By: Alex Kane
Hollywood is not known as a bastion of pro-Palestinian sentiment. There has not been any hugely successful mainstream, major motion picture that accurately depicts the plight of Palestinians. Actress Vanessa Redgrave was harshly condemned for her remarks that criticized Israel in the 1970s.
But that may be changing. Since Israel’s most recent assault on the Gaza Strip began more than three weeks ago, a growing number of celebrities in the television and movie business and other fields have spoken out, mostly on social media, about Israeli attacks. Their missives have been amplified by their audiences who retweet and share the critical messages.
The images of dead Palestinian civilians, including many innocent men, women and children, is badly damaging Israel’s largely positive image in the United States. And while the U.S. government is still staunchly supporting the attack on Gaza, which has killed more than 600 people, the growing number of celebrities speaking out in protest may signal that mainstream American opinion is shifting–albeit slowly–towards more sympathy for Palestine. That could have an important impact on discourse and U.S. policy towards Israel in the long-run.
Here’s a rundown of 8 celebrities who have recently expressed outrage or skepticism at the Israeli assault.
1. Selena Gomez. The 22-year-old actress and singer has appeared in popular movies for children like Spy Kids and was a guest star on the TV show Hannah Montana. She also attracted attention for dating pop star Justin Bieber.
On July 18th, she attracted attention for a starkly different reason: an Instagram post that read:“It’s about humanity. Pray for Gaza.” A firestorm erupted around her, with celebrity news site TMZ asking whether Gomez was “pro-Hamas.” Unlike other stars–Rihanna and NBA player Dwight Howard–she did not delete her message, though she followed up on it with another Instagram post that read: “And of course to be clear, I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!”
2. Jon Stewart.While the “Daily Show” host hasn’t exactly expressed outright criticism of Israel’s attack, his episode last week addressed the notion that the people of Gaza should evacuate to safety. “Evacuate to where? Have you fucking seen Gaza? Israel blocked this border, Egypt blocked this border. What, are you supposed to swim for it?”
Stewart followed up on that segment with another one this week that pointed out the deeply contentious nature of criticizing Israel. In the segment, right after Stewart mentioned Israel, “Daily Show” correspondents started screaming at him and attacking him, with one calling him a “self-hating Jew.”
3. Rob Schneider. This movie star and comedian has sent out messages on Twitter deploring the impact that Israel’s assault has had on the civilians in Gaza. “The ugly inhuman siege of Gaza has had it’s deadliest day today,” he wrote on July 20. The next day, he said: “To not be outraged at the killing of children is to risk your very soul. #Gaza.”
4. Rosie O’Donnell.The big news about Rosie is that she’s returning to ABC’s “The View.” But her return to the limelight hasn’t meant that she has stepped away from voicing political opinions.
On July 22, she retweeted a message sent by this reporter broadcasting an act of civil disobedience carried out by Jewish New Yorkers outraged at Israel’s attacks on Gaza. She also sent out a few of her own messages on Gaza the same day. One linked to an interview where Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi, who told ABC: “It’s nothing short of a massacre, a deliberate massacre. War crimes committed daily. But now there is a deliberate shelling and bombing and destruction of whole areas, of residential areas.”
Another said: “thank u jonathan demme,” with a link to that Oscar-winning director’s comments criticizing Israel.
5. Mia Farrow. This mega-celebrity is everywhere. She’s a UNICEF ambassador, was named as one of the most influential people in the world by TIME and has been in numerous films.
She has broadcast many messages of support for the people of Gaza since the operation began through her Twitter account. Most of them document the civilian toll the assault on Gaza is taking. “Ambulances are supposed to be protected in conflict zones but Israel has hit 10 and bombed 2 hospitals,” one message sent yesterday read.
6. Mark Ruffalo. This actor appeared in the movie The Avengers in 2012, playing the Marvel Comics character The Hulk, and has played roles in many other films. He’s also a well-known activist who particularly focuses on the harmful effects of fracking. But he’s also speaking out on Palestine.
On July 17, he tweeted: “Israel destroys el-Wafa hospital as staff evacuates all patients http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/hospital-evacuate-patients.html …” In response to criticism of that post, he doubled-down: “Sorry, I thought blowing up Hospitals was something that all human beings could agree was off limits.”
7. John Cusack.This actor has never shied away from politics–and Gaza is no exception. On July 19th, he tweeted this resolute message: “I have been to Israel and Palestine &bombing civilians is not self defense.”
8. Anthony Bourdain. The celebrity chef and foodie first visited the Gaza Strip last year for his CNN show, and the result was a deeply humanizing portrait of the Palestinian people and their food and culture. He has since followed up on that with statements in support of Palestine.
One of the most devastating attacks in Gaza occurred last week, when four Palestinian boys playing soccer on a beach were killed by an Israeli strike. The New York Times’ Tyler Hicks published a widely-circulated photo of a Palestinian rescuring an injured civilian while one of the dead boys lay on the beach. Bourdain tweeted that photo and said: “Maybe it’s the fact that I walked on that beach—and have a small child that makes this photo so devastating. #Gaza.”
Or maybe, it’s just being a human being.