OpinionArts & Entertainment

Red pins at the Oscars: Is the call for a ceasefire antisemitic?

We need to acknowledge that for many Western liberals, it means, quite simply, the end of war and the cessation of civilian casualties.

Oscar given at the Academy Awards. Credit: LanKS/Shutterstock.
Oscar given at the Academy Awards. Credit: LanKS/Shutterstock.
Marc Erlbaum
Marc Erlbaum is a filmmaker and the co-founder of Philadelphia's Jewish Relief Agency.

A handful of celebrities wore ceasefire pins to the annual Academy Awards ceremony in California on March 10. The red pins represent the organization Artists 4 Ceasefire, which has crafted a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden that has been signed by roughly 400 actors, musicians and other Hollywood personalities. Many pro-Israel activists have taken issue with the pins, some alleging that their wearers are expressing subtle, if not blatant, antisemitism.

While it may be true that some of the signatories to the Artist 4 Ceasefire letter are indeed antisemitic, it is also certain that many of those who have taken up the ceasefire cause—both Hollywood luminaries and average citizens—are motivated not by any animus to Jews, per se, but by an underlying opposition to war of any kind. To recognize this is not to justify or validate the calls for a ceasefire, but it is an important distinction to make for a number of reasons.

First, it is important to reserve the label of antisemite for those who are actually hateful of Jews. To ascribe this virulent bias to those to whom it does not apply isn’t helpful to the Jewish and/or Israeli cause. It waters down the term by equating true racists with those who oppose the war in Gaza for less malicious reasons. It also deafens the public to genuine claims of antisemitism by crying wolf too often. Furthermore, it immediately alienates those who are falsely accused and decreases the likelihood of productive dialogue in which they may be willing to hear an alternate perspective and eventually alter their opinion.

In order to effectively communicate with those who are calling for a ceasefire for reasons other than antisemitism, it is important to maintain objectivity and to discern their authentic motives and feelings. While Jews generally, and Israelis in particular, are extremely sensitive to the ultimate ramifications and consequences of a ceasefire, many who have no direct relationship to the conflict are not. A ceasefire to the vast majority of Israelis (and to the 82% of Americans who support Israel’s continued war against Hamas) means the following:

  1. Hamas will be left intact to commit future Oct. 7-style massacres as they have stated explicitly that they will do; 
  2. The 130-some hostages that remain in captivity will not be released; 
  3. And the Iranian mullahs, the Muslim Brotherhood and other fascistic extremist groups around the world will be emboldened to carry out further terrorist attacks throughout the world.

There are certainly those within the ceasefire camp who understand these consequences and continue to assail Israel’s right to defend itself because of an antipathy for Jews and/or the Jewish state. Yet to many Western liberals, including some percentage of the 400 Hollywood figures who signed the Artists 4 Ceasefire letter and/or wore red pins to the Oscars, a ceasefire means, quite simply, the end of war and the cessation of civilian casualties. This, in itself, is a noble goal. If one genuinely believes that a ceasefire will result in this humane outcome, then one would be callous to ignore the suffering and horror of war, and to refrain from advocating for a stoppage of violence.

Yet this belief is shortsighted and unrealistic. The reality, of course, is that a ceasefire will result not in fewer casualties but in far more deaths and carnage. Left in power, Hamas will not only regroup and commit further atrocities against both Jews and Palestinians alike; it, along with a host of other terrorist organizations and Iranian proxies, will be emboldened by what it will deem a victory against Israel and the West. This is not merely speculation. The U.S. director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, testified on Monday that groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda have been motivated by Oct. 7, and this will occasion an upsurge in terrorist attacks around the world. Anything less than a crushing and disabling defeat of Hamas will thus beget additional bloodshed for years and possibly decades to come.

Hollywood endings do not exist outside of Hollywood.

Rather than antisemitism, the refusal of many ceasefire activists to acknowledge this reality can be attributed to naiveté and wishful thinking. The opposition to war and an aversion to violence are shared by all people of morality and conscience. War is indeed horrific, and innocents necessarily suffer—particularly in a case where combatants knowingly embed themselves in civilian populations to exploit them as human shields. Yet there is a time when inaction is not an option. There is a time when a country must defend itself against an enemy that refuses to coexist peacefully. The choice for Israel is not peace or war; it is war now or the inevitable massacre of its innocent civilians again and again until the implacable threat is eliminated once and for all. 

It is the obvious reality of Israel’s impossible conundrum that makes it easy to ascribe malice and bias to those promoting a ceasefire: The heinous acts of Oct. 7 (all recorded, publicized, and then scrubbed and denied by the perpetrators); the continued captivity of more than 130 kidnapped and brutalized hostages; the explicit guarantees of future massacres; the clear historic record of Israeli concessions and attempts at peaceful coexistence all met with additional violence and intransigence; the documented indoctrination of Palestinian children with hatred and bloodlust for their Jewish neighbors. How is it possible that a rational person could assess these facts and determine that Israel should be hamstrung in its efforts to finally resolve this conflict by eliminating those who have perpetuated it for generations, and who promise to perpetuate it until there is not a single Jew that remains anywhere in the land?

Yet Hollywood is not known for its moral clarity, and artists are not generally admired for their rationality. They are, rather, feted for their creativity and the pathos that is reflected in their imaginative work. Artists are dreamers, not realists. Israelis, on the contrary, do not have the luxury of indulging in fantasy and ignoring the cold, hard reality that comes from living on the front lines. While all people of hope are inclined to dream of a time of peace, Israelis have long been disabused of the notion that laying down weapons will foster harmony. Sadly, there are those who respect nothing more than force and who perceive any attempt at reconciliation as a sign of weakness and an invitation to further aggression.

Hollywood is not known for its moral clarity, and artists are not generally admired for their rationality.

Western liberals, of whom the Hollywood elite are frequently the most vocal and visible representatives and mouthpieces, do not understand the culture of death and radicalism that pervades Hamas and other terrorist fundamentalists. They are under the thrall of the parochial illusion that all populations think and believe as we do. They are convinced that just as we value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, so do those who refer to America as the Great Satan. If only we would lay down our weapons and extend our arms to them, then they would abandon their grievances and welcome our embrace. But Hollywood endings do not exist outside of Hollywood.

Israel supporters and Jews worldwide are facing the greatest challenge they have known in generations. Oct. 7 was the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, and in the past five months, antisemitic incidents have skyrocketed by hundreds of percentages across the Western world. There is certainly the need for vigilance and the development of strategies to combat the resurgence of antisemitism in places where it was erroneously thought to be no more. Yet simultaneously, we must be careful not to cry wolf and misidentify the motives of those who have been misinformed or who have not yet taken the time to rationally evaluate the long-term outcomes of their position. 

War is horrific, and the cessation of violence is absolutely the proper goal. Yet were the signatories of the Artists 4 Ceasefire letter presented with the facts of the conflict and reality of the long-term consequences of Israel’s inability to finish Hamas, there is reason to believe that at least some of the red pins would be replaced by yellow ribbons. If one truly cares for humanity—for the lives of Jews, Palestinians, and people of all backgrounds and persuasions—then the only answer is to fight against those who refuse to coexist and to cease fire only when they are unable to murder, maim, rape and torture those who do not accept their tyrannical rule.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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