Gentiles of the Year 2012

Gentiles of the Year 2012

From hunting Nazis to bashing Israel to praising the nightlife in Tel Aviv, these were the non-Jews earning attention over the past 12 months

Major newsmakers in 2012 included, from left to right, top to bottom: Benjamin Millepied, Claire Danes, Istvan Ujhelyi, Bob Costas, Newt Gingrich, Chaka Khan, Mohammed Morsi, Brian Flynn, Ryan Parry, Stephen Harper and Barack Obama. (Graphics by Uri Fintzy via JTA)
Major newsmakers in 2012 included, from left to right, top to bottom: Benjamin Millepied, Claire Danes, Istvan Ujhelyi, Bob Costas, Newt Gingrich, Chaka Khan, Mohammed Morsi, Brian Flynn, Ryan Parry, Stephen Harper and Barack Obama. (Graphics by Uri Fintzy via JTA)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Whether they made us cheer, bang our heads against the wall, wish they were Jewish or thank God that they’re not, this year had plenty of non-Jews who played an important role in the Jewish story. And what better time to highlight them than now, in this season of best-of lists and holiday cheer?

  • Begrudging mazel tovs greeted news in August that Benjamin Millepied had wed Natalie Portman, one of the most desirable Jewish women in Hollywood. Millepied, the French-born choreographer who prepped Portman for her Oscar-winning turn as a troubled dancer in the 2010 hit “Black Swan,” donned a yarmulke and wrapped himself in a tallit for the ceremony, held under a chuppah in Big Sur, Calif. Among the attendees was the couple’s year-old son, Aleph.
  • Thanks to Claire Danes, Americans have not only fallen in love with an adaptation of an Israeli TV show, they’ve learned that Tel Aviv is the world’s “most intense party town.” Danes portrays the bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison on the critically acclaimed Showtime series “Homeland,” which had parts of its second season filmed in Israel.
  • After a far-right Hungarian politician called for Jews to be screened as potential security risks, the deputy speaker of the country’s parliament, Istvan Ujhelyi, led colleagues in wearing yellow stars during a parliamentary session as a sign of solidarity with the country’s Jewish community. Ujhelyi said he did not believe he had Jewish roots, but that he would be proud if it turned out he did.
  • When the International Olympic Committee denied repeated requests to have a moment of silence at the 2012 London Summer Olympics honoring the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israelis at the Munich Games, NBC sportscaster Bob Costas took it upon himself to remember the slain athletes and coaches. As the Israeli delegation entered the stadium for the opening ceremonies, Costas summarized the controversy and then stayed quiet for several seconds, holding his own moment of silence.
  • Newt Gingrich failed in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but not before burning through millions of dollars donated by Jewish casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and sparking considerable outrage by referring to the Palestinians as an “invented people.” Gingrich stood his ground, saying he supported a negotiated peace but that the onus was on the Palestinians.
  • After music legend Stevie Wonder backed out of a commitment to perform at a benefit for the Israel Defense Forces in Los Angeles in December, bowing to pressure from pro-Palestinian activists, the Grammy Award-winning singer Chaka Khan took his place. Khan performed several of her signature hits at the gala, which wound up raising $14 million to support the well-being of Israeli soldiers.
  • Now that President Mohammed Morsi has clearly established he’s running the show in Egypt, he must decide: Will Egypt be a threat to Israel, a reliable ally or a perennial headache? The jury’s still out, but Israel — and the world — remain transfixed.
  • For Brian Flynn and Ryan Parry, reporters for the British tabloid The Sun, it’s never too late for justice. The duo tracked down suspected war criminal Ladislaus Csizsik-Csatary, 97, leading to his arrest in Hungary in July on charges of helping send 15,700 Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust.
  • Calling Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper an unabashed Israel supporter is an understatement. In the past few months, Harper has shuttered Canada’s embassy in Tehran, listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, personally pressured Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (unsuccessfully) to drop the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations and signed a series of defense pacts with Israel. Israeli President Shimon Peres has called him “an extraordinary friend.”
  • The fiercest Jewish critics of President Obama assail him as undermining Israel’s interests. His staunchest acolytes say his policies may save Israel from Iran. What none of them question is the singular position of the US president, whoever he may be, to influence events that will determine the Jewish future.
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