Guardian promotes Seth Rogen’s breathtaking ignorance about Israel

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!

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  1. says: Michael Zeffertt

    Another ‘As a Jew’ unburdens himself to the massed ranks of sundry Antisemites amongst the Guardian readership. Some people when they grow up simply become stupider.

    1. says: Richard Turnbull

      Notice the Guardian is very careful about opening up some articles to reader comments, as they have repeatedly discovered there is a wider range of opinion among the readership than they seem to have anticipated.
      I have read any number of replies on the Guardian comment threads under opinion articles about the I/P issues since August 2009, from people most accurately summarized politically as “on the left,” like myself,” and also “in the center, on the right,” who rather vociferously and astutely refuted this or that propaganda meme, serious distortion, or biased claim.
      The Guardian produces all sorts of well researched and important news accounts, which ONLY highlights their consistent failures and biases as corrected by Adam Levick and others — it would be almost a waste of time to correct this kind of thing from a news outlet less established and allegedly devoted to upholding high standards of journalism, of course!
      The fact that their staff and other contributors can do a fine job on other nations and a host of other topics just make the insidious anti-Israel and sometimes anti-Semitic items and mistakes more glaring.

  2. says: Richard Turnbull

    Adam has identified the key weaknesses and outrageous superficiality of what Rogen expressed, and some serious study by the latter of more concrete details about the existing population, and the jewish immigration, in what is now the State of Israel before and after around 1880 C.E. might greatly remedy those deficiencies.
    For one thing, it isn’t as if there were not other waves of immigration from the collapsing Ottoman Empire, which can confuse those who somehow think every single Arab or Muslim in the region south of what is now Lebanon and north of the Sinai living there around, say, 1920, had deep “Palestinian roots” going back over a thousand years. It’s especially sad to read the dismissive comments about the founding of Israel from someone whose parents literally met on a kibbutz, as well!

  3. says: franz gorman

    This is a good response and I hope he reads it. It is important to look at his claims of not being told the truths about Israel when he was growing up though. When I was a child the perspective on Israel in our popular consciousness in Canada/the U.S. was very different than what it is now and I think there are many factors for this, primarily that the Arab wars were still going on and that knowledge about the Holocaust was fresh; Israel was seen in a David & Goliath context and the Palestinians were not organized and supported as they later became. That era was full of hijackings, kidnappings, planes being blown up, etc by the PLO. Yet as much as we were pro-Israel, the ugly details about the wars fought and being fought were not spoken of (as they typically are not in any case) but instead it was portrayed as valient and courageous with heroes, and heroines (who even knows who Golda Meir is now?). War always has ugliness and the necessity of violence. This, of course, has come to be used against Israel in more recent decades, amplified during and after the “War on Gaza.” The Palestinians and their supporters have come to re-write history, centering their own tragedies and struggles and flipping the roles of David & Goliath, so successfully (and with the help of the “social justice” movement spread from academia through the media) that Jews like Rogan, and those even younger than him, believe it all out of a misguided sense of justice. I can understand how this happened. I am not happy with the SW social media posts about this because, as opposed to how they dealt with Nick Cannon – inviting him, embracing him, education him, collaborating with him – they are being quite nasty and resentful about Rogan. What is needed to heal this divide is indeed invitations and discussions, not shame.

  4. says: Sarah

    Rogen claims he was “lied to,” which is to say he was surrounded by Jewish liars. Without focusing on the ample reasons why the presence of some Arabs did not invalidate the morality of a Jewish state, it’s curious that Rogen doesn’t even seem to consider that at age twelve he might have been given a simplified version of history. Instead, he is certain that manipulation and malice were at play. Jewish Rogen offers up the same “Jewish liar” trope that antisemites favor. He was “deceived!” “misled!” “had his morals corrupted!” Does Rogen understand what antisemitism is and the subtle way it takes hold, even of Jewish minds?

  5. says: Sarah

    People who use Rogen’s simplistic argument leave out that although Arabs were indeed the majority, there were in fact indigenous Jews living there. This brings up several points:

    – Jews settling Palestine wasn’t analogous to Europeans conquering the Americas. The British will never – ever – find ancient pottery in Kansas inscribed in English.

    – Though Jews were a minority of about 10%, the entire land was was extremely sparsely settled, with a total population of about 500,000, if I remember my stats. (It was also malaria-ridden.) Had the total population been 100 people – but 80 of them Arab! – would majority ownership of an area large enough for millions still sound reasonable? Is there a lower limit at all to the majority argument?

    – And let’s say these 400,000 “Palestinians” had been given full sovereignty of the land. I have to put “Palestinians” in quotes because the people at that time self-identified as Arab. Who would get to emigrate in? Other Arabs? If this is the answer, then we begin to understand that Palestinians and Arabs are one and the same (or at least they were until mid-20th century). So the real question before it got warped was whether the Arab world as a whole could rightfully lay claim to this tiny final piece of the Middle East (.16% I believe). If so, which Arabs: Sunni? Shi’ite? Or were they to fight it out there too?

    – And is it really justifiable to deprive a people who have ancient roots in the land (a holy Temple!) any sovereignty whatsoever because at a given juncture in history they were outnumbered? (a result of slaughter and expulsion, actually) Heck, even Native Americans were granted reservations within the U.S.

    – And is Rogen good with the idea that he comes from nowhere? That’s right: whatever you are on this planet excepting Jewish, you come from somewhere. Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans…all get to *be* from somewhere; not Jews.

    Ironic: ultimately, what Rogen is doing is maligning Jewish *character* (“they’re liars and land thieves”) with easy sound bytes he picked up and bought into. (Of course, as an anti-Zionist, he himself is a “good” Jew.) And then he wants to know what’s up with antisemitism – why won’t it go away along with that embarrassing Israel so he can be less fettered in his movie career.

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