Wikileaks have published a cache of Sony's internal emails which demonstrate the close relationship between Hollywood executives and the Israeli government and pro-Israeli lobbying groups in the USA.
The emails reveal how Sony bosses had dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and how other entertainment execs met with the Israeli consulate-general. The leaks also expose the close ties between pro-Israel lobbying groups and Sony's Co-Chairperson. The extent to which Israel is able to influence the productions of Hollywood was demonstrated in a discussion by Jewish film chiefs on the production of a new documentary about the alleged rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.
The leaks come via Amy Pascal, who was Co-Chairperson of Sony Pictures Entertainment from 2006 to 2015. She received regular email updates concerning Israeli security and Israel's global interests as well as emails from a Zionist pressure group called The Israel Project. The Jewish Daily Forward described them as a group which “Stokes Fear of Islam for Political Profit.” Many of the emails from The Israel Project, which were sent almost daily, included requests for financial donations.
An email to Pascal from the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish lobby group with close ties to Israel, revealed that they were grateful for her involvement with an ADL advert in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and the Jewish Journal. The advert, intended to rally support against Hamas, included the following quote from Golda Meir in 1957: “We can forgive them [the Palestinians] for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with them when they love their children more than they hate us.”
Another email provides insight on the influence of the pro-Israel lobby in the music industry. Creative Community for Peace is an organisation that has been trying to combat the influence of the BDS movement, which attempts to stop artists performing in Israel. David Lonner was Advisory Board Member for CCP, which is comprised of influential music execs, he reminded Pascal of a trip to Israel they had taken her and her husband on in 2007. Lonner wrote:
“At that time, the war with Hezbollah had just ended and our community had exhibited a great deal of apathy and some ignorance on what Israel was up against.” He added: “My hope in the end, was that if there was another crisis, we would not be silent. 7 years have passed since our trip and tragically we are in another crisis with Hamas.”
Lonner also revealed that CCP had worked with major stars like Rihanna, Paul McCartney and Alicia Keys, after political pressure had nearly prevented them from playing in Israel. Lonner asked Pascal and her husband, Bernard Weintraub, to add their signatures to another appeal, to which she responded, "Count on both us" (sic).
It wasn't just Pascal whose connections were exposed. Top Sony executive, Michael Lynton, was emailed by an Israeli intelligence operative named Arnon Milchan, who is also a film producer. Milchan arranged for Lynton to have an “intimate dinner” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Milchan’s private home in Malibu.
One of the more shocking leaks included surprisingly hateful calls for violence in response to British film director Ken Loach's call for “a complete cultural boycott of Israel”. Ben Silverman, Executive Producer of popular programs such as The Office, Ugly Betty and The Tudors, said "Enough with this pathetic limousine liberals ignorant BS.” He also said that if the people of Gaza watch Ken Loach's movies, they will “be lined up and shot in the street for doing so.” Adding that anyone,
“with a wife, daughter, mother or sister knows the evil anti woman rhetoric of the sharia Islamists and it is time to draw attention to the fact that you can have a voice and a choice in our democracies and you can have nothing but hate in their monarchies and dictatorships who thrive on censorship that would never allow their works to be shown. Let’s go gents. We can’t lie down. We must stand up.”
Among the influential people copied into the email was Hollywood actress, Natalie Portman, who holds both Israeli and American passports. She objected to her email address being shared with people she didn't know, prompting billionaire producer Ryan Kavanaugh to respond:
“Sorry. You are right Jews being slaughtered for their beliefs and Cannes members calling for the boycott of anything Israel or Jewish is much much less important than your email address being shared with 20 of our peers who are trying to make a difference. My deepest apologies.
I know that you don’t care so I’ll leave it alone, but I had lunch yesterday with Israel consulate general who brought J street up to me. He was so perplexed confused and concerned when he heard you supported them that he begged me to connect you two. I told him how you felt, you didn’t want to hear from or speak to anyone who disagrees with your position. Three times he said “buts she’s Jewish and smart.”
Just thought you should know”
Another leaked email chain involved numerous Hollywood execs discussing a new documentary film about an alleged resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. Dozens of Hollywood actors and producers were copied in; including Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, Ram Bergman, producer of the upcoming Star Wars movies, Elliot Brandt, who was named in September 2014 as National Managing Director for the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and executives at Lionsgate Productions, MGM and Fox .Cassian Elwes is regarded as one of the most influential people in the independent film industry, he wrote,
“How about we all club together and make a documentary about the rise of new anti-Semitism in Europe I would be willing to contribute and put time into it if others here would do the same. Between all of us I’m sure we could figure out a way to distribute it and get it into places like Cannes so we could have a response to guys like Loach. Perhaps we try to use it to rally support from film communities in Europe to help us distribute it there.”
One unidentified executive said that the proposed documentary was “A brilliant idea", while Amy Pascal of Sony, wrote “Me too,” in response. Another producer, Ron Rotholz, criticised the UK’s National Union of Students:
“In the UK as you well know there has been a shocking rise in anti-Israel and anti-Semitism on university campuses here, both in terms of faculty and students and student orgs such as the potent and powerful NUS (Natl Union of Students which holds great weight within the Labour Party).
The NUS has a long history of anti-Israel leadership and policy and their rhetoric and policies have become much more aggressive in the last year or so … The intimidation of Jewish students, and those who support Israel in UK universities both by administrators, faculty and students is widespread, commonplace and alarming … it’s a dire situation and quite shocking in a nation which prides itself on tolerance and civility.”
One producer said that the documentary would need “a really good director who on the face of it doesn’t seem completely biased, so that we can show something that gets the message across without making it seem like propaganda.”
Another executive suggested that the film could rely on European institutions for support, writing:
“I think we will get full cooperation from the impt media in europe, the eu, the current conservative govt. in the uk, the current govt in france, angela merkel in germany, many academics ( def at Oxford, Cambridge, LSE ) and of course, major jewish orgs in the uk france germany and in most eu countries … This documentary is an essential tool for spreading our message.”
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