Finally, a popular artist has come out and has said to the Jews: I am your friend, your ally, your fellow warrior against Jew-hatred.
It is not as if no one in the entertainment industry has spoken out against the current wave of antisemitism. There have been denunciations of the trend on Twitter, though far fewer than we would have either expected or desired.
Most recently, former US President Barak Obama spoke out against antisemitism, as well. He lashed out at celebrities, like Ye and Kyrie Irving, for “creating a dangerous climate” by posting antisemitic conspiracy theories.
But, now, we have rock star, John Mellencamp (or, “the artist formerly known as John Cougar Mellencamp”).
Yesterday, as attorney Allen Grubman was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Mellencamp hailed the man who has been his longtime lawyer, “outed” Grubman (“Allen is Jewish”) — and took the opportunity to denounce antisemitism.
In no uncertain tones.
Allen is Jewish, and I bring that up for one reason: I’m a gentile, and my life has been enriched by countless Jewish people…I cannot tell you how f—ing important it is to speak out if you’re an artist against antisemitism. I don’t give a f—, I don’t care [about people’s identity]. Here’s the trick: Silence is complicity. I’m standing here tonight loudly and proudly with Allen, his family and all of my Jewish friends and all of the Jewish people of the world.
John Mellencamp joins a historical cadre of gentiles who are allies of the Jewish people.
I was thinking about that recently, as I peruse the book of Genesis. There, we meet the mysterious character, Melchizedek, who is a priest of El Elyon (a Canaanite deity? Another name for the God of the ancient Israelites?) and befriends the patriarch, Abram. He offers Abram a blessing, and then disappears into the shadows of the ancient text.
Skip ahead to the book of Exodus. There, we meet Jethro, a Midianite priest, and father in law of Moses. He gives Moses some time management lessons, advises him how not to burn out, and teaches him to create the first Supreme Court system in history. In his honor, the Torah portion that contains the Ten Commandments bears his name.
Skip ahead, again, to the books of Second Samuel and First Kings. There, we meet King Hiram of Tyre, who befriended both King David and his son, King Solomon, and who provided the famed cedars of Lebanon for the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. (I write about them, and other ancient gentile friends of the Jewish people) in “Righteous Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible”).
So, play this out with me. Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people, had a gentile ally. Moses, the founder of the Jewish faith, had a gentile ally. David, the founder of the Jewish nation, had a gentile ally.
Add to this historical narrative, of course, the many gentiles that risked their lives to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust, and the gentiles who supported the creation of the state of Israel — starting with Lord Balfour, and including (and especially) President Harry S. Truman, as well as many of his aides and advisers, who were all instrumental in the creation of the State.
As hard as it might be to believe, that list would include none other than Joseph Stalin, as well. In some ways, as historian Walter Russell Mead has written in his new and compelling book,
Stalin’s efforts exceeded even that of the United States. Stalin provided arms for the nascent state of Israel, through Czechoslovakia — and here is the kicker: The Red Army had taken those armaments from German battalions — which means that the Jews were using German weaponry to defend themselves!
When I travel to Israel for my studies at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, I inevitably stay in the German Colony.
The side streets bear the names of gentile supporters of Zionism and the Jewish people: the French author and defender of Dreyfus, Emile Zola; the Czech president, Tomas Masaryk; the South African prime minister, Jan Smuts; the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, a chief architect of the Balfour Declaration; the early twentieth century British Labor Party leader, Josiah Wedgewood; Colonel John Henry Patterson, commander of the Jewish Legion that fought in World War I; and the pro-Zionist British general, Wyndham Deedes.
Do I have any quibbles about Mellencamp’s statement of support?
I do — one small but significant quibble.
Let’s go back to Mellencamp’s statement: “Allen [Grubman] is Jewish, and I bring that up for one reason: I’m a gentile, and my life has been enriched by countless Jewish people.”
I would hardly kick aside any statement of support, but it sounds that Mellencamp is basing his anti-antisemitism on his personal relationship with Grubman, and that “countless Jewish people” have “enriched” him.
Is it just me, or do I hear that whole “countless Jewish people who have enriched me” thing as a subtle mention of the alleged, mythical business acumen of the Jewish people?
Again: it might be just me, but that thing about speaking out for the Jews because my friend is Jewish…?
What would I have preferred? Perhaps a principled statement about the evil of antisemitism — full stop — rather than a dismissive statement about people’s identity. Something like: Antisemitism is wrong, and evil, and we all have to stand against it.
Thursday happens to be the anniversary of the moment in 1975, when the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, stood up to condemn the “Zionism is racism” resolution.
Moynihan soon became a hero to the Jewish people. But, here’s the thing. As my friend, Gil Troy, notes in his wonderful biography of Moynihan, it is not as if life had scripted “Pat” Moynihan to become a darling of the Jews. He grew up as a tough Irish Catholic kid in Hells Kitchen, New York. He had no particular warm feelings for the Jews, or for Israel.
But what Moynihan could not abide was a lie — and that was what he stood up for at the United Nations. He demanded the truth about Israel, and about Zionism, and about the Jewish people.
OK, yes — I quibble. An awards ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is probably not the best venue for a philosophical diatribe about the evils of antisemitism.
For that reason, I welcome John Mellencamp’s statement of support for the Jewish people. It is a great start, and I would like to hear it become a raging moral chorus.
Because Mellencamp got it right: “Silence is complicity.”
If you have the name, the voice, and the platform to speak out — please: the world is waiting to hear you.