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What Brando, Reagan and Bush have – and don’t have in common. And why anti-semitism and Zionism are complementary ideologies.
Eamonn McCann, 18 Aug 2004
Does being in love with militarism make you go mad?
The question popped into my mind a month or so back as I read an obituary of Marlon Brando by Kevin Myers in the Irish Times.
Myers had no doubt what had made Brando a great actor. It was the fact that, in April 1942, he’d been turned down on medical grounds by the US Army, and so never saw action in World War Two. Brando had never gotten over this devastating rejection, reckoned Myers.
“His, classically, were the eyes of the father in the recruiting poster, gazing remorsefully into an empty past and an unfulfilled duty when the little child asks him, ‘What did you do in the war, daddy?’ That emptiness Brando filled with some of the greatest screen performances cinema has ever seen...”
The dapper doyen of the Dublin’s fogies offered no evidence for this remarkable and entirely original theory. The idea hadn’t occured to David Thompson or Patricia Bosworth, authors of very different but equally credible biographies of Brando, both of which, naturally, dealt in detail with the efflorescence of his talent. But what lends the Myers theory its scary edge can be summed up in three words: Ronald Wilson Reagan.
By fascinating coincidence, also in April 1942, Reagan was turned down for active service by the US Army on medical grounds. He sat out the war in Culver City, California, as a member of an army public relations unit...
This would seem to me to dispose of the theory that rejection by the US Army can make you a great actor. But then, Kevin (“‘Tis sweet and fitting”) Myers is ever unlikely to allow a mundane factual consideration of that sort to staunch the effluvian flow. While Myers is pondering this intriguing conundrum, we might turn to the comparable case of George Walker Bush, who, during the Vietnam war, was rejected for active service by the US Army on...No, no, I tell a lie. The Bush case isn’t comparable at all. Bush wasn’t rejected by the US army. It was the other way ‘round.
And now that we’re on the subject...Odd, isn’t it, that just a few months before his second presidential election, nobody has yet explained where Bush was and what he was doing during the period he should have been serving in the Georgia National Guard? However, help is at hand. Check out some libellous but, I choose to believe, entirely accurate theories on www.awolbush.com.
A huge media scrum engulfed 200 Jewish emigrants from France as they arrived last month at Tel Aviv airport in a plane chartered by the Israeli government. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was on hand to greet each of the new citizens individually.
Full citizenship is automatically conferred on any Jew from anywhere on earth who immigrates to Israel, irrespective of whether they have had any prior connection or association with the place whatsoever.
Back in Paris, the flight of the French Jews competed awkwardly for media space with the withdrawal of the Marie Leonie story. Ms. Leonie had become a national figure when she complained that six “North African-looking” men had attacked her in a train at a station in a Paris suburb, overturned her baby carriage, ripped some of her clothes off and painted a swastika on her stomach. All the time, she’d said, the men had screamed vicious, anti-Jewish insults and threats.
What most shocked and shamed French people was that, according to Ms. Leonie, around 20 other passengers in the carriage had sat watching her ordeal, not one coming to her aid.
Anger and guilt splashed across the front pages. Newspapers and television news carried sombre analyses of the roots of French anti-semitism. Reflecting the mood, President Chirac publicly apologised to Ms. Leonie.
Then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intervened, suggesting that anti-semitism was endemic to France, that Jews would always be at risk in in the country, that every Jew in France should emigate “without delay” to Israel. His appearance at Tel Aviv airport served to validate and dramatise this call.
Meanwhile, Ms. Leonie, a Catholic, was confessing that there was no truth at all to her story. Distressed at events in her personal life, she had, for reasons she didn’t herself fully understand, made the entire thing up.
Taken on its own, the Leonie episode could be written off as black farce. But in the event it shone light into shadows where ominous political truths lurk unnoticed.
In France, as in Ireland, anti-semitism, if not rife, is fairly commonplace. This is the main reason Ms. Leonie’s story was initially taken seriously.
The second is that Zionism and anti-semitism are not opposing but complementary ideologies. In proposing that Jews should get out of France fast, Sharon was recommending a course of action also urged by the low-lifes who daub swastikas on synagogues. At the heart of both Zionism and anti-semitism lies the same key idea – that it’s futile for Jews to try to integrate with, or even to live congenially alongside, other peoples. Anti-semites want Jews out. Zionists say that Jews must build a Jewish State where only Jewish interests count.
The ultimate victims of this neat ideological interplay are those upon whose land the Jewish State is being constructed. One of the arrivals at Tel Aviv was filmed kissing the ground before telling CNN that he “loved” Israel, and intended to settle in “Judea”. That is to say on the West Bank, in one of the illegal settlements from which heavily-armed Zionists, many new immigrants, lord it over the people whose ancestral land they have stolen and who can never aspire to the citizenship the settlers will have enjoyed from the instant their plane touched the ground.
Suicide bombers will have been busy being born as the pictures from the airport were beamed into the camps where Palestinians are corralled.