That is, indeed, the question of the day. Since making his overtly anti-Semitic comments, about which I blogged a day ago, Oliver Stone was obviously forced to make what turned out to be a halfhearted and clearly insincere apology. Stone released the following statement: “In trying to make a broader historical point about the range of atrocities the Germans committed against many people, I made a clumsy association about the Holocaust, for which I am sorry and I regret.”
Of course, anyone who knows all the previous interviews Stone has given about his forthcoming documentary, The Secret History of America, knows immediately how his apology is meaningless. For one, he did not say anything to show that he regrets his comments about “Jewish domination of the media” and how the powerful Jewish lobby has regularly “f….. up United States foreign policy for years.”
What clearly lies behind his new set of words is obvious pressure from Showtime and CBS. After all, the CEO of Showtime, Matthew E. Blank, received the UJA-Federation of NY’s Entertainment Media & Communications Division Award in 2003. This is something he obviously is proud of, since he has put it on Showtime’s Executive Bios page. Even more embarrassing is the immediate reaction to Stone’s words by representatives of the American Jewish community.
First, the Anti-Defamation League slammed Stone. Its director, Abraham Foxman, said that Stone “has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments. … His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.” And David A. Harris of the American Jewish Committee said that Stone had invoked a “grotesque, toxic stereotype” and had “outed himself as an anti-Semite.” His remarks, he added, were no different from “one of the drunken, Jew-hating rants of his fellow Hollywood celebrity, Mel Gibson.”
Foxman was at first not satisfied with Stone’s apology. “Oliver Stone’s apology stops short and is therefore insufficient,” he said. Of course, Foxman was correct. Then, the ante was upped. Most important, the wealthy media mogul Haim Saban, chair of the Saban Capital Group, remarked that his “apology is sooooo transparently fake.” He then contacted CBS chief Leslie Moonves, whose network owns Showtime, urging him to not air the program. Stone, Saban said, “has been consistent in his anti-American and anti-Semitic remarks,” and should join “Mel Gibson into the land of retirement.” Following his example, the powerful agent Ari Emanuel called CBS to second Saban’s request to cancel the documentary.
At that point, the pressure on Stone must have been immense. Obviously realizing that his project might be dead upon arrival, he issued yet another apology. Addressing his remarks to the ADL’s Abe Foxman, Stone wrote:
Dear Mr. Foxman:
I have seen the reports today that you have issued a statement criticizing my apology — for my poor choices of words and the unfortunate and coarse way they were presented by the Times of London — as being insufficient. To be sure, there is a great deal more I could have said, but in an effort to be concise and direct, my apology did not address every element of what I said in the Sunday Times.
I want you to know that I am categorically opposed to anti-Semitism — and all other racist ideologies. I am half-Jewish and therefore personally repelled by anti-Semitism, but moreover, I consider it an important part of my life’s work to call attention to the atrocities caused by racist and fascist regimes and policies.
To the specific point of your statement today, I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.
I do, of course, have strong feelings about the way the United States and Israel have conducted their foreign policies, and I have been openly critical toward both. But I am also a Vietnam Vet and have been proud to serve my country. As I am sure you will concur, disagreeing with our policy or Israel’s at any moment in time, makes me neither anti-American nor an anti-Semite. I will, however, be more careful and precise with my words on these matters in the future.
Upon receiving the above, Foxman responded: “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”
Abe Foxman, however, does not speak for all Jews — especially this one! Is he serious? Does he really believe that overnight Oliver Stone changed his views and suddenly “understands the issues”? Can he be so naïve? Or did his friends at Showtime plead with him to let bygones be bygones and let them run the series — so they don’t lose their investment?
And notice that Stone uses the same recurring theme of scores of opponents of Israel — that they are only opposing certain Israeli policies ; in Stone’s case, supporting the June flotilla and attacking Israel for defending itself — and are not anti-Semitic. And since Stone has said more than once — e.g., on June 18th on Bill Maher’s HBO program — that the Jewish lobby controls US policy, he obviously believes just that.
Oliver Stone is too smart not to know that unless he said what Foxman and others demanded, he might not get his program aired. So he did what was demanded of him, and Foxman did the same.
We, however, don’t have to make the same mistake. For many reasons, Showtime and CBS should cancel the series.