When actor Seth Rogen, an atheist of Jewish heritage, announced that he
no longer supports Israel – “I was fed a huge amount of lies
about Israel my entire life” – he was criticized for his apostasy.
(Being an atheist does not constitute Jewish heresy, but breaking with Israel
Then, during a call with Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog, Rogen learned
that “many Israelis and Jews around the world were personally hurt by his statement,
which implies the denial of Israel’s right to exist.” Herzog says Rogen
apologized, explaining that his comments were meant to be humorous.
But Rogen has “distanced himself from a statement from the Jewish Agency
that claimed [he] had ‘apologized,’” the Times
of Israel reports. That must mean he wasn’t just trying to be
I stand with Rogen. His comments about Israel were spot on. I too was told
lies about Israel growing up (“a land without a people for a people without
a land”) – but I hasten to add that the people close to me did not
know they were lies. I’d bet Rogen would say the same thing.
I am also happy to hear that he did not apologize for his comments. Why should
he? The State of Israel came into being through the systematic dispossession
and oppression of the Palestinians. Many Jews know this and criticize Israel
for it. Not only that: many Jews would have been uncomfortable with the idea
of an exclusivist Jewish state even if Palestine really had been a land
without a people. (Rogen expressed the same view.) Reform Judaism was explicitly
founded in the 19th century in opposition to Jewish separatism.
But what I most want to focus on here is Herzog’s statement that Rogen
had “personally hurt” Jews and Israelis. I assume he meant that
Rogen had hurt their feelings. My question is: if someone’s feelings are
hurt by condemnations of injustice, why should anyone care? Are some people’s
feelings more important than other people’s very right to live free and
dignified lives? I don’t think so. Some feelings ought to be hurt.
This preoccupation with not hurting feelings is at the root of the ominous
cancel culture and the burgeoning informal PC constraints on free thought and
free speech. If you look hard enough you will find that these unfortunate things
originated in attempts to inhibit good-faith criticism of Israel and support
for the Palestinians by stigmatizing the speakers as anti-Semites.
As long as we’re talking about feelings, let’s do a full accounting.
Yes, I’m sure Rogen hurt some people’s feelings. But I’m also
confident his courage to speak also made Palestinians,
anti-Zionist Jews, and other champions of justice feel more hopeful. Why
don’t their feelings count?
Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The
Libertarian Institute, senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center
for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.
He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane
Studies, former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation
for Economic Education, and former vice president at the Future
of Freedom Foundation. His latest book is Coming