(February 21, 2018 / JNS) Stop the presses! A vulgar American Jewish comedian has praised a Palestinian teenage girl who assaulted an Israeli soldier. Put it on the front page!
The comedian, Sarah Silverman, recently sent out a tweet demanding that Israel release Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teenager who staged a video in which she repeatedly slapped a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. Tamimi tried, but failed, to provoke the soldier to respond in a way that would make useful propaganda.
“Jews have to stand up even when—especially when—the wrongdoing is by Jews/the Israeli government,” Silverman pompously declared. She didn’t bother to explain what it was that was “wrong” about the Israeli authorities arresting someone who assaulted a soldier. In Silverman’s little bubble, everyone “knows” that it’s wrong to arrest a photogenic Palestinian teenager.
I’m never impressed when I hear an actress or entertainer comment on political issues. It’s like me having a say on recent advances in dentistry.
But I’m old-fashioned, I guess. Because in today’s culture, celebrities in the entertainment industry are treated with reverence. Their opinions, on issues that they know nothing about, carry weight. They are sometimes even looked upon as potential political candidates.
Even comedians, whose raison d’être is to not be taken seriously, are now taken seriously. Their entire lives are built around joking about the world, rather than knowing about it—yet too many people seem willing to pretend that they do know something about it.
I don’t particular enjoy Sarah Silverman’s vulgar brand of humor. Variety magazine once characterized her style as “foul-mouthed charm.” I, for one, don’t find a foul mouth charming at all. Nor do I find Silverman’s rape jokes very amusing. And frankly, in today’s #MeToo world, I’m surprised that anybody else does.
I don’t enjoy Nazi jokes very much, either. In 2016, she appeared on Conan O’Brien’s show dressed as Adolf Hitler, as part of a bit in which she said, in effect, that Donald Trump was worse than Hitler.
What I enjoy least of all about Silverman is the way in which uses her Jewish identity as a hammer with which to pound Israel.
Obviously, I’m not disputing a comedian’s right to express her opinions about political events in other countries, although I do find it curious when someone who does not seem to be part of the organized Jewish community suddenly has very specific opinions on Israeli politics.
Just before the 2015 Israeli elections, Silverman sent out a tweet appealing to Israelis to vote for the extreme-left Meretz Party. In 2017, she contributed to a book called Save Israel, Stop Occupation, in which she wrote: “Of all people, Jews know the bitterness of being oppressed—and not being in our own country. That’s what makes the occupation all so ironic.”
What’s ironic is that Silverman is complaining about an “occupation” that ended in 1995. I guess she wasn’t paying attention that year, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin withdrew Israel’s forces from the areas where 98 percent of the Palestinian Arabs live. I guess she never heard of the Palestinian Authority regime that governs them, or the Palestinian police force, Palestinian courts and Palestinian schools they run.
Maybe Silverman thinks that a two-hour Israeli security operation in a terrorist-infested Palestinian town or the presence of Israeli soldiers along their own border constitutes an “occupation.” If so, then she simply doesn’t understand the meaning of the word.
There’s something else very ironic in all this. On June 18 last year, Silverman posted an Instagram photo of her 19-year-old Israeli nephew on the occasion of his birthday. She obviously feels a strong personal connection to him, and that’s sweet. “This baby is now a 19-year-old soldier,” she wrote, with a photo of him as a toddler next to a photo of him in his army uniform. “OY. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, @adar_abramowitz_silverman I LOVE YOU A ZILLION!!”
See the irony? The 17-year-old Palestinian teenager Silverman is now saluting so openly assaulted a young Israeli soldier who is no different than the teenage nephew the comedian loves and is so proud of. Her nephew, Adar, could just as easily have been on the receiving end of Ahed Tamimi’s slaps and taunts.
Sorry, Sarah! You can’t have it both ways. You have to choose: Ahed or Adar? The vicious assaulter or the soldier protecting his country?
Whose side are you on?
Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.