Michael Douglas: We have to confront anti-Semitism

Story highlights

  • Michael Douglas' son was insulted at a pool because of his Judaism
  • Douglas warns that anti-Semitism is on the rise
  • The award-winning actor wants more action to "confront anti-Semitism"

(CNN)Michael Douglas' son Dylan had a run-in with anti-Semitism -- and the actor wants to do something about it.

In an opinion column for the Los Angeles Times, the producer and "Wall Street" Oscar winner described an incident last summer in an unidentified country in "southern Europe." The older of his two children with actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, 14-year-old Dylan, came to his father in tears.
"A man at the pool had started hurling insults at him," Douglas writes. It wasn't because of anything Dylan did, he continued: "Suddenly I had an awful realization of what might have caused the man's outrage: Dylan was wearing a Star of David."
    Douglas went to talk to the man -- "it was not a pleasant discussion," he writes -- and the incident has stayed in his mind. The 70-year-old actor, who was raised by a Jewish father, Kirk Douglas, and a non-Jewish mother, said he didn't identify as Jewish while growing up but noticed anti-Semitic remarks others made.
    "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," he writes. "Anti-Semitism, I've seen, is like a disease that goes dormant, flaring up with the next political trigger."
    Douglas, who is also a United Nations messenger of peace, observes that anti-Semitism has been on the rise due to a number of factors, including income inequality, religious extremism and hatred of Israel.
    "Some find Jews to be a convenient scapegoat rather than looking at the real source of their problems," he says.
    He praises leaders such as Pope Francis, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York for their efforts at reconciliation and community-building.
    But it isn't enough, he adds. "All of us" must fight anti-Semitism, he says.
    "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 writes.
    "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."
    Douglas received the 2015 Genesis Prize for "exceptional people whose values and achievements will inspire the next generation of Jews."