By Jack Engelhard
The hottest ticket for the upcoming season on Broadway is Al Pacino (again!) as Shylock in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” Pacino, at 70, appears to be making Shylock his career at a time when hate crimes against Jews scale in at 65 percent – higher, by the way, than any other group. (Seven percent against American Muslims.)
We can only wonder why Pacino is so drawn to this play that is clearly the most anti-Semitic in all literature. Even Harold Bloom cites “Merchant” as “The lasting harm done by Shakespeare.” This play, in fact, has nurtured a blood libel so vast that blame for the Holocaust can be shared by Hitler together with Shakespeare.
Yet Pacino persists. We loved him as the Godfather, young and old, but he seems determined to mark the ageless, poinsonous Shylock as his legacy.
People are lining up to buy the tickets. This too is baffling, and worrisome, especially at a time when anti-Semitism has gone mainstream through The New York Times and Time magazine whose perversity is as plain as the newsprint of Der Sturmer. Anti-Semitism need no longer be whispered, even in America. It’s out in the open. License has been given by these merchants of print to express hatred and vulgarity from the dark corners into the marketplace.
The New York Times is disproportionately fixated on Israel, never misses a day to bully the Jewish State, and from these lies our culture is being contaminated.
The Biblical imperative, “Justice, Justice shall you pursue,” no longer motivates our editorialists.
Over the years, scholars have tried to find clues within “Merchant” to disprove Shakespeare’s animosity, but as many times as this play is read, studied and performed, the crookedness of this theatrical monster cannot be made straight; the obvious cannot be clouded by intellectual razzle-dazzle. We know what Shakespeare had in mind, and we know that Shakespeare’s stereotypical money-lender has fueled a thousand and one Nights of Broken Glass.
Yet Pacino persists – and please, let’s not hear about art for art’s sake. Artists have learned to mute themselves on Islam since Theo Van Gogh.
Jews – despite their overwhelming contributions to Western Civilization — are fair game for slander.
Even Harvey Weinstein has turned. Once favorable to Israel, he has produced a film that is sharply anti-Israel.
Anti-Semitism is contagious. Anti-Semitism HAPPENS. Note Mel Gibson and the first words out of his mouth. Note the latest from Oliver Stone.
Can it get any worse? It already is!
Are we safe from the fever that afflicted Europe in the 1930s? Europe was safe until anti-Semitism became RESPECTABLE.
Today, anti-Semitism has become respectable right here at home, where we thought it could never happen.
Can it happen here? It’s happening!
Jack Engelhard’s classic international bestselling novel “Indecent Proposal,” which led to the Paramount movie of the same name, has been republished and is available from Amazon. His inside-the-newsroom thriller “The Bathsheba Deadline” is being prepared for the movies. He can be reached at www.jackengelhard.com