The Woke Seth Rogen

Why The Pickle Man Gobbled Up Israel

In advance of Seth Rogen’s new very Jewish movie, “An American Pickle”, he gave a long interview with Jewish comedian Marc Maron on his popular podcast W*T*F*. To say the Schitt’s Creek hit the fan is an understatement. While it was a long interview and they covered many things including his new movie, which contains a lot of Yiddish, there was his discussion on Israel. Here is what he said.

Rogen: “To me it (the state of Israel) just seems an antiquated thought process. If it is for religious reasons, I do not agree with it, because I think religion is silly. If it is for truly the preservation of Jewish people, it makes no sense, because again, you don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place — especially when that place is proven to be pretty volatile, you know? I’m trying to keep all these things safe, I’m gonna put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place… that’ll do it.” It doesn’t make sense to me. And I also think that as a Jewish person I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life! They never tell you that — oh by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was just like sitting there, like the fucking door’s open!…They forget to include the fact to every young Jewish person.”

Now you cannot attribute this idea to having been raised in a gentile bubble in Montana. He was raised in Vancouver. He attended the Talmud Torah, the community day school, went to a Zionist overnight camp and was a member of a Conservative synagogue, where he attended Talis and tefillin and had his Bar Mitzvah. By the way the synagogue is of personal interest to me since being its assistant Rabbi was my first job after Seminary. He is too young to have been there then, so I would like to think that had we overlapped I may have had an influence on him but probably not.

This synagogue, as well as the whole Jewish community, were very Zionistic. In 1967 the synagogue had raised a lot of money( not pledges but cash ) for a major and much needed renovation of the shule but when the 6 day war broke out the shule voted to send all that money to Israel. So what exactly is going on here?

I listened to the whole interview and one thing is clear if you know Seth Rogen and his work. He loves to kid around, upset the apple cart, and be a provocateur. He calls religion “silly” but later talks about the wisdom of the Jewish way of treating death ,dying and mourning. He even acknowledges that as he ages, he is starting to reevaluate some of the things he dismissed or made fun of when he was younger. So I propose to you that the Jewish community did not fail him as much as he was closed off, as many kids are, about important adult stuff and therefore was internally ignorant regardless of what he was told back then.

Though his parents were Zionists they were not particularly religious so the inherent inconsistency or hypocrisy of sending a kid to religious school to learn about practices and rituals that no one in the family was observing, was not lost on him. I also think as a self-described stoner he may have been high through his Jewish formative years.

This may explain what he was in the past but clearly in his adult years he is “woke”. As a progressive he has his causes that he supports, many of them solid, righteous, and geared to improving humanity but they are also a part of an agenda that is antithetical to religion, and Israel.

In his world he sees Israel as a colonial white entity in the midst of a brown indigenous population that expelled the local inhabitants for their own settlement. He cites the crime of his school and community teaching him to care about Israel and never telling him there was a population on that land before the Jews came. Let us unpack that.

First, I would suggest to him that he divest of his land holdings in Vancouver. Canada after all was a land that had a population before the British and the French started to build colonies there. Canada has a shameful history of moving the indigenous population to reservations and then kidnapping their children and sending them to religious boarding schools where they could be acculturated. The Canadian Government massacred many Metis, a population of people that resulted from the cross breeding of natives with the French. When the Europeans came to North America they stole the land. Did no one tell him there were people there already?

He lives mostly in Los Angeles. Were the Native Americans not there first, followed by the Spanish? Did no one tell him there were people there before Europeans came?

He claims that if Israel exists because of religion he has no use for it because religion is silly. Well he has a right to feel that way but not to criticize those who chose to live in Israel because only in Israel they are free to practice Judaism without penalty. Israel is not like secular America that makes Christmas a national holiday, while making taking off Saturdays hard, and where many of the Jewish festivals are unknown. Try telling your boss you want two days of for Shavuot. Shav…what?

He claims that it is dangerous to protect the Jewish future when you put so many of your people in one convenient target area in a neighborhood that wants to kill them. To that he has a point, until you ask, “not having a country to run to or to stand up for you, how did that work out for us?” We have 2000 years of answers. Massacres, expulsions, pogroms, gas chambers, how safe were we spread out all around the world?

But the most offensive part of the woke screed is how ignorant of the facts he and it are, and to be fair, Rogen is not the bad guy, just the poster child of so many Jews of his generation. So Woke America learn!

Israel is not a colonial power stealing the land from the Palestinians. When did an independent sovereign Palestinian state populated by Arabs exist?

Unlike the British, French and Spanish who never had a population in the new world when they conquered their territories, Jews were living in Eretz Yisrael for almost 2000 years before there was an Arab nation. In the many years when large populations of Jews were not in Israel, it was because of conquest and forced expulsion, but there were always at least some Jews living in Israel since the time of Joshua. We didn’t abandon Israel; we were chased out. Perhaps if there were Canaanites around or Jebusites they may have a claim to the land but they disappeared long ago, and from whom did they conquer the land?

In the lists of sins as defined by the woke generation, white people taking away the land of browns and blacks is the heinous result of colonialism. Do they know that Israel is a majority brown country, populated by Jews kicked out of their North African countries after the state of Israel was established? Who is woke to the Mizrachi expulsion?

Unlike the European colonization of the world, Zionist Jews started arriving in larger numbers in the late 19th century and conquered nothing. They purchased land, not from the Palestinian government that did not exist but mostly from the absentee landlords who were part of the Ottoman Empire. Small numbers of settlers in the early part of the 20the century, built kibbutzim or moshavim on purchased land and were attacked by marauding Arabs, not because they were colonizing the land but because they dared to be there. It mattered not that they had deeds in hand proving their ownership of the property. These attacks led to the establishment of one of the first Jewish self-defense organizations in Israel.

As more Jews came and developed cities, towns and agricultural settlements, the local Arab population took note of the Jewish successes and were jealous. Often the locals were whipped into a religiously inspired frenzy by their religious leaders. This led to murderous attacks, a massacre in Hebron and more. All this when there was no state and when Jews had as much right to live there as anyone in the world had who immigrated legally to another country.

Eventually the tension grew between the Arab Population and the Jewish population and so the United Nations devised a Solomonic solution. They authorized the establishment of two new states, one for each people. Israel for the Jews and Palestine for the Arabs. Case solved, we go on to live in peace in our own LEGALLY established countries, except for one problem. The Arab population of what was to be the new state of Palestine as well as all the other Arab States in the world, rejected the plan and instead invaded Israel the minute it declared its independence. They promised the local Arab population not the state of Palestine that would have been considerably bigger than Israel nor a Jerusalem that was internationalized, but rather all the country and the Jews all killed. Israel had the hutzpah to not die. Imagine that!

Now fast forward to 1967 and an invasion by all the Arab world in a stated goal of driving all the Jews into the sea. Read holocaust all over again. Again, the Jews had the hutzpah to not only not die, but in a defensive war they repulsed the invaders and conquered land. Ironically, though it had a local population of what were called Palestinians they had been ruled over by Jordan and Egypt, who never allowed them to establish an independent Palestine. From there the story emerged with much less moral clarity.

More Israelis moved into areas they were not in prior to the war. Tensions mounted as the Palestinians saw themselves more clearly as a people that wanted a country. Terrorism emerged which caused a forceful response. This situation dominated the world’s attention in the middle east. The Palestinians wanted a state and finally Israel agreed to the concept with negotiations to work out the details. Three times the Israelis offered a plan to establish the country of Palestine and each time it was rejected. The first time with President Clinton as the mediator, a plan was put to paper. Arafat stormed out of Camp David and his rejection of the plan fermented an intifada that killed hundreds of Israeli citizens.

The Palestinians have rejected every offer to work out a Palestinian state through negotiations. In this process the Israeli left as represented by Peace Now for example, shrunk into irrelevance because almost everyone realized that to make peace you need a partner who wants to share, not take all you have.

Under Bibi’s governments have there been Israeli acts that have not been helpful to negotiations? Absolutely. but actions have consequences and the impotence of Palestinian leadership to negotiate without pre-conditions places heavy responsibility on the Palestinians for the current situation.

So back to Seth Rogen. Where is his awareness of all this history and the mitigating factors there in? The answer comes from his generations’ culture of “woke”.

Woke is to become aware of a political orthodoxy that is rigid and based on the dogma of intersectionality, where all causes of injustice must be corelated with the other without differentiating. Thus. renouncing white privilege, female discrimination, racism, global warming, and promoting Black Lives Matter, must be an all or nothing proposition. Zionism is subsumed under colonialism and critical thought about each of these issues is forbidden. If I worked for the NY Times and wrote this article there would be great pressure to “cancel” me. That was why Jewish women who wanted to carry a banner with a Star of David on it were not permitted to participate in the Women’s March. Being a Zionist and fighting for equal rights for women is incompatible.

Intersectionality has a familiar feeling to me. It sounds like the early years of communism where only Marxist-Leninist thinking was permitted even at the cost of honesty, because the movement was more important than the truth. Look where that got them.

So Seth if you ever get a chance to read this, and there are some readers of this blog in Vancouver who might forward it to you, come visit me in Whistler after the pandemic is over and we can talk. I woke up liking your professional work very much and I would like to continue your waking up as well.

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Rabbi Paul Plotkin

I am a retired Conservative Rabbi. I was a pulpit Rabbi for 40 years. I supervise a chain of kosher Delis called Ben's .