October 22, 2019

Howard Stern on Israel and Gaza

Howard Stern wants Hollywood to speak up for Israel.

“I don’t know why more prominent Hollywood people don’t speak out about what’s going on there,” Stern said on SiriusXM Howard Stern Show today. “They’re all afraid.”

Stern himself is anything but.

Last week, when a regular Pakistani caller named Hamzi began an anti-Israel rant, Stern unleashed his own opinion.

“Israel’s at no fault,” he said. “Jews get enough shit all over the world … Jews are the indigenous people of that area. The Arabs don't even want those Palestinians .. nobody wants them.  If you're anti-Israel you're anti-America. [It's] the only democracy over there, the only friend we have .. who's willing to fight and stand up for what's right.”

Stern reserved a special dose of venom for Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who has been an outspoken supporter of Hamas, the terror group purporting to fight on behalf of the Palestinians.

“Instead of being mad at the f–king terrorists raping their country … that they're not angry with. They're angry with Israel,” he said. “They elected terrorists to run their country.”

Today, July 28, Stern revisited Israel when he defended comedian Joan Rivers’s vocal support of Israel in an interview with TMZ, and wondered why more Hollywood personalities didn’t join her . 

“Are they asked?” The Stern Show’s Robin Quivers asked.

“You know what?” Stern said, “I think you have to be more like Roger Waters.  Roger Waters opens his stupid f—ing yap every minute.  Sometimes you don’t have to wait to be asked.”

For long time Stern fans, the full-throated support comes as no shock.  Stern was born Jewish, suffered through—his words—Hebrew school and bar mitzvah studies—and has nothing kind to say about Judaism in particular or organized religion in general.

But the 60 year-old Long Island boy is deeply, tribally, culturally Jewish—and for Jews like him, Israel is the obvious answer to the enduring problem of anti-semitism, as well as to anti-American, anti-Western, anti-democratic forces in the Middle East. Stern may be anti-religion, but he is pro-American, pro-democracy, pro-Western and pro-Jews.  So, he is pro-Israel. 

What’s interesting is that the most famous popular voices in support of Israel these days share Stern’s outlook: they are anti-religious, cultural Jews.  The most famous is Bill Maher, who defended Israel on his show and in a long interview with the Jewish Journal’s Danielle Berrin.

“I’ve never hid the fact that I don’t think it’s a conflict where both sides are equally guilty,” Maher told Danielle in November 2012. “I’m more on the side of the Israelis.”

And the author and renowned atheist Sam Harris made the same points as Stern and Maher in a pod cast (and transcript) last week.

“The truth is that there is an obvious, undeniable, and hugely consequential moral difference between Israel and her enemies,” Harris said.  “The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions towards them.”

I’m not sure what mix of gumption, balls and tribal identity compelled these three to speak out so forcefully, but I do know, as Stern pointed out,  in the world of entertainment and popular culture, they are pretty much alone in doing so.

Why is that?  The entertainment industry doesn’t reward controversy.  Actors can’t win either way. If they stay mum they get attacked for being disengaged. If they speak out they get slammed for pretending they know stuff.  As for powerful pro-Israel moguls—and there are many—they tend to contribute behind the scenes.  People who work for publicly-traded companies are not supposed to take stands on hot-button issues that don’t concern their work (Stern himself has taken others to task for doing just this, by the way). 

The truth is, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is an endlessly swirling cesspool of blood, fact, myth and hate, and it takes a special individual who’s not afraid to dive in.

It takes Howard Stern.