Woody Allen: Anti-Semites are looking for a scapegoat
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Woody Allen: Anti-Semites are looking for a scapegoat

Director says if Jews did not exist, humans would seek some other group upon which ‘to vent hostility and frustration’

US director Woody Allen poses on May 11, 2016, during a photocall for the film 'Cafe Society' ahead of the opening of the 69th Cannes Film Festival, southern France. (AFP/Alberto Pizzoli)
US director Woody Allen poses on May 11, 2016, during a photocall for the film 'Cafe Society' ahead of the opening of the 69th Cannes Film Festival, southern France. (AFP/Alberto Pizzoli)

Anti-Semitism is driven by the desire to scapegoat others, Woody Allen said in an interview published this week, and even if it were eradicated, some other form of hatred would take its place.

“It’s in the nature of people to have someone to scapegoat,” Allen told the Guardian during a promotion drive for his new movie “Café Society.”

“If there were no Jews in the world they would take it out on blacks,” he said. “If no blacks, they’d move over to Catholics. No Catholics? Something else. Finally, if everyone is exactly the same, the left-handed people would start killing the right-handed people. You just need an other [on whom] to vent your hostility and frustration.”

The 80-year-old director stressed that although he personally has not noticed a rise in anti-Semitism, his friends have.

“Hopefully, the wave will ebb and people will realize that’s not the problem and focus more on what the problems are,” he said. “But the world is full of intolerance and prejudice. Freud said there would always be anti-Semitism because people are a sorry lot. And they are a sorry lot.”

Allen, considered by many film critics to be one of the most prolific and successful auteurs in Western cinema, has previously said that some anti-Semites mask their contempt for Jews by criticizing Israel.

In an interview to Israel’s Channel 2 television in 2013, Allen was asked whether it’s harder today to be a Jew in the US. “No, I don’t think so,” he said, adding wryly that “by the low standards of tolerance for Jews all over the world, America’s been a very tolerant country.”

He said, however, that “many people … 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.”

From left to right, actor Corey Stoll, actor Jesse Eisenberg, actress Blake Lively, director Woody Allen and actress Kristen Stewart pose during a photocall for the film Cafe Society' ahead of the opening of the 69th Cannes Film Festival, southern France, May 11, 2016. (AFP/ALBERTO PIZZOLI)
From left to right, actor Corey Stoll, actor Jesse Eisenberg, actress Blake Lively, director Woody Allen and actress Kristen Stewart pose during a photocall for the film ‘Cafe Society’ ahead of the opening of the 69th Cannes Film Festival, southern France, May 11, 2016. (AFP/Alberto Pizzoli)

A year earlier, Allen went into some depth about his Jewish faith to the Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, saying his own sense of Judaism was highlighted by attacks on his religion.

“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,” he said. “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.”

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