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.
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