Halle Berry & the Jewish Problem

So what’s Halle Berry got to do with the “Jewish Problem,” you may ask. And with the Jewish people, while at it. And what is that problem, anyway? Please trust me on this, and stay put as I explore this strange connection.

Halle Berry of course, to those of you who have been living on Mars for the last twenty years, is the talented, beautiful, Oscar winning black actress. Mixed-race parents, though, white mother and black father, like President Obama, and not Jewish. So where is the connection?

It all started on the road, some years ago. I was listening to an interview with Ms. Berry on the radio, not really paying close attention until I heard her saying something that almost caused me to run into the car ahead of me, or drive off the road altogether. I was surprised also that, whoever was doing the interview with her, did not reproach her on the outrageous statement she’d just made. And for that reason I suppose, and so untypical of me, this short segment of the interview stuck in my mind all these years since then. It reminds me now a specific, disturbing problem I see in the attitude of some Jewish people I know – and others I don’t know, for that matter – here in America. However, in order to do justice to all concerned, I researched that radio interview, and thanks to the Internet had no difficulty in finding it.

So first, here’s this segment of the interview as it was broadcasted on December 31, 2010, on NPR’s “All Things Considered” with Audie Cornish. BERRY: “And being a mother myself, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my daughter, whether it be legal or illegal. (Soundbite of laughter). CORNISH: She’s only like, what, three right now, so that can’t – hopefully you won’t have to test that. BERRY: No. But I can tell you, as sure as I’m sitting in this chair, if she killed somebody, I would help her bury the body. (Soundbite of laughter). And I would try very hard to protect her in any way that I could, and I think that’s just an instinct of a mother. And that’s probably wrong and people will probably – you’ll probably get mail that Halle Berry said she (unintelligible) and she blah, blah, blah. (Soundbite of laughter). But I don’t care. That’s my daughter, and I would take a bullet for her. I’d go to jail. I’d end my life. I’d do whatever it took to protect that little girl. I don’t care what she did, and that’s what I said and I said it.”

Wow. One can admire her for this kind of unquestionable love and devotion to her daughter. But what about this line: “…if she killed somebody, I would help her bury the body.” No questions asked; no explanations needed; no need to call the police; there’s no justice, or moral principles involved, when it comes to my daughter. “I don’t care what she did… my daughter, whether it be legal or illegal.”

As I said, I couldn’t shake off my head these statements, and lately they came back to visit me in connection with the attitude of most (not all, though) Jewish Americans – yes, I know, it’s a stretch, but hang on a bit – towards Israel. They seem to be afflicted with this “Jewish Problem,” or even a syndrome of sorts. Let me try and explain this strange connection and problem.

Imagine, why don’t you, an average American Jewish man. Give him a name – whatever name you fancy. He’s an adult, of course – give him an age of your choice, whatever floats your boat. He is well educated – determine how well and in what field yourself. He’s married, and a good family man – determine how many kids he has yourself. He’s not overly religious, but nonetheless he’s a member of a religious congregation in town – determine the town and the religious affiliation yourself. He’s quite successful at his profession – determine his occupation yourself. But this I have to tell you about him: He’s probably a Democrat, who voted for President Obama at least once. He’s quick to volunteer whenever there’s a need, or when the rabbi requests that of the congregation. When evil strikes, as it just did recently at the church in Charleston, S.C., he’ll be the first to go to black churches in town and offer help and sympathy. He will demonstrate with them against injustice and racism, and will invite them to his congregation for services. If there’s famine in Africa; if there’s an earthquake in Haiti: if there’s a tsunami in the Far East; our enlightened man would be the first one to stand and deliver. In short: he is an exemplary citizen.

And yet, when it comes to Israel, all his principles and senses seem to leave him. They simply disappear, as if by magic. If Israeli soldiers shot a missile that killed four innocent Arab boys playing soccer on the Mediterranean beach in broad daylight, so be it. Bad stuff happens in war. And why did they play there anyway, when there’s a war going on?

If an F-16 fighter aircraft drops a huge bomb on an apartment building in Gaza, wounding or killing one Hamas terrorist hiding in the cellar, but also killing scores of families, women , children, babies and elderly men, so be it. They started it.

If olive trees, which stood for millennia are uprooted by settlers in the West Bank, sheep are slaughtered and mosques desecrated, so be it. Why are they there, anyway? It’s our land. Read the Bible, man.

If the occupation continues now for almost 50 years, it’s not Israel’s fault; we just want peace. If there is a big separation wall, and roads designated only to be driven on by Israelis – in short, apartheid on the way – he, who had demonstrated (or his parents) against the white South African regime so fiercely, will surely turn his eyes away and will blame you for being anti-Semitic. Or worse.

No matter the crime committed by the Jewish state – he will turn gooey-eyed, will start waving the Israeli flag, will sing “Hatikvah” and dance the hora. In other words, when it comes to Israel, he will help it bury the body. No matter the crime. No matter whether it’s legal or illegal.

Case in point: The aforementioned recent terrible mass-murder in Charleston, S.C., where nine black parishioners were gunned down in cold blood by a white young man. According to reports, when the father of the murderer saw his son’s pictures on TV – he was still on the loose then – he called Charleston’s police to alert them; he identified his son and the car he was driving, even gave a description of the gun he was carrying. It doesn’t mean he loves his son and less than Halle Berry loves her daughter – or, for that matter, any less than our imaginary American Jewish man loves Israel – yet the father did the right thing.

Otherwise, there’s no justice – only complete chaos.

About the Author
Hillel Damron was born in Kibbutz Hephzibah to parents who survived the Holocaust; he was an officer of elite paratroop unit who was wounded in battle; studied film and became a director of TV documentaries, video shorts and a feature film. Damron is the author of three novels, short stories and a political blog; winner of Moment Magazine’s 2011 Memoir Contest and is the past executive director of the Hillel House, at University of Davis, California.
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