Haaretz reports on the Sean Penn-Sheldon Adelson-Shmuley Boteach love fest yesterday in New York City, in which the monstrous egos of some of the wealthiest and most racist Jews in America were stroked. The gala raised millions for Boteach’s charity, while providing a promotional venue for the GOP presidential brand: two presidential candidates gave stump speeches at the gala, which also featured Birthright co-founder Michael Steinhardt and Netanyahu confidant, Ron Dermer (who persuaded Bibi to take an active role in the supporting Romney in the last presidential campaign). Alan Dershowitz also rhapsodized (natch) about the miracle of Adelson and Israel:
Dershowitz, who first praised Adelson, whom he has represented in court, for “standing up for all that is good in the world” and then presenting “one of the most important people in the world” – Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who once worked in the Adelson-funded Shalem Center…with the Defender of His People Award.
Penn ignored my attempts to reach out to him before the event to warn him of the consequences of his celebrity being exploited (as it was). In return, in his remarks below he calls mhis criticis “cynicsHere is how Haaretz characterized his remarks:
Penn, who was greeted with the most boisterous applause of the evening, raised some concern about the tone of his speech when he included “Israelis and Palestinians” among innocent victims of political imprisonment worldwide. He also said “there is no such thing as a suicide bomber who believes that tomorrow could be a better day for his state, religion or homeland”.
Penn alluded to being called an anti-Semite, a term too often used, in his words, to stifle criticism and discredit legitimate dialogue. “To these attacks,” Penn said, in an allusion to his friend, Israel-boycotter Roger Waters, also accused of being an anti-Semite, “I have become comfortably numb.”
But Penn also deflected criticism sparked by his presence at the gala – at Penn from the left, at Boteach from the right – by saying that he had decided to attend for the simple reason that “Rabbi Shmuley reached out”.
“If we ignore the generosity from those with whom we may part ways on various issues,” Penn said, “if we shun conciliation and throw up walls between us, we are complicit in the same spirit of conflict, violence and false imprisonment. And while I understand that I will be the target of cynics, I accept this invitation without cynicism and with great appreciation.”
JTA also noted that he referred to the West Bank by the nonsensical invention, “undeclared territories,” as if Palestinians haven’t explicitly declared their intention to be free and independent. Penn mouths the hopeless platitudes of liberal Zionism. On every other issue he’s a proud leftist, but on this issue he sups with settlers and their financial enablers. The question is how is his embrace of these extremists going to lessen conflict for those Palestinians he claims to support? How will he prevent Boteach from dancing the hora with Hebron settlers who regularly steal the lands of Palestinians and kill and maim them? In short, what will Penn actually do for Palestinians after breaking bread with these Islamophobe Palestine-haters?
I’ll be watching the IRS 990 for his Haiti charity for an expected huge gift from Adelson, which ought to soothe Penn’s aching conscience.
Finally, Chemi Shalev’s reporting acknowledges in a few words criticism of Penn from the left. In this he alluded to the campaign (including a Change.org petition and Facebook group) I organized against Penn and the event. But characteristically, you won’t any reference to my work. Typically, my blog and I are “disappeared” from Haaretz. In this, Chemi Shalev, a member of Haaretz’s liberal Zionist elite, proves no exception. What these journalists don’t realize is that by ignoring the rising tide of criticism coming from the international community and the blog world I represent, they prove themselves irrelevant to the political debate. How else can Amos Schocken try to sell subscriptions to Haaretz by boasting that he’s hired the dramatic new voice of Peter Beinart? Since when does Beinart represent anything ground-breaking?