A Guardian article by their Jerusalem correspondent Oliver Holmes (“Seth Rogen: ‘I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel'”, July 29) begins thusly:
Seth Rogen has said he was “fed a huge amount of lies about Israel” as a young Jewish person, stoking controversy around the country’s sometimes fraught relationship with many North American Jews. The Canadian-US actor, who attended Jewish camp and whose parents met on a kibbutz in Israel, said the fact that the Jewish state was created on land where Palestinians were living had always been omitted.
“[As] a Jewish person I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life,” Rogen told the comedian and actor Marc Maron in an episode of Maron’s WTF podcast. “They never tell you that, ‘Oh, by the way, there were people there’. They make it seem like it was just like sitting there, like the fucking door’s open.”
Later in the article, Rogen is quoted further:
“I remember my dad frankly telling me, ‘People hate Jews. Just be aware of that. They just do.’ And it’s honestly something that I am so glad was instilled in me from a young age. Because if it wasn’t, I would constantly be shocked at how much motherfuckers hate Jews.”
Rogen, however, argued, “you don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place”
Rogen also charged that Zionism represents an “antiquated thought process“.
First, the territory that is now Israel was indeed sparsely populated during the first major waves of aliyah in the late 19th century under Ottoman rule. Also, though they were a minority of the population, Jews have had a continuous presence in their ancestral homeland—a presence that predates, by thousands of years, the Arab and Islamic conquests of the 7th century.
Moreover, Jews who immigrated there didn’t displace the ‘native’ Arab population, but legally purchased and cultivated land that was often vacant for centuries – immigration which resulted in greatly increased immigration by Arabs attracted to the economic opportunities that Jewish immigration provided. The only major dislocation of Palestinians – over 700,000 – occurred, let’s remember, as a result of the Arab war against the nascent Jewish state in 1948.
We don’t know what “lies” Rogen was fed as a child about Zionism, but, contrary to the ahistorical narrative he likely digested as an adult, Jews in pre-state Israel weren’t interlopers or invaders, but immigrants who fled poverty, persecution, pogroms and mass murder in hopes of building better lives in the land to which generations of Jews in exile shared an intrinsic and intimate connection.
Finally, Rogen’s moral reasoning is compromised in several ways.
First, as a Jew, Rogen says he’s painfully aware of modern antisemitism in arguably the safest and most prosperous diaspora community in the world, yet seems unmoved by the violent and even genocidal racism faced by millions of largely poor and vulnerable European and Middle Eastern Jews from previous generations which motivated a return to their historic homeland.
Rogen, who’s cited his own family’s immigration to North America after fleeing Russian wars in championing Muslim refugees to the US, can’t seem to fathom that the anti-Israel agitprop he’s peddling, which frames Jews arriving in Israel after fleeing persecution as ‘outsiders’ invading someone else’s land, borrows from the same rhetoric as some anti-immigration activists today.
In fact, in expressing his opposition to US restrictions enacted in 2017 on citizens of seven Muslim countries, called the ‘Muslim Ban’ by critics, Rogen, to make his point, reportedly retweeted photos of Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe in 1939 who were turned away at the U.S. border and died at Auschwitz.
But, evidently lost on Rogen is the fact that millions of Jews fleeing the European “motherfuckers” who hated them wouldn’t have been exterminated if the “fucking door” to Palestine was open and the “antiquated thought process” of Zionism had succeeded years earlier!