What'll It Be? Sinatra or Woody Allen

So why am I back, stirring things up again? First, Dennis Ross and others have come out with precisely the same approach, which is, essentially, to hold Israel hostage. All of it amounts to this: "To your tents, O Israel." In a word, retreat. Or, actually, give up, surrender. Offer Jihad Arabs and their cheerleaders the gift of Auschwitz.

Jack Engelhard

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צילום: מתוך האתר האישי
Of course you've heard the joke, but in case you haven't, here goes:

Two Jews are up against a firing squad. As the guns are about to blaze away, Moishe turns to Yaacov and whispers, "I'm going to ask for a final cigarette."

Yaacov says, "Shhh, don't make trouble."

That pretty much sums up last week's editorial from Yediot Ahronot. Israel's leading Hebrew-language newspaper claimed that Israel's actions - like defending itself for its very survival - are making trouble for "Jewish communities around the world." I registered my protest in a column titled, "Ariel Sharon's Indecent Proposal." You may want to check it out. No charge.

So why am I back, stirring things up again? First, Dennis Ross and others have come out with precisely the same approach, which is, essentially, to hold Israel hostage. All of it amounts to this: "To your tents, O Israel." In a word, retreat. Or, actually, give up, surrender. Offer Jihad Arabs and their cheerleaders the gift of Auschwitz.

Nice try, boys. Very cute.

Second, e-mails have been pouring in demanding that I further explain what I meant by Frank Sinatra. Why Sinatra in a column about Israel?

That's easy. Back in the early 1940s, Ben Hecht and Peter Bergson (whose real name was Hillel Kook, from that noble rabbinic family) needed some big names to rouse America into saving Europe's remaining Jews, and later to win friends for a fledgling Jewish State. Stella Adler and a handful more were there for Hecht and Bergson, but they needed non-Jewish help to make the cross-over from local to universal.

For such Hecht/Bergson show biz awareness productions as We Will Never Die and A Flag Is Born, Brando said, "Count me in." Sinatra said, "Here I am." Sinatra showed up, if mostly in spirit, but his powerful name in support of the Jewish people made a difference. Sinatra, I am told reliably, once slugged a man for an anti-Semitic remark.

The question before us here in "Jewish communities around the world" is this: Which Israel do we prefer, a Frank Sinatra Israel or a Woody Allen Israel? For me, as spokesman for Jews around the world, it's no contest. I'll take a Frank Sinatra Israel, hands down.

By the way, my footing as prime minister of all Jews outside Israel is as solid as Ariel Sharon's inside. Sharon persists on his plan to remove Jews from Gaza with no mandate, except his own, which means he's running Israel as a dictator. That's good enough for me, too. I take the same license.

So here's my case.

Sinatra is bold. Allen is timid. Sinatra is a winner. Allen is a loser, and surely you remember Woody Allen. No, I am not talking about Annie Hall or the 50 other movies of his that have since flopped. What I have in mind is that op-ed he wrote for the New York Times, January 28, 1988.

Woody Allen has made a career of playing himself, the hyper-intellectualized nebbish. In the directorial arms of Woody Allen, all rabbinic Jews are fodder for yuks. (Allen is to the screen what Philip Roth is to the page.) Real Jews, according to Woody Allen, whine, worry, reflect and dither. No time for action; there is so much deep thinking to be done.

That's the Jew the world remembers, that's the Jew the world wants back. There's a scene in one of Allen's movies, maybe Annie Hall, where Allen is confronted by a gang of thugs. Not only does he cower, but his cowardice is a near source of pride. In Woody Allen's world, Jews do not fight. Jews do Treblinka.

Or, Jews tell jokes to defuse a violent situation. Try the jokes, Woody, next time you're having pizza and some kid runs in yelling "Allah Akbar!"

The Fighting Jew is as far to Woody Allen as? well? Israel. That is quite a distance to trek from Columbia or NYU, even, or especially, for an intellectual.

There is nothing wrong with one man's (twisted) view of himself and his people, as long as he keeps it to himself or gains a reputation as being strong for his people, but with proper reservations. Then we call it even. But it gets ugly when an artist of humor gets serious, for once, and turns on his family, which is Israel.

As far as I know, Allen never mentioned Israel publicly. This wasn't his subject. He had no credentials in the business, no pony in the race. But when Israel faced a daily routine of rock-throwing Arab mobs, back in the late 1980s, Allen found his voice and, like any good leftist/liberal, spoke up? for the Arabs. Woody Allen denounced Israel for defending itself and, through the pages of the New York Times, let the world know that it is okay to smudge Israel, even if you are Jewish.

Anti-Semites surely got the signal, and it may not be farfetched to claim, as I do, that Jewish anti-Semitism went public and "respectable" from around that date, January 28, 1988, and from that place, the New York Times. Since then, "the sons of Woody Allen" appear all over, most recently in the New Yorker magazine, as per Jeffrey Goldberg.

Remembering that he is, after all, a comedian, Allen regaled his readers by noting, in that same article, that he used to steal coins from charity boxes meant for Israel's needy.

Very funny.

(Just the other day, three Jews were arrested for praying at the Temple Mount. Now that is so sad that it is funny.)

In that same article, Allen issued a veiled warning that if Israel keeps it up, he may pull his movies from Israeli theaters. Over here in the US, his movies usually go straight to the video stores, never make it to the theaters, but somehow, some way, we manage to survive.

Back to Sinatra. J. Edgar Hoover had it in for him. He kept trying to nail Sinatra for Sinatra's alleged ties to the mob.

Hoover accused Sinatra of having a "hoodlum complex."

Guess what. It didn't hurt. This hoodlum complex enhanced the mystique. Sinatra's mob connections helped give him that swagger, that tough guy persona, no matter if he was truly connected or not. He and his friends benefited from the mere hint that Sinatra had muscle behind him. It goes like this: You hurt me, you hurt my army. Dean Martin had real mob connections (Steubenville, after all!), and no one dared take him on, either.

So do I have to spell it out? We, of the Jewish communities around the world, are only as good as Israel when it is good. We are as safe as Israel when it is safe. We are as tough as Israel when it is tough. Israel is our muscle. If you're menaced in a dark alley, who would you want coming to your rescue? Woody Allen?

A couple of weeks ago, the IDF stormed a Palestinian Arab hideout and sent nearly a dozen terrorist leaders to their 72 black-eyed virgins. Acts of anti-Semitism in such hot spots as France, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, went down, not up, after that show of moral clarity.

We're talking attitude, or as they say in Philly, "adeetood," or, as Robert DeNiro would have it: "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?"

When we were kids, the bullies would say, "Oh yeah? You and what army?" Well, how about the Israeli Army?

It's all right to be "married to the mob", as a state of mind, even though the opposite is true. Israel's military (along with the US) tops the field in moral conduct. (Don't give me Abu Ghraib.) But especially for those Jews in Europe who suffer daily from open or whispering anti-Semitism, a Hoodlum Complex is not such a bad thing.

Knowing there's an alternative, a place to go, as there was not before 1948, is also a good thing.

Hello, Jews of France, you don't have to take it; there's a place where your folks proudly stand.

The Jews of Israel never forgot Sinatra's good "Jewish" heart. At Hebrew University of Jerusalem, they named a wing after him, the Frank Sinatra Building. Terrorist Arabs never forgot him, either. Just about a year ago, July, 31, 2002, an Arab worker at Hebrew U. planted a bomb in the Frank Sinatra Cafe. Amid the rubble, nine persons were found dead, 86 injured. The same terrorist later returned to admire his handiwork and repaint the walls of the cafeteria.

But Sinatra's courage lives on.

Paul Anka wrote the words for what would become a Sinatra theme, but more, the anthem for standing upright against all odds: "My Way".

"I did what I had to do, and saw it through, without exemption? but through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up, and spit it out. I faced it all, and I stood tall, and did it my way." Play that again, Frank. This time, and always, play if for Israel, and for the rest of us around the world.