Actor and left-wing activist Ed Asner is the winner of the Monitor’s fifth annual Henry Schwarzschild Award, bestowed on a person in the public spotlight who, by his or her statements, displays contempt for the Jewish people, disregard for historical truth, a desire to sup at the table of Israel’s enemies, or who otherwise plays into the hands of the enemies of Jews and Israel.
Before we get to Asner, a little something about Schwarzschild, who died in 1996 and was a longtime activist in groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Jewish Peace Fellowship.
In the wake of the Israeli siege of Beirut in the summer of 1982, he wrote a public letter of resignation from the editorial advisory board of the journal Sh’ma – a letter that will stand in perpetuity as a monument to the monstrous neuroses and insecurities afflicting secular leftist Jews.
Schwarzschild’s main points:
[T]he War on Lebanon has now made clear to me that the resumption of political power by the Jewish people after two thousand years of diaspora has been a tragedy of historical dimensions. I will not avoid an unambiguous response to the Israeli army’s turning West Beirut into another Warsaw Ghetto. I now conclude and avow that the price of a Jewish state is, to me, Jewishly unacceptable and that the existence of this (or any similar) Jewish ethnic religious nation state is a Jewish, i.e. a human and moral, disaster and violates every remaining value for which Judaism and Jews might exist in history.The lethal military triumphalism and corrosive racism that inheres in the State and in its supporters (both there and here) are profoundly abhorrent to me. So is the message that now goes forth to the nations of the world that the Jewish people claim the right to impose a holocaust on others in order to preserve the State. I now renounce the State of Israel, disavow any political connection or emotional obligation to it, and declare myself its enemy.
Schwarzschild’s screed was immediately published by the far-left Nation magazine and has, for two and a half decades, remained a favorite of left-wing Jews. Playwright Tony Kushner and journalist Alisa Solomon thought so much of it that they included it in Wrestling with Zion, a compilation of essays by leftists struggling with their feelings of ambivalence toward Israel.
Asner, this year’s Schwarzschild’s “honoree,” is best remembered for his portrayal of lovably gruff Lou Grant on the old “Mary Tyler Moore” show (CBS, 1970-77) and later on “Lou Grant” (CBS, 1977-’82).
In real life he’s a hard core leftist who sings the praises of Castro’s Cuba, supported communist guerillas in El Salvador, lends his name to groups that imply U.S. governmental involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and in 2002 signed an ad opposing the U.S. invasion of Al Qaeda-harboring Afghanistan and decrying “the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration….[whose] brutal repercussions have been felt from the Philippines to Palestine where Israeli tanks and bulldozers have left a terrible trail of death and destruction.”
Now Asner has taken up the cause of Israelis who refuse to serve in the IDF, penning an article that appeared earlier this month on The Huffington Post and other left-leaning websites and blogs in which he approvingly cited the “courage” of Omer Goldman, a young Israeli woman who has already served two terms in an Israeli military jail for, in Asner’s words, “standing up to the government.”
Asner excitedly quoted Goldman’s observation that “the most dangerous thing in Palestine is the Israeli soldiers, the very people who are supposed to be on my side” and then offered his own bit of wisdom: “I find it hard to believe than anyone can look Omer in the eye and tell her that she has to risk her life and her future for Israel whether she wants to or not. It’s just not right. Especially during this time of year, when many of us are getting ready to celebrate a holiday about freedom….”
No wonder Asner had no problem putting his name to an ad that spoke of “Israeli tanks and bulldozers [leaving] a terrible trail of death and destruction.” What is a wonder, though, is that Jewish groups see fit to honor him, as Seattle’s Jewish Family Service did last year and as Women’s American ORT did in 2005, bestowing on him its Tikkun Olam Award because, said the organization’s then-national president, “we feel he represents our ideals and commitments.”
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org