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February 14, 2014 12:52 am

SWC Blasts British Photographer Rankin for ‘Ludicrously Uninformed’ and ‘Downright Anti-Semitic’ Comments

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Scarlett Johansson filming her first SodaStream commercial. Photo: SodaStream.

Scarlett Johansson filming her first SodaStream commercial. Photo: SodaStream.

Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) had harsh words for celebrity photographer Rankin on Thursday in response to anti-Jewish comments he made in an interview with Britain’s Independent.

“Rankin’s PC anti-Israel talking points range from ludicrously uninformed to downright anti-Semitic,” SWC Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper, told The Algemeiner.

Rankin’s offensive remarks, for which he later apologized, were made in response to a question about Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson’s recent decision to end ties with global charity Oxfam over “a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.” Johansson was first criticized by the charity for her endorsement of Israeli company SodaStream because it operates a factory in the West Bank.

“I’ve got a lot of time for her,” Rankin, whose full name is John Rankin Waddell, said about the actress, “but I’ve got a very negative view on SodaStream.”

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“The thing is, I think the reason that she’s not backed down is because, in America the Jewish zealots are so powerful. Especially in the entertainment industry, what they could do to her career.

“But the main thing in all this for me is that kind of extreme Judaism. That extreme belief that this is their homeland and those people are worthless to them. That’s very powerful in America. They will blacklist you. They will blacklist you. It’s worse than McCarthyism. You are pro-Palestinian? F**king forget it.”

Responding further Rabbi Cooper asked: “Can he point to any British actor who has lost a role in Hollywood for espousing anti-Israel views? Hmm. Really? Wasn’t that Oscar- winner Emma Thompson I just saw at the umpteenth Hollywood awards show? The very same actress who led British cultural elites who tried to block Israel’s renowned Habimah Theatre from presenting Shylock in London?”

Cooper accused the photographer of hypocrisy, saying, “Rankin is fearlessly prepared go North Korea to photograph the murderous bully in Pyongyang but is afraid to photograph Palestinians because it could have a negative impact on his livelihood? If it wasn’t so tragic it would be hilarious.”

“So here’s some free advice from an ‘extreme’ believer in the values of Judaism and an unabashed Zionist: I urge to Mr. Rankin to stop drinking the kool aid of the BDSers,” he concluded, “pick up his camera and go to the Holy Land to photograph Jews, Muslims, and Christians. It might help him refocus his fuzzy moral lens.”

In his subsequent apology, Rankin said that his remarks were made off the record.

“In an interview that was set up with The Independent about the launch of [a fashion magazine], I regret responding so glibly to off-topic questions on such a difficult and sensitive subject. Of course this is not my official position and I apologise wholeheartedly for my use of language and any offence this may have caused,” he said.

Speaking to London’s Telegraph newspaper a representative of Britain’s Community Security Trust said that Rankin should go further and repudiate his reported offensive remarks.

“It’s allegations about Jewish power over the media that distinguishes anti-Semitism from other forms of racism,” he said. “Rankin may well not be an anti-Semite, in which case he should learn not to spread the stink of antisemitic claims about Jews running the media and Hollywood.”

Rankin specializes in portrait and fashion photography and his subjects have included Britney Spears, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Cate Blanchett, Queen Elizabeth II and Tony Blair.

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