Poisonous Waters

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Hilary Swank collecting her paycheck in Grozny

It’s a weird, upside-down planet we live on. Consider this. Around the globe, there are almost too many savage, monstrous regimes to keep track of. They steal their people blind. They employ death squads. They imprison, torture, and murder members of the political opposition. They harass and kill independent journalists. They execute gays and persecute Christians. And so on.

And world-famous stars clamor to entertain them and eulogize them. As we’ve seen on this site, Hollywood actors like Hilary Swank and Jean-Claude Van Damme have traveled to Chechnya to praise and perform for Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s puppet president.  Jermaine Jackson has fawned all over Yahya Jammeh, the brutal dictator of Gambia.  A boatload of luminaries – among them Steven Seagal, Sharon Stone, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Gérard Depardieu, and Mickey Rourke – have partied with Putin himself. Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte palled around with Hugo Chávez. And soccer great Lionel Messi has cozied up to Gabon’s child-murdering dictator, Ali Bongo. 

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Sharon Stone with Putin and unidentified child

And yet which country on earth is the sole target of an organized campaign to pressure show-business figures into turning down invitations to perform within its borders? Israel, of course – the only democracy in the Middle East.

The BDS movement – the letters stand for “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” – has a wide reach. It’s not just concerned with entertainers. It’s out to cut off Israel as fully as possible, in every way possible, from the rest of the world. But the effort to break cultural ties is particularly high-profile – and alarmingly successful. In February, several hundred British artists signed a statement announcing that they would “not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel,” meaning that they would “accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government. Among the artists were Palme d’Or-winning film director Ken Loach; Mike Leigh, the Oscar-nominated director of the 2004 movie Vera Drake; and musician Brian Eno.

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Roger Waters

A number of entertainers have been outspoken in their support of the BDS movement. But few of them are as ardent as musician Roger Waters, formerly of the band Pink Floyd. For Waters, there are apparently no gray areas when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: consistently, he not only condemns Israel but also defends terrorists. He’s called the Israeli government a “racist apartheid regime” and accused it of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.” He’s slammed what he calls the “Jewish lobby” in the U.S. and Israel’s “propaganda machine.” He’s accused Israel’s rabbis of viewing Arabs as “sub-human.” And he’s mocked Israeli concern about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, calling it a “diversionary tactic.”

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Waters’s pig balloon

In the summer of 2013, his concerts featured “a pig-shaped balloon adorned with Jewish symbols, including a Star of David.” In December of that year, he explicitly compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazi treatment of Jews. “The parallels with what went on in the 1930s in Germany are so crushingly obvious,” he told an interviewer. Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, a noted American author and public speaker, offered a memorable reply to these remarks. We’ll get around to that tomorrow.

Brainless actor fond of penniless country

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Glover and Harry Belafonte at a 2009 cultural event in Havana

As we saw the other day, movie star Danny Glover had a soft spot for late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. If anything, however, Glover loves the Castros even more than he ever loved el caudillo. While routinely savaging Israel as an apartheid state and supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement against the Jewish state, Glover fiercely opposed the U.S. embargo of Cuba. As the editors of the New York Post noted last December, there was, at least, no ideological contradiction here: Glover supports BDS because he hates the only democracy in the Middle East; he opposed the Cuba embargo, quite simply, “because he admires Havana’s Communist regime.”

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Glover accepting a prize in Havana

By all accounts, Glover has spent a remarkable amount of time in Cuba. According to the Washington Post, he “goes there all the time with little fuss.” He’s attended an annual Havana film festival several times.   In 2011 he accepted a “cinema award” in Havana;  in the same year he took part in a Havana event entitled “Cuba and the Afro-Descendant Peoples of the Americas.”

lethal[1]He’s made it clear that he sees Cuba as some kind of utopian society that’s free of, among other things, racism. In a 2012 interview with the Cuban state media, he gushed that the Cuban Revolution is infused with “an extraordinary will to find truth and to reveal the new human being, the new man and a new woman.” The official Cuban daily Granma has called the relationship between Glover and Havana “intense….It was love at first sight, and not only has it stood the test of his frequent visits, but it is growing deeper and deeper, through discoveries and affinities.”

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Paquito D’Rivera

Quoting this statement in his memoirs, the distinguished jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera – who fled Cuba after his musical style was condemned by the Castro regime as “imperialist” – wryly observes that “Castro’s black victims from Havana…haven’t been among [Glover’s] discoveries and affinities.” Listing the names of several black Cuban human-rights activists who’ve been imprisoned by the Castro regime, D’Rivera asks: “Has Danny Glover denounced the sentences perpetrated against these heroic black Cubans?…On the contrary, Glover’s solidarity is for the man who subjugates black Cubans.” Indeed, we’ve searched the Internet unsuccessfully for any indication that Glover has ever spoken up for any of the Cuban natives who’ve been incarcerated for criticizing their own government.

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Glover visiting Gerardo Hernández in prison

Glover was especially active in seeking the release of the so-called “Cuban Five” – a group of Cuban spies who were imprisoned in the U.S. for many years. (They’re now free.) The Cuban government itself admitted that they were spies, but this didn’t keep Glover from calling them “heroic men.” He became especially close to one of them, Gerardo Hernández, who’d also been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder (this for his involvement in the “shoot-down of unarmed civilian planes piloted by members of the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue”). Glover visited Hernández frequently in prison, and described him as his “spiritual brother” and “one of the greatest people I ever met.”

This, then, is the real Danny Glover. And however many times you may see his name online preceded by the word “humanitarian,” just remember: it’s not exactly the mot juste.