Philip Roth Misreads Woody Allen

Woody Allen
"I mean, fellas, are you kidding?  Beatings of people by soldiers to make examples of them?  Breaking the hands of men and women so they can't throw stones?" Woody Allen

In Philip Roth's novel, Operation Shylock: A Confession, comedian Woody Allen is ridiculed for disbelieving that Jews break bones:

"Woody Allen wrote something in The New York Times," George said.  "An op-ed article.  Ask Anna.  Ask Michael.  They read it and couldn't believe their eyes.  It was reprinted here.  It ranks as Woody Allen's best joke yet.  Philip, the guy isn't a shlimazl just in the movies.  Woody Allen believes that Jews aren't capable of violence.  Woody Allen doesn't believe that he is reading the papers correctly he just can't believe that Jews break bones.  Tell us another one, Woody.  The first bone they break in defense to put it charitably; the second in winning; the third gives them pleasure; and the fourth is already a reflex.  Kamil hasn't patience for this idiot...."
Philip Roth, Operation Shylock: A Confession, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993, p. 155.

Consulting what is probably the original Woody Allen statement, however, reveals that Woody Allen does believe that Jews break bones, is appalled by it, and calls for action to oppose it.  His expressions of incredulity clearly convey not that he disbelieves, but that he is shocked to learn.

Perhaps Philip Roth formed his erroneous impression after only glancing at the Woody Allen statement casually, or after only hearing about it second-hand.  On the other hand, Philip Roth can answer that Operation Shylock is a novel, and that it is not him, Philip Roth, who misreads Woody Allen, but the fictional character, George.

The excerpt below had been preceded by unrelated material composed in a half-serious and half-comic vein.  Woody Allen's reference to "pulling his movies out" is a joke about punishing Israel by forbidding his movies to be shown there just as he had forbidden his movies to be shown in Apartheid South Africa.  His view of "rubber bullets" seems to be the inaccurate one of a rubber pellet which stings rather than the accurate one of thinly-coated metal which has no trouble smashing through the skull into the brain, or through the chest wall into the heart.

Am I Reading the Papers Correctly?

By Woody Allen

Israel's Policies Defy Belief

And now after months of quiet in my own life, another situation has arisen a situation that is quite painful and confusing and a stand must be taken.

As a supporter of Israel, and as one who has always been outraged at the horrors inflicted on this little nation by hostile neighbors, vile terrorists and much of the world at large, I am appalled beyond measure by the treatment of the rioting Palestinians by the Jews.

I mean, fellas, are you kidding?  Beatings of people by soldiers to make examples of them?  Breaking the hands of men and women so they can't throw stones?  Dragging civilians out of their houses at random to smash them with sticks in an effort to terrorize a population into quiet?

Please understand that I have no sympathy for the way the Arabs have treated the Israelis.  Indeed, sometimes you get the feeling you want to belt them but only certain ones and for very specific acts.

But am I reading the newspapers correctly?  Were food and medical supplies withheld to make a rebellious community "uncomfortable"?  Were real bullets fired at first to control crowds, and rubber ones only when the United States objected?  Are we talking about state-sanctioned brutality and even torture?

My goodness!  Are these the people whose money I used to steal from those little blue-and-white cans after collecting funds for a Jewish homeland?  I can't believe it, and I don't know exactly what is to be done, but I'm sure pulling out my movies is again not the answer.

Perhaps for all of us who are rooting for Israel to continue to exist and prosper, the obligation is to speak out and use every method of pressure moral, financial and political to bring this wrongheaded approach to a halt.
New York Times, 28-Jan-1988, page number unrecorded on my clipping.

The behavior of both Philip Roth and Woody Allen may be likened to that of Albert Einstein, the latter having been described in the Lubomyr Prytulak letter to Israel Asper of 03-Aug-2002, titled Albert Einstein writes you.  That is, in all three cases, we witness the publication of a single outspoken stand against some fresh Israeli atrocity, followed by silence, which is compatible with the interpretation that the trios' protest was motivated by a one-time upwelling of fear that the atrocity would incite retribution against Jews so broad as to endanger themselves personally, and that the trios' ensuing silence was motivated by their observation that no retribution followed, and by their realization that they had been wrong to imagine that any danger lay in acquiescing to the crimes of their coreligionists.