Russell Brand wants you to know he’s not an anti-Semite.
In light of accusations made by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in the New York Observer on Monday that Brand is an “Israel hater,” the British comedian has written an essay in the Huffington Post explaining his side of things.
Being Russell Brand, the piece opens with an anecdote about drugs — at a Passover Seder, no less.
The year is 1992, I am 16 years old. It is Pesach, the Jewish feast of Passover; I am in Frinton On Sea, Essex, with the Hirsch family at the evening meal. Wine is drunk, there are incantations and Torah readings, my mate Matt’s little sister is beautiful, the sense of family unity and tradition is also beautiful.
Me and Matt, now obediently sat in those little hats, kippahs they’re called, had dropped some acid earlier in the evening and the whole thing suddenly gets a bit too much. Matt’s dad is sort of singing in Hebrew, the old bloke they invite every year from down the street, is smiling with cardigan kindness, Matt’s sister is still beautiful, and of course, there’s the acid. I am overwhelmed by melancholy and, oddly guilt, at the holocaustal images that lysergically zip through my sad and lively mind and I, in front of everyone, begin to weep.
Brand continues: “I am at my first Pesach with a lovely family and feel personally responsible for the holocaust; I think that constitutes ‘a bad trip.’”
Check out the full piece here.
Russell Brand is no stranger to controversy. Between calling out Hugo Boss as a Nazi during a GQ gala and calling Fox News’ Sean Hannity a “terrorist,” the British comedian has certainly made his fair share of enemies.
Now, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has joined the chorus of haters. In an op/ed published in The New York Observer today, Boteach denounced Brand’s call to boycott Israel over the war in Gaza.
He probably would have been more effective had he focused less on Brand’s past struggles with addiction, and more on rebutting the comedian’s claims and arguments.
“So Russell Brand has joined the league of those demanding a boycott of Israel,” Boteach writes. “I’m going to go soft on him because of all the personal problems he’s had, with multiple addictions, 12 arrests for drug possession, rehab for sexual compulsion, and two arrests for attacking paparazzi taking pictures of him.”
Okay. So, Brand is a disgusting person. Does that make his opinion worthless, regardless of whether or not one agrees with him?
A moral beacon he isn’t. A light unto the nations? Fugggetaboutit. And I commend Russell for making no pretensions to being anything other than what he is. A comical, messed up, confused clown. There is something redemptive about his honesty that ought to be commended. Russell Brand belongs to a new, self-declared showbiz genre: the celebrity as moral idiot. And if he has such low expectations for himself, why should we make the mistake of elevating Mr. Brand and his fellow ethical imbeciles by taking him seriously?
Still not seeing any actual rebuttal to Brand’s claims that banks like Barclays “facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza.” Rather, Boteach continues in this vein of personal attacks on Brand’s drug use, “fried neurons,” relationships, messy divorce with Katy Perry — you name it.
One particular jab, implying “that he’s not exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree,” manages to snub Christianity as a whole.
Boteach makes the point that some Hollywood celebrities do have the right to speak. Like Sean Penn, whom his organization honored last May.
Calls to boycott Israel should be scrutinized and argued. With arguments. Facts. Not personal attacks about how someone’s salacious past renders them unfit for any future brain activity.
Everyone seems to be divided over Gaza — One Direction has all but lost its identity over the issue. And the media is no exception.
In a segment on The Colbert Report devoted to the conflict, Stephen Colbert lamented the current state of affairs.
“This conflict in Israel has been going on for — What is today? July 31?” He paused. “3,000 years.”
Colbert then went on to outline the accusations of a pro-Israel slant in the media, showing clips of interviewees criticizing the prevalence of Benjamin Netanyahu on American television screens.
“I never see one Palestinian being interviewed,” said Rula Jebreal, MSNBC contributor, in one clip.
Colbert dead-panned that he hasn’t noticed any pro-Israel bias in the media — and mocked CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for reporting from the “Situation Kibbutz,” rather than the “Situation Room.”
On the other hand, all images of dead bodies and destroyed buildings abound — the real anti-Israel bias, according to Colbert. After all, “We all know whoever has the most dead bodies wins.”
Colbert then tried to report on the conflict without any bias, and predictably couldn’t get any words past the censor.
Well, except the comment: “The entire situation is f***ing BS.”
Actor Jon Voight has written a letter condemning Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz for their letter referring to Israel’s operations in Gaza as “genocide.”
In a guest column for the Hollywood reporter called out the couple for inciting anti-Semitism, and being “oblivious to the damage they have caused.”
To be fair, both Bardem and Cruz issued statements last week apologizing for the letter, and expressing their support for Jews and their desire for peace in the Middle East.
Not good enough, says Jon Voight, who took the opportunity to call out celebrities everywhere commenting on the conflict:
You have forgotten how this war started. Did Hamas not kidnap and kill three young teenagers for the sake of killing, and celebrated after the killing? What a travesty of justice.
I am asking all my peers who signed that poison letter against Israel to examine their motives. Can you take back the fire of anti-Semitism that is raging all over the world now?
You have been able to become famous and have all your monetary gains because you are in a democratic country: America. Do you think you would have been able to accomplish this in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, et cetera? You had a great responsibility to use your celebrity for good. Instead, you have defamed the only democratic country of goodwill in the Middle East: Israel.
“You should hang your heads in shame,” Voight concluded. “You should all come forth with deep regrets for what you did, and ask forgiveness from the suffering people in Israel.”
You can read Javier Bardem’s apology right here.
The show must go on! This time with a new bomb shelter.
Although many Israeli shows and networks have gone on hiatus due to Operation Protective Edge, Big Brother Israel is undeterred. The show, filmed in Neve Ilan, a village near the outskirts of Jerusalem, was in the middle of its sixth season when the conflict started.
Rather than shut down, the show’s producers got creative.The house now contains regional alarms and a bomb shelter, even though that violate the rules of the show that houseguests cannot have any contact with the outside world – Security will out.
According to Quartz, Keshet, the network that produces “Big Brother Israel,” waited almost a month to tell contestants about the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza.
The first time an air-raid siren went off in the outskirts of Jerusalem, where the house is located, its residents—by then nearly two months into their confinement—were told it was a technical glitch (link in Hebrew). But after a second alarm the next day, July 8—almost a month after three Israeli teens were kidnapped, on June 12, and later found dead, setting off an escalation of tensions and violence—the show’s producers decided to break the rules and tell the contestants what was going on.
A video via Jerusalem Post (in Hebrew) shows some of their reactions.
Also from Quartz, here’s a translation of the announcement from the disembodied Big Brother voice:
“Tenants of the house… As you all know, with your entrance into Big Brother, you were disconnected from the outside world. Living in a place cut off from outside is an essential part of your, and the viewers’, experience in the house. The producers do everything to preserve this disconnection. We don’t allow messages from the outside or updates on events outside of the house—unless the situation can have a direct impact on the house’s tenants, or on their family members outside. Big Brother feels obliged to update you that in the past few days, the security situation has become tense. There has been an escalation in the south, which includes rocket fire, mainly on those living just outside the Gaza Strip, but which this evening has spread to Gush Dan [the Tel Aviv area] and our area.”
Only after milking the moment for the benefit of reality television viewers did the announcer admit that the show’s producers had confirmed that everyone’s families were safe and sound.
Keshet has lost $13.1 million over the past two weeks, a rep for the company told The Hollywood Reporter last week. Despite the rockets, 45% of Israeli audiences still watch the show, which switches to the news if there are any significant developments.
Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
Jewish Israelis have claimed the wizard wonder boy and his legacy on the “Jewish Harry Potter” Facebook page, which has over 10,000 likes. Beneath a profile picture of a yarmulke-clad Harry, users crack jokes about Israeli politics and Jewish religious life through the lens of the Potter series.
Lately, the site’s creators have used the Hershel — I mean Harry — books to process and satirize the war going on around them. Here are their most memorable Jewish Harry Potter memes, ones really worth storing in your pensieve:
Under the heading “A blow to the Death Eaters,” Snape informs Voldemort of an operational setback in their war with the wizarding establishment.
Snape: “Bad news, my lord: the I.D.F. has discovered the tunnel between Borgin & Burkes and Hogwarts.”
One user made a list of ceasefire demands promulgated by a little known terrorist group, the Al-Qessem Brigades (punning on the hebrew words for “Kassam rocket” and “magic”).
“We will accept a ceasefire on the following conditions:
A) All our prisoners in Azakaban will be released.
B) Slytherin, under the leadership of Severus Snape, will henceforth run Hogwarts.
C) Voldemort will be appointed Minister of Magic.”
Joan Rivers is trading in her “Fashion Police” badge for some international relations credentials.
The comedian, who just last week was seen passionately defending Israel to a TMZ reporter, is at it again. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 on Wednesday, Rivers had some words of advice for Israel’s PR team.
“We are doing something very wrong in Israel and we are not doing public relations work,” Rivers told Channel 10’s U.S. correspondent Gil Tamari. “Hamas is so smart, they are using old pictures of dead children every time we hit a spot that happens to be – yes, a school, but underneath it there are weapons and they say ‘school!’ and it’s killing me because the wrong people, the dumb people are buying into it.”
Asked for advice on how deal with celebrities like Selena Gomez and Rihanna, Rivers said: “I think Israel should start showing dead puppies. And you’ll see these girls turn right around and go, ‘aww, boo hoo.’”
Lovely, Joan. Just lovely.
But wait, there’s more.
The segment ended with Tamari asking Rivers to play “Got To Have It or Make It Stop,” a game made popular on “Fashion Police.”
This particular gem came out of round 1:
“Well I think we should make it stop and I think I know how to make it stop. I think every Palestinian should get a nose job,” she said. “Because once somebody has had a nose job they won’t fight ‘cause they’re scared their new nose would get broken. I think we should send over every great Jewish plastic surgeon doctor, fix their noses, and there will be peace in the Middle East.”
Ladies and gentlemen, Joan Rivers.
Watch the whole segment below (if you dare).
Penelope Cruz didn’t exactly say “I didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” but she did issue a clarification to an open letter — written by husband Javier Bardem — which she signed along with nearly 100 Spanish actors and filmmakers.
The original letter called for an end to “the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army in the Gaza strip against Palestinian civilians.”
Turns out that just maybe that wasn’t what she meant.
“I don’t want to be misunderstood on this important subject,” she said. “I’m not an expert on the situation and I’m aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a cease fire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace.”
Well, this is a whole new world.
A new series called “Stop Hamas Terrorism: Once Upon a time the children in Palestine” by artist aleXsandro Palombo re-casts Aladdin and Princess Jasmine as members of Hamas. That sound you hear? That’s your childhood going up in smoke.
Per an introduction posted to Palombo’s blog:
Naftali Fraenkel (16, from Nof Ayalon), Gilad Shaer (16, from Talmon), and Eyal Yifrah (19, fromElad), were the three Israeli teenagers that were abducted and killed in June by a terrorist cell affiliated to Hamas. It’s unacceptable and atrocious that in the modern era three young boys full of life, hopes and dreams, had to die in this uncivilized and barbaric way, killed by unscrupulous people who, for years, have forced the Israeli people to live in fear and terror. Hamas terrorists not only harm the people of Israel but takes also in hostage the people of Gaza, where civilians are used as human shields and where children are turned into little soldiers and causing the deaths of Gaza’s civilians, children, women, men… Terrorism is like a cancer, something that you have to fight.
Beyond the fact that the singling out of the two main Arab characters ever to appear on Disney is more than just a little racist, the art itself is seriously disturbing.
Jasmine threatening Snow White. Aladdin holding a rocket (and a Quran). Cinderella gagged and bound. Jasmine pointing a gun at Aurora (I bet “once upon a dream” is sounding pretty good right now).
Why Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Chris Griffin from Family Guy also appear dressed as Jihadists is beyond me.
In any case, it’s all pretty atrocious. We’re all entitled to our opinions, but don’t mess with Disney.
If you’re interested, you can see the rest of the series here. Careful though — you may have to waste a wish and ask Genie to help you erase them from your mind.
Israel’s embassy in Dublin has deleted a series of tweets showing iconic works of art, including the Mona Lisa, dressed as Jihadists. All images were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world.”
The images, captioned “Israel is the last frontier of the free world,” were sent from the embassy’s official Twitter account, Newsweek reports.
The Mona Lisa is portrayed wearing a hijab and holding a rocket, is stamped with the inscription: “Israel Now, Paris Is Next.” The statue of David, addressed to Italy, is dressed in a skirt of explosives.
Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue holds a gun and a message reading “Israel Now, Denmark is Next,” while Dublin’s own statue of Molly Malone is covered with a black niqab.
“There was no intention to cause insult or offense to anyone,” the Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai’s office explained to Newsweek.
The same Israeli embassy was criticized last week for posting the following tweet, likening Free Palestine activists to Hitler:
Nice and tactful, guys. Good job.
Everyone wants peace in the Middle East. That’s the easy part — saying it. But then, how to achieve it?
Jon Stewart may have the answer.
On Tuesday night’s “Daily Show,” Stewart opened a segment on the conflict between Israel and Hamas by showing clips of American leaders who “all want to see peace in this region.”
“It’s what we do,” Stewart quipped. He then pointed out that the U.S. is sending arms to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Israel.
“We’re like the Oprah of Middle East Weapons systems!” Stewart said. “You get some bombs! You get some bombs! Everybody get some bombs!”
Stewart, who has been lambasted for his coverage of Israel’s operation in Gaza, once again took the opportunity to strike back at his critics:
“This is a dangerous region,” he said, “even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
Watch the whole segment below:
One Direction is at a crossroads.
It seems that two members of the popular British boy band have very different opinions when it comes to the war in Gaza.
Frontman (and sometimes Jewish wannabe) Harry Styles was criticized last week for being too pro-Israel, after he started following Israel journalist Lliana Bird on Twitter, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
Now, bandmate Zayn Malik has chimed in, tweeting out a “#FreePalestine” message to his 13 million followers. So far, it has received over 150,000 retweets.
But not all fans were pleased. Per the Jewish Chronicle:
One fan told the 21-year-old, who was raised as a Muslim in Bradford, Yorkshire, that he should be “ashamed”. Another wrote: “I’m so disappointed right now”. One Israeli tweeted: “It broke me that one of my idols wants me to die”.
The two tween heartthrobs join a growing number of celebrities who have taken to social media to air their views on Operation Protective Edge. Just last week, Joan Rivers passionately defended Israel on TMZ.
Hopefully, Styles and Malik can agree to disagree — we wouldn’t want One Direction parting ways.
A new Facebook page showcases a new way for Israeli women to support the troops — by stripping down practically to their birthday suit.
“Standing With the IDF” calls on Israel women to raise morale (so to speak) by uploading sexy pictures of the their bodies, upon which uplifting messages have been scrawled. The page’s intro is pretty self-explanatory: “You keep us safe from above, and we will watch you from below!”
The page had more than 15,000 likes as of Friday morning. It was taken down by Facebook but a number of copycat pages popped up.
Still, the initiative has received mixed reviews. As seen in Haaretz:
One person wrote “I must admit, I am a great fan of this page… You have found the way to give our soldiers the most uplifting present without even leaving the house. I thank you, in the name of every soldier who got a moment of peace and a reason to enter the battlefield with a smile on his face. Be he married or single, be he pious or a player, a big thank you from all soldiers, for the self- confidence and the strength of soul you teach us.”
Others were less positive. “I don’t want to bum you out, but wow - bad idea. Good execution, bad idea. Thanks, but no thanks to whoever invited me to this group,” said one. Another quipped: “Boys, what about the gay soldiers? They need to know you are behind them, too, so join the effort and send your naked photos!”
From singles trips in the desert to barely concealed support for the boys in uniform, the conflict raging in the region hasn’t seemed to put a damper on those libidos.
Social media is awash with pictures of what the rockets flying over Israel and Gaza look like from the ground. This tweet takes that to a whole new level.
Astronaut Alexander Gerst, currently on board the International Space Station, shared a photo of what the conflict looks like from 260 miles above earth — it’s pretty striking.
(JTA) — First, there were the celebrity tweeter and deleters.
As the Israel-Gaza conflict continues to spark a proxy war on Twitter and other social media, numerous celebrities are getting themselves caught in the crossfire.
Earlier this week, both singer Rihanna and basketball player Dwight Howard alienated partisans on both sides by tweeting the #FreePalestine hashtag — and then deleting it.
Then former Justin Bieber paramour Selena Gomez decided to get all political and post a “Pray For Gaza” photo on her Instagram feed.
Fans got upset, so she posted a photo of herself meditating on the beach with the caption: “And of course to be clear, I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!”
Now comedian Bill Maher is irking feminists (and, presumably, Hamas supporters) with the following post:
Dealing w/ Hamas is like dealing w/ a crazy woman who's trying to kill u - u can only hold her wrists so long before you have to slap her— Bill Maher (@billmaher) July 18, 2014
Jezebel took issue with the “crazy woman” analogy: “Making a joke about hitting a woman to make a point about a country where people are being killed is just gross.”
Making jokes about Israel can be tricky. No one knows this better than Jon Stewart, who has been criticized for remarks he made on “The Daily Show” pointing out the asymmetrical distribution of force in Operation Protective Edge.
So in a segment on Monday night, Stewart responded using what he does best — comedy. Every time the host mentions the word “Israel,” the show’s entire roster of correspondents starts shouting at him. Over and over again.
“Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this,” Stewart said when the verbal onslaught finally subsided. “But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
Cue the tongue-lashing — and on to a “lighter” topic: Ukraine.
Check out the whole clip below:
The situation in Gaza is “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself,” Woody Allen declared in an interview about his new movie, Magic in the Moonlight.
Asked about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Allen explained, “I feel that the Arabs were not very nice in the beginning… The Jews had just come out of a terrible war where they were exterminated by millions and persecuted all over Europe, and they were given this tiny, tiny piece of land in the desert.
“If the Arabs had just said, ‘Look, we know what you guys have been through, take this little piece of land and we’ll all be friends and help you,’ and the Jews came in peace, but they didn’t. They were not nice about it.”
Allen concluded that “there’ve been public relations mistakes, actual mistakes, and it’s been a terrible, terrible cycle of mismanagement and bad faith.”
The Backstreet Boys canceled three sold-out concerts in Israel due to the Gaza conflict.
The American pop band posted a message Sunday on its official website announcing the cancellation of the July 29-31 concerts at the Raanana Amphitheater “to assure the safety of the audience.” New dates will be scheduled for the spring.
“This is a major disappointment for the band and fans as this was to be our first visit to Israel and we looked forward to meeting our fans,” the message said.
Canadian singer Paul Anka also canceled two concerts set for this week in Tel Aviv. The concerts will be rescheduled “once the local situation is resolved,” according to a statement issued by his representative.
Earlier, the Gaza conflict forced the cancellations of a Neil Young concert in Tel Aviv and a performance by the band America.
(Haaretz) — If you were wondering what sexual position was most appropriate in a bomb shelter, don’t. That’s some of the advice Dr. Ruth Westheimer gave an audience in Tel Aviv Wednesday night.
The sprightly 4-foot-7, 86-year-old lost her parents in the Holocaust and was a sniper in the Haganah, prestate Israel’s underground army. But it was her sex advice over the radio that made her famous back in the ‘80s in the United States. On Wednesday, she addressed a crowd of 650 on the ninth day of Israel’s air offensive in Gaza.
The escalation between Israel and Hamas was very much in the background; Dr. Ruth applauded the audience for holding out despite the situation. Meanwhile, the event’s organizer, the Tel Aviv International Salon, reassured people that if the air-raid siren went off, they were in a safe zone.
“I want to applaud you for your resilience and taking the time to talk about subject matter that I am still talking about almost every day, even though I’m 86,” she said to laughter from the crowd, who had been woken up that morning by a siren. Then came her rundown on good sex, with a healthy dose of Jewish tradition mixed in.
“For Jews, sex has never been a sin; it’s always been a mitzvah,” she said in her famous German accent. And if you want to be “sexually literate,” as she put it, it’s better to be in a relationship. “I’m talking about relationships and commitment. Did you hear me? Commitment,” she said to laughter from the audience of mostly young professionals who have immigrated to Israel.
What else is key for a good sex life? Women must take responsibility for their sexual satisfaction, a message she noted that women in the United States had heard loud and clear. A couple’s relationship is a vital part of the puzzle. Don’t talk about past partners, “Use sechel,” she advised, using the Hebrew word for good sense. And don’t get too used to a vibrator.
Another important rule of thumb, if you’ve had an affair and don’t want a divorce, if you want someone else besides your partner, or if you sometimes don’t find your partner attractive, just don’t say it out loud. “You can have a whole soccer team in bed with you in your imagination,” she said. “Just keep your mouth shut.”
Our favorite Jewish late-night talk show host tackled the violence in the Middle East last night — with a few sharp-tongued yucks aimed at Israel.
In a two-minute segment on the Gaza conflict, Jon Stewart highlighted the “asymmetrical” nature of the two sides pitted against each other.
“Both sides are engaging in aerial bombardment, but one side appears to be bomb-better at it,” Stewart said with a grin.
Israel, with its Iron Dome missile defense system and smart phone technology, has the means to save and warn many more citizens than their Gaza counterparts, the funnyman noted.
“Most Hamas rockets are neutralized by Israel’s Iron Dome technology and Israeli citizens can even download an Iron Dome app,” Stewart explained. This alert system, which can be accessed by any Android or iPhone, alerts citizens of incoming missiles. So far, this app has been downloaded by about 500,000 Israelis.
Palestinians cannot be quite so sanguine about the conflict, he noted.
“How are the Gazans notified?” Stewart deadpanned. “The Israeli military warns Gaza residents of imminent bombing with a smaller, warning bombing.” He smiled. “An amuse-boom, if you will.”