Diplomats never pretend to be experts on acting, yet for some reason actors constantly present themselves as experts on international affairs. Hollywood award ceremonies are now dominated by awardees delivering pretentious political diatribes.
The latest presumed fount of wisdom is Richard Gere, who visited Israel last week to promote a film in which he plays a character modeled on the American Jewish businessman from whom Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accepted large bribes.
In an interview with Haaretz, Gere rattled off all the shallow slogans about Israel that he reads in The New York Times. “Obviously, this occupation is destroying everyone,” he proclaimed, even though Israel stopped “occupying” 98 percent of the Palestinians 22 years ago. “Settlements are such an absurd provocation,” he announced, even though settlements take up less than 2 percent of the Judea and Samaria territories. Jewish settlements are “certainly in the international sense, completely illegal,” declared the actor, who obviously knows nothing about international law, under which the settlements are, in fact, completely legal.
Naturally, no Hollywood monologue about the Middle East would be complete with a dose of moral equivalency. “I denounce violence on all sides of this,” Gere asserted, demonstrating his inability to distinguish between the aggressor and the victim. “Violent” Israelis who dare to defend themselves against Palestinian stabbers and bombers are no different from the guys with the knives and the explosive vests.
But the interview took a very odd turn when Gere suddenly began heaping praise on the corrupt, disgraced, and still-imprisoned Ehud Olmert. “I certainly liked him as a human being and actually felt there was enormous hope and promise with him as prime minister,” said Gere. “He didn’t seem to be owned by settlers, he didn’t seem to be owned by the dark forces, he understood compromise.”
What about Olmert’s corruption? No problem, since he was willing to give up land. According to the interviewer, Gere indicated he believes “the value of the peace deal that Olmert might have been able to make would have outweighed the immorality of the corruption that brought him down.”
In the film, Gere’s character bribes the prime minister with pairs of very expensive shoes.
“Frankly, if someone creates a lasting peace in the Middle East, a pair of shoes is not a big deal,” according to Gere.
Fascinating! Principles, values, morality—all suddenly become irrelevant so long as Olmert was promoting Gere’s pro-Palestinian agenda.
In between a lot of embarrassing gushing over Gere’s leading-man good looks—“still impossibly handsome at 67”—interviewer Allison Kaplan Sommer asked a very pointed and insightful question: “Does [Gere] feel as forgiving about expensive cigars and pink champagne?”
Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being accused of improperly accepted gifts of cigars and champagne. If Gere thinks Olmert’s corruption is no big deal, then surely he would not be bothered if the charges against Netanyahu are true, right?
Wrong. “The context is completely different,” Gere replied. How so? “The sympathy with which [Gere] views Olmert’s downfall would in any case only apply to the current prime minister ‘if Netanyahu was working toward a genuine peace process.’”
It’s simple. A corrupt politician who does what Gere wants on the diplomatic front (i.e. gives in to the Palestinians) is a swell guy. A politician who doesn’t surrender to the Palestinians is a rotten scoundrel. The funny thing is that Gere is so full of himself that he didn’t even realize that what he was saying represents the grossest form of hypocrisy. I guess when you’re “impossibly good-looking,” you can get away with anything.
Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.