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America’s favorite serious Jewish actor for much of the 1960′s and ’70′s, Dustin Hoffman, is about to present an award to a filmmaker at an event put on by the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
The recipient of the award is a professional Israel hater, and MPAC is led by someone who publicly suggested Israel was to blame for 9/11 and who advocates for the removal of Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the American terrorism list. With Jews like Dustin Hoffman, who needs enemies?
This Saturday, April 27, Dustin Hoffman will appear at MPAC’s Media Award Gala in Los Angeles to present MPAC’s Media Award to the anti-Israel film “5 Broken Cameras.” According to MPAC, Hoffman is a “supporter of the documentary.”
The objective of “5 Broken Cameras,” like that of so many Pallywood videos, is to portray Arabs as the innocent victims of the rapacious Israel. This movie began as video clips of the protests that were submitted as “evidence” to Israeli courts and handed over to be used by mainstream media to show the sad plight of the Arabs. The videos which then became this movie were taken and put together by someone participating on one side of a propaganda war, and not by an objective film maker seeking to document reality – as is the role of documentaries – that fact should have sounded alarm bells for a professional actor of Hoffman’s stature.
In his very first film, “The Graduate,” (1967), Hoffman played a recent college graduate whose parents expect him to do great things, but who was stuck in an emotional and motivational dead zone. His character, Benjamin Braddock, is turned off by the plastic values of his parents’ generation, but has no passion or interests to replace them. And so he is portrayed floating in his parents’ swimming pool, suspended below the water, cocooned in indifference, pondering the bizarre lecture given to him by a family friend about “plastics.”
Over the course of his career, Hoffman’s extraordinary roles included the disabled homeless vet Ratzo Rizzo, in “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), the highly talented yet self-destructive break-through comedian Lenny Bruce in “Lenny” (1974). Hoffman won an Oscar for portraying a newly divorced father painfully attempting to know his young son in “Kramer v. Kramer” (1979), and was nominated for an Oscar for playing the opportunistically gender-bending actor/actress title role in “Tootsie!” (1982).
Hoffman’s stature as a great actor continued into the late 1980′s – he was riveting as an autistic man, Raymond Babbit, in “Rain Main,” for which he won his second Oscar (1988). Hoffman’s movie roles have become more sporadic and less artistically and financially successful in recent years.
Perhaps that explains why he was willing to be used as the latest in a long series of Jewish “fig leaves,” for anti-Israel projects. There seems to be no other reason why the Muslim Public Affairs Council would call upon Hoffman to present an award for a documentary film which portrays Israel in the worst possible light, with no balance or nuance.
Hoffman has never been involved in Middle East issues or interests – other than co-starring in a disastrous film set in Morocco. “Ishtar” (1987) was described in London’s Time Out as “so bad it could almost have been deliberate.”
There had been a rumor – which caught fire and remains rampant on the Internet – that Hoffman snubbed Israel and pulled out of appearing at a Jerusalem Film Festival in 2010 in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident. However, Yigal Molad Hayo, the associate director of the Cinematheque at which the festival takes place, was quoted in an article in the Jewish Chronicle that the account had not been accurate, and the discussions with Hoffman had not progressed even before the Mavi Marmara incident.
It isn’t hard to imagine why the Muslim Public Affairs Council would want a famous Jewish actor to give them the kosher certification of acceptability (“Dustin Hoffman, the famous Jewish actor, hangs out with us, we must be fine” is the not-so-subtle message). But why would Hoffman agree to participate?
Hoffman is someone whose Jewishness seems to have played very little role in his life other than as a trigger to anti-Semitic bullies, and the fact that his height, his nose, his nasal voice and his plucky, outsider roles are all stereotypically Jewish. Hoffman recently spoke about the complete absence of anything Jewish in his life growing up. He did not become a bar mitzvah and he never learned any Hebrew.
Other than being beaten up for being Jewish – something he then chose to deny in order to avoid getting hurt again – he had no connection to the religion until he married his second wife (the first was Catholic). His four children from his second marriage all became b’nai mitzvah and they celebrate Jewish holidays – but he said that was because of their mother. And then in 2010 Hoffman narrated a documentary “Jews and Baseball.”
Of course, the fact that Hoffman is giving an award to the Arab Palestinian “filmmaker” of the “documentary” “5 Broken Cameras,” is even more delicious for those seeking to demonize Israel. What a thrill to use a very Jewish-looking and -sounding Hollywood icon to make the presentation.
The film, “5 Broken Cameras,” has a plot as thin as pita bread. You already know the plot, even if you’ve never heard of the movie: Israelis are very bad, they violently wrest away the land and the dignity from the poor victimized Arab Palestinians. That’s the story, in a nutshell.
If you want more specifics, “5 Broken Cameras,” chronicles the weekly protests by the Arabs who live in the village of Bil’in, next to which, in 2005, part of Israel’s security fence was erected. That’s right, the security fence which has been credited with shutting down the horrific nightmare of homicide bombings that murdered and injured thousands of human beings – Jews, Arabs and Christians – before it was erected.
The five cameras refer to ones owned by the amateur filmmaker and Bil’in villager Emad Burnat – he’s the one getting the award from Hoffman – who purchased them in order to document the “horrors” of the Israeli encroachment (although some accounts claim the cameras were purchased for the birth of Burnat’s first and then subsequent children).
Burnat recorded the weekly “nonviolent” activities held by the villagers and international agitators who join them to protest the fence. He claims that all five cameras were broken by the Israelis responding to the weekly nonviolent protests against what they call the “Apartheid Wall.”
But the protesters portrayed in “5 Broken Cameras” were revealed as frauds even before the Hollywood crowd took a shine – it was nominated for an Academy Award – to the film. For those who maintain a vigilant watch on news reports about the Arab-Israeli conflict, Bil’in is known for a very different kind of revelation – it is one of the few times the pro-Israel side was able to capture – dead to rights – the Arab Palestinians in a flat out lie.
Jawaher abu Rahma was an Arab woman who lived in Bil’in. In late December, 2010, spilling on into 2011, news reports from dozens of mainstream media outlets claimed that abu Rahma was killed by the Israelis who threw tear gas at the “nonviolent” protesters near the Bil’in part of the security fence. Those outlets got the information from the protesters lionized in Burnat’s film.
How awful. Except that it turned out abu Rahma, who died in a Ramallah Hospital on December 31, 2010, died as the result of medical malpractice at the hospital, completely unrelated to any tear gas. In fact, abu Rahma wasn’t even at the protest that day. A film about how Jawaher abu Rahma actually died, who exploited her death, and why the lies about it weren’t considered news is a film that never will – but should be – made. Would Hoffman present an award to the maker of such a film?
Last month an Israeli NGO representing hundreds of IDF soldiers and reservists, Consensus, filed a letter with Israel’s Attorney General. Consensus wants charges filed against the makers of “5 Broken Cameras” for incitement and slander.
“We can prove how the film was edited, clip after clip, shot after shot, to the point where it has no connection to reality,” the letter from Consensus explains. “The film is ultimately baseless, false and absurd, and as far from reality as east is from west.”
So, in the end, Dustin Hoffman with his honking nasal voice and Semitic nose may be emulating the pattern of the mindless good-looking movie stars against whom he rose as the iconic non-handsome, non-sexy male movie star of the counter-culture years.
Just as the pretty boy actors and actresses were used solely because of their looks and not because of their abilities or range, Hoffman is being used for his looks and “Jewness.”
At the MPAC Awards Gala Hoffman will be a Jewish fig leaf, used for his “appearance” of Jewishness, not because he cares about whether the film he is honoring is honest or truthful. Hoffman is a malleable material poured into the liberal, meaningless mold of “pro-Arab Palestinian.” Perhaps when someone mentioned “plastics” to him in his first movie role they were being prescient.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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