The recent rise of anti-Semitism in Europe hits close to home for Michael Douglas, and the actor revealed in a passionate Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times that his son personally experienced anti-Semitism while the family traveled abroad last summer.
In the Op-Ed, Douglas calls on religious leaders, political leaders and everyday citizens to combat the rise of anti-Semitism and to make his point he shares an anecdote about how his 14-year-old son was treated.
“Last summer our family went to Southern Europe on holiday,” Douglas writes. “During our stay at a hotel, our son Dylan went to the swimming pool. A short time later he came running back to the room, upset. A man at the pool had started hurling insults at him.
“My first instinct was to ask, ‘Were you misbehaving?’
“’No,’ Dylan told me through his tears.”
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Douglas explains that Dylan was wearing a Star of David in the pool and the actor confronted the man who yelled at his son. “It was not a pleasant discussion,” he writes.
“Afterward, I sat down with my son and said: ‘Dylan, you just had your first taste of anti-Semitism.’”
Douglas’ father was Jewish. His mother was not. The actor explains his son developed a strong connection to Judaism around the time of his Bar Mitzvah, and the family has since reconnected with the religion.
“While some Jews believe that not having a Jewish mother makes me not Jewish, I have learned the hard way that those who hate do not make such fine distinctions,” Douglas writes.
The “Wall Street” star added that his son’s experience reminded him of a time when while growing up a friend told him, “Michael, all Jews cheat in business.”
“With little knowledge of what it meant to be a Jew, I found myself passionately defending the Jewish people,” Douglas recalls. “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 actor blamed the rise of anti-Semitism on the current political and economic struggles in Europe, and, among other things on “an irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel.” He called on leaders and citizens to help fight anti-Semitic sentiments.
“…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.”