Seth Rogen has said he was “fed a huge amount of lies about Israel” as a young Jewish person, stoking controversy around the country’s sometimes fraught relationship with many North American Jews.
The Canadian-US actor, who attended Jewish camp and whose parents met on a kibbutz in Israel, said the fact that the Jewish state was created on land where Palestinians were living had always been omitted.
“[As] a Jewish person I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life,” Rogen told the comedian and actor Marc Maron in an episode of Maron’s WTF podcast.
“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.”
More than 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation. Today, those families and their descendants make up around 5.6 million refugees.
Rogen and Maron, who is also Jewish, were speaking to promote Rogen’s new comedy, An American Pickle, which tells the story of a Jewish immigrant from the 1920s who falls into a vat of brine and wakes up in modern-day Brooklyn.
The pair talked and joked at length about Israel and also spoke about antisemitism, which Rogen said remains pervasive and prevalent.
“I remember my dad frankly telling me, ‘People hate Jews. Just be aware of that. They just do.’ And it’s honestly something that I am so glad was instilled in me from a young age. Because if it wasn’t, I would constantly be shocked at how much motherfuckers hate Jews.”
Zionists have pointed to the Holocaust and centuries of bloody antisemitism as evidence that Jews will never be safe without a state. Rogen, however, argued, “you don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place”.
Asked if he would ever go to live in Israel, Rogen said no. Maron replied: “I’m the same way, and we’re gonna piss off a bunch of Jews.”
Lahav Harkov, a senior contributing editor to the Jerusalem Post newspaper, criticised Rogen’s comments on Twitter, saying they were “made from a position of really, really great privilege – and ignorance - if he can’t understand why Israel makes sense to millions of Jews around the world”.
The debate has frequently reignited after high-profile figures, often Jewish, express views that are highly critical of Israel.
Most recently, Peter Beinart, a prominent Jewish American political commentator, was both derided and lauded for commentaries in which he questioned whether he could remain both a liberal and also support the Jewish state while millions of Palestinians continued to be denied basic rights.