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Fond Jane and Mr. Braun Print E-mail

By Sarah Honig
September 17, 2009


We're all familiar with holier-than-thou anti-Semites whose much-touted "best friends" invariably are Jews. Well, the good news is that Jane Fonda is awfully fond of us. She says so in her blog. Given all that fondness, Fonda feels persecuted for no fault of her own. She cannot fathom why she must "wake up in the morning to a barrage of e-mails" about "a petition protesting the Toronto International Film Festival's decision to feature a celebratory 'spotlight' on Tel Aviv... By doing this the festival has become, whether knowingly or not, a participant in a cynical PR campaign to improve Israel's image, make her appear less warlike."

Fonda is so fond of us that she insists our face remain as dirty, demonic and denigrated as she and her avidly mud-slinging chums (like Danny Glover, presumably our friend by association) deem appropriate for us. Truth may be detrimental to their ends, which obviously justify any and all means.

FOR THESE ends Israel needs to remain besmirched and blackened. And that was why fond Fonda, comrade Glover and more than 50 other petition signatories (among them various indispensable useful-fool Israelis) had such a bone to pick with the Toronto festival, itself hardly a Lovers-of-Zion shindig by any measure.

It featured a bunch of films about Tel Aviv, many of which conform to the popular Israeli genre of self-deprecating, pro-Arab flicks scripted for the explicit purpose of winning acceptance and accolades from Fonda and her ideological likes overseas. Sucking up to the Fondas of this world, it's widely believed in our provincial backwoods, is the only way for an ambitious Israeli academic/artiste/author/moviemaker to carve out a career and bask in the ambiance of moneyed Israel-bashing liberal patrons.

How deliciously ironic then that Fonda - albeit indirectly and inadvertently - punishes precisely those Israeli producers who obsequiously fawn to please just her sorts. Their radicalism and/or brownnosing make no difference. This effectively parallels two millennia of Jewish experience with assorted Judeophobes - including those who had cut no slack for urbane "Germans of the Mosaic persuasion."

Toronto's festival, according to the Jane-brand of spurious historiography, omitted to stress that "Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, and that the city of Jaffa, Palestine's main cultural hub until 1948, was annexed to Tel Aviv after the mass exiling of the Palestinian population. This program ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps."

Uncool as it may be, according to George Orwell "speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act." Fonda should appreciate revolutionary acts. In her younger years, when she bombastically boosted Huey Newton and the Black Panthers, she insisted that "revolution is an act of love. We are the children of revolution, born to be rebels. It runs in our blood."

So let's get on with the revolutionary act of telling the truth. Habitual knee-jerk detractors, who disdain historical references, please note that Fonda and crew were those who launched us on this foray into that past.

RECENTLY I wrote of almost forgotten Tel Aviv founder Yosef-Eliahu Chelouche, a native of Jaffa, scion of a Jewish family from North Africa (kosher presumably for Third World ennoblers) and a notable political dove till Arab bloodlust disillusioned him. In his 1931 memoirs, long before Tel Aviv became the vast Zionist empire's icon, Yosef-Eliahu described those 12 desolate windswept acres of wasteland purchased for a hefty sum in 1909 for Ahuzat Bayit (as the embryonic city was called). They were hardly occupied by Arab villages as Fonda and friends aver.

Yosef-Eliahu recalled them as "a sea of sand, a barren desert with powdery yellow mountains and hills, where jackals howled." Beyond Jaffa's decaying narrow alleyways stretched an undulating shadeless wilderness. It was a horrendous, almost impassable and seemingly interminable tract, without landmarks or signs of habitation.

From its inception Ahuzat Bayit was traversed by a boulevard - not because it was a preplanned aesthetic feature. Tel Aviv would rise on pyramidal mounds with unstable continuously shifting slipfaces. These were pronounced unsuitable for construction. To level off the area, teams of pioneers used wheelbarrows to move tons of sand from the highest points and deposit them in the gullies bellow. The deepest ditch cut across Ahuzat Bayit exactly where Sderot Rothschild now stretches. Filled with so much soft sand, it was judged unsafe to support structures. Instead it was covered with topsoil and lined with trees. If anything, Tel Aviv was reclaimed from an empty strip of desert.

Elementary intellectual integrity should oblige Fonda and her retinue of our "best friends" to recall that Jaffa was also a pivotal early 20th-century Jewish hub. If anyone was forcibly dislodged therefrom, Jaffa's Jews were; 1921's unprovoked five-day Jaffa-generated Arab riots, in which 49 Jews were massacred (among them leading Jewish literati, including left-wing Yosef Haim Brenner) and more than 150 wounded, effectively brought down the curtain on Jaffa's Jewish community and boosted adjacent Tel Aviv as a separate, independent, viable, modern and thriving alternative entity.

The carnage filled 12-year-old Tel Aviv with tents and makeshift sheds to shelter Jewish refugees fleeing the Jaffa bloodbath before even self-proclaimed anti-imperialists of the Fonda-mold could conjure up supposed Jewish provocation for Arab butchery.

As to the 1948 escapades of Jaffans on the eve of Israeli independence, I will summon my own mother's testimony. The minaret of Jaffa's Turkish-constructed Hassan Bek Mosque, for instance, was used by Arab snipers to take frequent potshots at passersby on the adjacent streets of Tel Aviv. For Jane's attention, that was before we could conceivably be accused of becoming conquistador ogres.

My mother often recalled the mortal risk entailed in crossing the street to the corner grocery. She was nearly shot on her way to the dentist. One afternoon, her landlord, Mr. Braun, buttonholed her at the entrance to his apartment house on 7 Rehov Aharonson. Standing in the doorway he lectured her sternly about the foolhardiness of her sorties outdoors. Just then a bullet whistled by. Mr. Braun fell dead at my mother's feet.

Odds are Jane doesn't know about Mr. Braun. But she should educate herself about Hassan Bek's snipers, who didn't care about the identity of their numerous random victims. It helps Jane's predatory propaganda not to mention them, to pretend that Jaffa didn't aggressively and continuously attack Tel Aviv, that peaceable Jaffans were dispossessed arbitrarily in villainous circumstances devoid of context.

In a world of cosmopolitan detachment, Jane's propaganda works. Toronto Festival codirector Cameron Bailey half-apologetically conceded "that Tel Aviv is not a simple choice and the city remains contested ground." But if even Tel Aviv is "contested ground," if even its legitimacy is questionable, what are we to say about Israel as a whole?

So much for all those insincerely avowed two-state syrupy sentiments.

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