Michael Douglas has urged political leaders to confront the “disease” of anti-Semitism.
In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, the actor used his teenage son’s experience of bullying while the family holidayed in the south of Europe as a sign that the tide of intolerance has once again turned on those who uphold the Jewish faith.
“During our stay at a hotel, our son Dylan went to the swimming pool,” he wrote.
“A short time later he came running back to the room, upset. A man at the pool had started hurling insults at him.”
His first instinct, he said, was to ask him whether he’d misbehaved. Tearfully, Dylan answered: “No.”
“I stared at him,” he continued. “And suddenly I had an awful realization of what might have caused the man's outrage: Dylan was wearing a Star of David.
“After calming him down, I went to the pool and asked the attendants to point out the man who had yelled at him. We talked. It was not a pleasant discussion. Afterward, I sat down with my son and said: ‘Dylan, you just had your first taste of anti-Semitism.’”
Douglas, whose father Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch) was Jewish, was raised without a formal religion. He had reconnected with Judaism after his 14-year-old son took an interest in the faith.
Now 70, Douglas explained his own first experience of anti-Semitism at school.
“A friend saw someone Jewish walk by, and with no provocation he confidently told me: ‘Michael, all Jews cheat in business,’” he wrote.
“With little knowledge of what it meant to be a Jew, I found myself passionately defending the Jewish people. Now, half a century later, I have to defend my son. Anti-Semitism, I've seen, is like a disease that goes dormant, flaring up with the next political trigger.”
The famous on Israel-Gaza
The famous on Israel-Gaza
1/21 Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem
Oscar-winning married actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem signed an open letter accused Israel of "genocide". They said: "Gaza is living through horror these days, besieged and attacked by land, sea and air'.
2/21 Zayn Malik
The One Direction singer was bombarded with Twitter death threats after posting #FreePalestine to his 13 million followers. The tweet collected over 130,000 retweets, but it soon became apparent that not everyone agreed with his opinion.
3/21 Mia Farrow
Mia Farrow, the actress and Unicef ambassador, said on Twitter: 'We can passionately protest Israel's assault upon Gaza without descending, even remotely, into the hideousness of anti-Semitism'.
4/21 Katy Perry
Way back in 2011, Katy Perry faced a slew of angry responses from Palestinians and their supporters after she tweeted to her fans, asking them to 'Pray for Israel'.
ABC via Getty
5/21 Massive Attack
Massive Attack spoke of their ‘love and commitment’ to supporting the plight of young Palestinian refugees after the band visited the Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon.
6/21 Selena Gomez
The former Disney child star caused a stir when she posted an image on her Instagram account than began: 'It's about humanity. Pray for Gaza.' Joan Rivers responded to the TMZ celebrity news website: 'Oh, Selena Gomez, yeah, that college grad. Well if Selena said that...let’s see if she can spell Palestinian'.
7/21 Russell Brand
Russell Brand is currently caught up in an entertaining spat with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. Brand uploaded a video where he accused Hannity of terrorism after his agressive behaviour in an Israel-Gaza debate. Hannity, who is famously right-wing and pro-Israel, asked Yousef Munayyer if he was 'thick in the head'.
Rihanna tweeted, then deleted, the hashtag #FreePalestine after eight minutes. She claimed its publication was an accident.
9/21 John Legend
The singer waded into the debate on Twitter when he wrote: 'So sick watching our Secretary of State have to grovel so hard to tell Israel how much he loves them while Israeli cabinet shits on him'.
10/21 Bar Refaeli
Leonardo DiCaprio's former girlfriend added to the debate when she posted a quote on her Instagram account, which she attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately it was actually taken from a Lincoln figure encountered by Captain Kirk and Spock in Star Trek, season three, episode 22.
11/21 Bill Maher
Bill Maher received a storm of criticism after he compared Hamas to a 'crazy woman trying to kill you'. 'You can only hold her wrists for so long before you have to slap her,' he tweeted.
12/21 Jon Voight
The actor and father of Angelina Jolie unleashed a rant on Fox News. Reading from a script, he criticised Obama’s actions over the current unrest in Israel and Gaza.
13/21 Joey Barton
Despite already getting into a dispute with Yossi Benayoun over comments on the Israel-Gaza conflict: Joey Barton has continued to deplore the violence in Gaza, tweeting the hashtag '#stopisraelkillinginnocents'.
14/21 Howard Stern
When a caller attempted to blame Israel for the war with Hamas last week, SiriusXM radio host Howard Stern told him to'“F*** off!' before launching into an impassioned defense of Israel, saying: “If you’re anti-Israel, then you’re anti-America”.
15/21 Wonder Woman
Otherwise known as Gal Gadot: the Israeli actress took to Instagram, writing: 'I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children'.
16/21 Piers Morgan
Piers Morgan was branded 'Zionest scum' for his stream of tweets about the Israel-Gaza conflict. He declared various opinions such as 'I like Jews. I like Arabs' and 'Same nonsense made Northern Ireland a murderous tinderbox for 30 years'.
17/21 Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers didn't hold back when she was interviewed by TMZ; likening Israel's position to that of New York if it was attacked by New Jersey. Asked where she thought civilians caught up in the crossfire were supposed to go, she replied: 'I don't care, they started'.
18/21 Dwight Howard
NBA star Dwight Howard 'did a Rihanna' - tweeting '#FreePalestine' before quickly deleting it and spending the rest of the day apologizing for the 'mistake'.
19/21 Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban
Nicole Kidman uploaded a short video to her Facebook page, featuring Keith Urban with their daughters Sunday Rose and Faith Margaret, captioned: 'Keith, the girls and I are joining Reba McEntire to #PrayForPeace. xxNic'.
20/21 Simon Cowell
X Factor boss pledged almost £100,000 to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at a US fund-raiser in Beverly Hills in 2012. The gala brought in more than £12million for the organisation, which helps to provide welfare services for IDF soldiers and their bereaved families. So far, however, he has only commented on the conflict to say that he is "praying for peace".
21/21 Brian Eno
Musician and producer Brian Eno condemned the Israeli action in Gaza as 'ethnic cleansing' in an open letter on David Byrne's website.
Douglas went on to describe three main reasons for the recent flare of religious hatred in Europe. The first, he cited, was that anti-Semitism historically “grows more virulent whenever and wherever the economy is bad”.
The second he claimed derives from “an irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel”.
“Does anyone really believe that the innocent victims in that kosher shop in Paris and at that bar mitzvah in Denmark had anything to do with Israeli-Palestinian policies or the building of settlements 2,000 miles away?”
The third he branded “simple demographics”, claiming that twice the world’s Jewish population live in Europe.
The Oscar-winner ended his piece by urging those who encounter it to confront anti-Semitism.
“Because if we confront anti-Semitism whenever we see it, if we combat it individually and as a society, and use whatever platform we have to denounce it, we can stop the spread of this madness,” he concluded.
“My son is strong. He is fortunate to live in a country where anti-Semitism is rare. But now he too has learned of the dangers that he as a Jew must face. It's a lesson that I wish I didn't have to teach him, a lesson I hope he will never have to teach his children.”Reuse content