The Twisted Oliver: No Stone Unturned

Jewish Light Editorial

There’s never a good time for anti-Semitism, but in the context of current efforts to delegitimize Israel and artists’ boycotts of performances there, now is a particularly troubling time.

Oliver Stone, the Oscar-winning film director, recently made egregious statements about Jews, Israel, Hitler and the Holocaust. In an interview with the Sunday Times of London, Stone said that Jews control Hollywood, the media and other industries, that Jews are “….the most powerful lobby in Washington” and that Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy.” If that were not enough, Stone also said that “Jewish domination of the media” has prevented an honest discussion of the Holocaust, and that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s actions should be “put into context.”

Following the storm of denunciations of his twisted remarks, Stone has issued not just one, but two apologies, ultimately repudiating the entirety of his asinine comments. And rightly so: As Israel’s public diplomacy minister, Yuli Edelstein, said so forcefully in condemning Stone’s initial remarks: “They are nauseating, anti-Semitic and racist,” he told the Jerusalem Post. “Not only is he showing ignorance, he is demonizing Jews for no reason and returning to the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ When a man of Stone’s stature speaks in this way, it can bring waves of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment, and may even damage Jewish communities and individuals.”

It took both apologies for Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, to accept Stone’s remorse for his statements. And the JTA reports that Elan Steinberg, a vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said that Stone’s apology “was necessary and we accept it.” She adds, significantly: “But whether he acted out of sincerity or as a desperate response to the moral outcry at his comments is an open question. He must be judged by his future words and deeds.”


This is indeed so. And one only needs to look at Stone’s recent project, a blatantly positive documentary portrait of Venezuela’s authoritarian socialist ruler, Hugo Chavez, as indicative of the director’s own glass house. The film, which Time’s Richard Corliss described as “lopsided and cheerleadery” toward Chavez, demonstrates Stone’s continuing warped worldview. He is so simplistic he doesn’t even get the bitter irony of his current film, namely, if he were in Venezuela making an anti-Chavez flick, he’d be in jail or worse.

And while apologies may get Stone off the hook with much of organized Jewry, they do little to extinguish the flames of hate propagated by statements such as his. This is particularly concerning given the recent shameful conduct of artists in boycotting Israel.

Several such figures, including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and The Pixies have cancelled concert appearances in Israel. The actress Meg Ryan cancelled her appearance at the Israeli Film Festival in Tel Aviv. (To his credit, John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, refused to join the anti-Israel pack, saying he would keep his appointment to perform later this month.) Similar boycotts continue to percolate in academic and other commercial circles as well.

We can’t tell artists and others not to act upon their conscience, but we can urge them to ensure their conduct is based upon sound and rational thought. When Jews, less than two percent of American population, are held up as “controlling” American foreign policy, or when Israel is treated as a scourge as other nations retain their status quo treatment, it screams of a blatant and incomprehensible double standard.

And herein lies the continuing problem with Stone’s statements. Apologies or no, in the current climate of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic vitriol, they spur on such thoughtless and hypocritical conduct by performers and others. Do artists forbear concerts in the United States because they object to the Iran or Afghanistan conflicts? In Arab countries that persecute Christians and Jews? Do these same boycotters so much as comment on the thousands of rockets fired into Israel over many years from Gaza?

Santana can perform in Dubai, Ricky Martin in Beirut. And the proposed Show of Peace scheduled for China in October reads like a Who’s Who of world pop artists. Israel? Apparently not “morally worthy.”

Much as we’d like to say the Oliver Stone incident ends with his apologies, it does not. His comments throw a match on the building pyrotechnic condemnation of Israel and Jews. Here’s hoping that sanity prevails within Oliver’s mind, and that he learns that when he throws his ethnic stones, the potential consequences are grave indeed.