH | Seth Rogen on filmmaking in Vancouver:

Comedy Star Talks About Coming Home To Shoot Movies 2:19

As they continued to chat, Rogen seemed to wonder why Israel had been established.

“You don’t keep all of your Jews in one basket. I don’t understand why they did this. It just doesn’t make sense, ”Rogen said. “You don’t keep something that you’re trying to preserve in one place, especially when that place has turned out to be quite volatile. I try to keep all of these things safe. I’m going to put them in my blender and hope this is the best place to, it’s going to do it. ”

Rogen then said he had been “fed a huge amount of lies” about Israel as a youth. “They never tell you that ‘oh, by the way, there were people there.’ They give the impression that [expletive] the door is open. ”

Maron and Rogen both joked about their fear of the answers they would receive from defenders of Israel. Their concerns were justified.

Rogen’s comments immediately lit up “Jewish Twitter”. They sparked a wave of critical editions in the Jewish and Israeli media. And they got Rogen to call Isaac Herzog, the head of the Jewish Agency, a large nonprofit that works to foster relations between Israel and the Jewish world.

In a Facebook post, Herzog said he and Rogen had a frank and open conversation. He said Rogen “was misunderstood and apologized” for his comments.

“I told him that many Israelis and Jews around the world were personally hurt by his statement, which involves the denial of Israel’s right to exist,” Herzog wrote.

In an interview with Israeli daily Haaretz, Rogen said he called Herzog at his mother’s urging and denied apologizing. He said the comments were made in jest and misinterpreted.

“I don’t want the Jews to think that I don’t think Israel should exist. And I understand how they could have been made to think that, ”he said.

Rogen also said he was a “proud Jew.” He said his criticisms were about the education he received, and he thought he could have been given a deeper picture of a “complex” situation.

Ironically, Rogen was on the podcast to promote his new movie, An American pickle, about a Jewish immigrant to the United States in the early 20th century who falls into a vat of pickle brine and emerges 100 years later. He called the project a “very Jewish film”.

This image posted by HBO Max shows Seth Rogen in a scene from An American Pickle. Rogen plays a dual role in this film about a 1920s man who drops into a vat of pickle juice, wakes up fully preserved 100 years later, and gets to know his great-grandson – an app developer based in Brooklyn. (Hopper Stone / HBO Max / The Associated Press)

Lieberman, of If Not Now, said the uproar shows “how much the conversation has changed” about Israel among American Jews.

Shmuel Rosner, senior member of the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, said Israel should not be made to change its “security and foreign policy” on the basis of the growing estrangement of Jews from overseas.

But he said he could take realistic steps to close the gap, such as establishing a pluralistic prayer site at the Western Wall, long a point of friction between Israel’s Orthodox establishment and older Jews. liberals in the United States.

“It’s a challenge for Israel. It is not practical. We want everyone to love us, especially other Jews, ”he said. “Israel can do some things to make it a little better. “

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