Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the self-proclaimed ‘most famous rabbi in America,’ announced that he’d be honoring Sean Penn, a major film star with a leftie reputation, for his humanitarian efforts to free a Jewish man from a Bolivian jail. In May, he’ll be honoring together with Penn such other ‘humanitarians’ as Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate, Rick Perry, and Wall Street Journal neocon pro-Israel columnist, Brett Stephens.
Before I launch on my views of this event, I want to be clear that I honor and respect Penn for his humanitarian commitments, including his efforts in this case.
But Penn risks becoming another Scarlett Johansson if he agrees to break bread and partake of the largess of Shmuley and Sheldon. Yes, Shmuley’s political patron, Sheldon Adelson, touted as “the most famous philanthropist in the world” (by Shmulik), is hosting the dinner. This is not simply a humanitarian event devoid of politics, as Boteach or even Penn might argue.
Boteach hosted the last major event at which Elie Wiesel and Sheldon Adelson both denounced Iran. The latter even advocated dropping a nuclear weapon on Iran. Not to mention Adelson’s red-hot hatred of unions and refusal to recognize them in his resorts. Further, Adelson gave $150-million to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. If you dine with Sheldon you get tarnished by all his political baggage, whether you like it or not. The other dinner host is Michael Steinhardt, hedge fund manager and leader of the neocon pro-Israel lobby.
I can see how Sean Penn might believe that he can isolate his gesture of solidarity with a Jew in distress and divorce that good deed from all the politics surrounding the dinner. But he can’t. If he doesn’t know he can’t, he risks being blindsided as Johansson was by her endorsement of Sodastream.
Sean Penn: think about what you’re doing. Whether you wish it or not, you’re being exploited for a political agenda you surely must find repulsive (unless I’m wrong about your politics). Your presence will be used as an affirmation of the pro-Israel ultra-nationalist values all of these hosts espouse. Don’t let that happen.
I’d like to start a wider campaign asking Sean Penn to change the format of the honor he will be receiving. It should be an entirely apolitical setting at which no other partisan political figures will appear. If anyone can help me to get in touch with Penn himself, his manager, of anyone close to him, let me know.