The scoop on Woody Allen? He doesn’t think it’s tough to be Jewish in America, but he does believe “many people” disguise their dislike of Jews by criticizing Israel.
Allen, 77, was interviewed in France by Israel’s Channel 2 Monday ahead of the release in parts of Europe of his latest movie, “Blue Jasmine,” a comedy-drama starring Cate Blanchett that’s been well-received since its summer opening in the US.
Asked whether it’s harder these days to be a Jew in the US, Allen responded with an immediate, “No, I don’t think so.” He added wryly that “by the low standards of tolerance for Jews all over the world, America’s been a very tolerant country.”
He went on to say, however, that “I do feel there are many people that disguise their negative feelings toward Jews, disguise it as anti-Israel criticism, political criticism, when in fact what they really mean is that they don’t like Jews.”
In a Yedioth Ahronoth interview last year, translated and highlighted by the Forward’s JJ Goldberg, Allen talked in some depth about his Judaism: “I grew up in a Jewish atmosphere and they made me a bar mitzvah, so clearly it’s an element that will remain in my life permanently… But I don’t believe in organized religions. Most of them exploit people, and I think these clubs have nothing to do with God. Today I feel Jewish mainly when people attack me because of my being Jewish.”
And he positively gushed about Israel, even though he acknowledged never visiting: “I support Israel and I’ve supported it since the day it was founded. Israel’s neighbors have treated it badly, cruelly, instead of embracing it and making it part of the Middle East family of nations. Over the years Israel has responded to these attacks in various ways, some of which I approved of and some less so. I understand that Israelis have been through hard times, I don’t expect Israel to react perfectly every time and that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a wonderful, marvelous country.”
Asked directly why he hadn’t visited, Allen said he wasn’t a tourist and only regularly visited Paris, London and Rome. “My wife is of Korean origin and she’s been trying for years to convince me to go to South Korea with her — so far, unsuccessfully,” he said. “She’s also very curious about Israel and wants to go there with the girls, so they can see and understand their father’s Jewish culture. I assume we’ll go and visit Israel soon. There’s no way around it.”