[Actors Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem (top) singers Selena Gomez and Rihanna all backtracked in varying degrees from their support for Palestinians]
Elham Asaad Buaras
When it comes to advocacy for victims of conflict, history has shown that no crisis is too thorny for Hollywood A-listers to embrace.
Be it Marlon Brando’s activism in the US civil right movement in the 60s, Sean Penn’s defiant political pilgrimages to Castro’s Cuba or more recently George Clooney’s support for the people in Darfur and Ukraine. It seems that no political world issue is taboo in LaLa land – no issue that is except the plight of the Palestinians.
The conspicuous silence of the LA’s usually vocal liberals aside, two observations could be made about the backlash leveled against those who dared to speak up for the Gazans; (1) support for Palestinians is an automatic support for terrorism; and (2) any critical reaction to Israel’s conduct in the conflict is a sign of youthful ignorance or a thinly veiled hatred of Jews.
Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem who, along with 100 other Spanish thespians, signed a letter condemning “the genocide” of Palestinians have been black-listed by many producers in America.
The letter accused Israel of “advancing on Palestinian territories instead of withdrawing to the 1967 borders. Gaza is living through horror… while the international community does nothing. ”
However, the zeal of European artists for Palestinian rights is not shared by their peers across the pond. Two top producers have vowed not to hire the couple and Relativity Media CEO, Ryan Kavanaugh, said anyone who says the killings in Gaza as genocide “is either ignorant…or is truly anti-Semitic.”
Exercising damage control, Cruz and Bardem a day later, explained that their “only wish and intention” in signing the group letter was to promote “peace in both Israel and Gaza”.
But Hollywood’s most vocal conservatives Jon Voight, was not appeased by their comments. The Republican went so far as to say criticism of Israel incites global “anti-Semitism”. Voight was not the only veteran to condemn Palestinians supporters comedienne Joan Rivers ridiculed singers Selena Gomez and Rihanna in a rant about their views on Gaza.
In an interview with a Israeli channel Rivers was asked about the stars’ pro-Palestinian tweets – tweets which they both retracted after receiving harsh criticism.
“Selena Gomez, who just came out of rehab, who I believe is not a college girl, Rihanna, who is beautiful and not the smartest bulb in the lamp – they see pictures of [dead] children and they go crazy,” exclaimed Rivers.
Rivers, who said Palestinians “deserve to be dead”, also declared, “These girls should shut up, and put on pretty clothes, and get themselves off of drugs.”
If Gomez and Rihanna could be bullied into silence what about George Clooney? Usually the most politically vocal of celebrities, Clooney has in the past demonstrated no qualms in publicising global human right violations most notably the Darfur crises – he was even arrested for civil disobedience outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington back in 2012.
Clooney’s silence on Gaza was initially attributed to the fact his lawyer fiancé was chosen as a member for the UN Gaza War Crimes Investigation – and that his support for the besieged masses in Gaza could be interpreted as anti-Israel bias.
However, Amal Alamuddin eventually turned down the offer due to her cases-filled schedule and so the riddle of Clooney’s indifference to the plight of Palestinians continued from when it first started back in 2009 during Israel’s first siege of Gaza.
The Observere had noted at the time that Clooney’s apathy could be related to his endorsement deal with Nespresso, “whose parent company Nestlé is included (thanks to business interests in the country and an award given for strengthening the Israeli economy) on the list currently being circulated of those firms to be boycotted by people opposed to Israeli aggression.”
The Times noted, “Hollywood has been silent about Gaza. One writer said that he had been struck by the failure of actor Sean Penn to comment. Penn is making a film with Cruz and Bardem, making a film in South Africa. He is known for his loyalty to his friends and espousing left wing views.”
“People like Penn or Geroge Clooney will get vocal about world issues – but Gaza is just too messy. And you never know whose backing you’ll need for your next movie.”