Hollywood movie star and satirist of Jewish-Canadian descent, Seth Rogen, recently caused a great stir around the world and in Israel after saying in an interview that he does not understand why Israel should exist.
This weekend he asked to speak with me and clarify his words, after I addressed him in a letter regarding his statement through the Jewish community in which he grew up in Vancouver and his family.
At the start of the conversation, Seth immediately said that what was missing in the published interview was what he did not say: “How important Israel is to me and the answer to the question – that of course Israel must exist.”
I told him that many Israelis and Jews in Israel and around the world were personally offended by his statement, which implies the possibility of denying Israel the right to exist. One can argue about policies and positions but for me the red line is the imposition of doubt on the existence of the state and the encouragement of delegitimization.
Rogen said in response: “I did not mean it at all. My words were said as a joke in a critical humorous dialogue with a Jewish fellow satirist. I am aware of articles published about me in Israel and what was missing in the interview is how important Israel is to me and the answer to the question. “Intention to question the existence of Israel. I was misunderstood and I apologize for the statement.”
We also talked about what is happening in Israel these days and I described to Rogen how vibrant Israeli democracy is these days. I invited Rogen and his friends to learn more about what is happening in Israel and also that his apology is important, but anti-Israel elements are already using the interview to discredit the State of Israel in the world. Rogen replied that he was aware of the abuse that was being done in his statement, and stressed that he was very concerned about the rising anti-Semitism and he himself was fighting it daily and helping the Jewish community on this issue.
Rogen also referred in the conversation to the culture of debate in the Jewish tradition and said that the culture of debate, casting doubt and asking questions are a basic thing in Judaism and in some interviews he humorously asks questions about almost everything as part of the process of casting doubt which is an important motif in the Jewish people. “I made this conversation with humor.” He said and added an important point: “Do not ignore the fact that Jews in the Diaspora often have to stand at the forefront and explain the State of Israel and sometimes we do not know how or what to explain.”
Lee and Seth had a long and good and very open conversation, at the end of which I invited him to visit Israel, take a tour around the country and meet and get to know the fascinating Israeli mosaic.