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Hollywood Punishes Pro-Palestinian Activism

In the glittering realm of Hollywood, where activism and advocacy often take center stage, a striking imbalance has come to define the industry’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict. While the entertainment world touts itself as a bastion of progressive values and inclusivity, a discernible pattern has emerged, revealing a prevailing favoritism towards the Israeli position and a marked intolerance towards pro-Palestinian voices.

In a landscape where celebrities’ political expressions wield considerable influence, the dichotomy between the treatment of those supporting Israel and those advocating for Palestine has become increasingly apparent, laying bare a complex tapestry of biases within Hollywood’s glittering facade. This article aims to unravel the layers of this phenomenon, examining recent incidents involving prominent figures, shedding light on the selective advocacy that appears to permeate Tinseltown, and questioning the industry’s commitment to genuine diversity of thought.

Since the attack on southern Israel by Hamas gunmen on October 7, 2023, claiming over 1,200 lives and kidnapping 200 hostages, the conflict has intensified. Israel is determined to conclude its military campaign and retrieve the hostages, while Hamas seeks a negotiated deal for Palestinian recovery following a devastating Israeli air and ground assault. With the Gaza government reporting over 20000 Palestinians killed, the crisis sets the stage for an examination of Hollywood’s engagement and its impact on freedom of expression within the industry.

In a notable demonstration of Hollywood’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, over 700 influential individuals from the entertainment industry, including renowned figures such as Gal Gadot, Michael Douglas, and Jerry Seinfeld, have lent their signatures to an open letter championing Israel’s cause. Orchestrated by the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), a non-profit organization within the entertainment sector, the letter marks an unprecedented call from the industry, unambiguously expressing solidarity with Israel and vehemently condemning what it characterizes as the “barbaric acts of terrorism” committed by Hamas. Against the grim backdrop of Hamas-initiated attacks on Israeli towns, resulting in a tragic death toll exceeding 1,300, with civilians being the primary victims, the letter serves as a testament to the industry’s alignment with Israel. Noteworthy personalities like Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine, Amy Schumer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ryan Murphy, and Antoine Fuqua have also endorsed the letter. The missive concludes by urging readers to bear in mind the distressing images emerging from Israel, underscoring the industry’s call for unity in the face of what Haim Saban, producer and businessman, deems is Israel defending itself against a Gaza-based regime with the intent of its destruction. None of the  Hollywood personalities who signed the open letter have faced any professional repercussions for their actions. [1]

Actor Noah Schnapp, known for his role in Stranger Things, was photographed with stickers bearing the phrase “Zionism is Sexy.” Recently circulated footage on social media captured Schnapp, 19, laughing with friends in a café as they posed with and displayed the stickers. Among them was one with the slogan “Hamas is Isis.” Schnapp was observed in the video filming individuals with the stickers and personally holding up one that said “Zionism is Sexy.” Schnapp has faced no professional repercussions for his actions. [2]

The Oscar nominated actor James Woods, executive producer of the major movie Oppenheimer inciting further hatred and contributing towards dehumanisation of Palestinians and those who support #Palestine by posting on X (formerly known as Twitter), “Bomb the savages who did this back to the Stone Age. There are no grey areas. Kill them all. Every #Hamas savage and every Hamas supporter on earth. Bury them with the entrails of pigs.” Even though he deleted his post, James Woods has faced no professional repercussions for his actions.[3]

Conversely, Hollywood figures expressing pro-Palestinian sentiments find themselves navigating treacherous waters, as any deviation from the industry’s predominant pro-Israel stance often triggers severe backlash. The entertainment industry, which has shown an overwhelming proclivity towards supporting Israel, tends to exhibit a discernible intolerance for  the few brave voices advocating for the Palestinian cause.

For instance, the Oscar winning actress Susan Sarandon, known for her outspoken pro-Palestinian views, faced not only public criticism but also professional repercussions.At a Pro-Palestinian rally in New York on November 17, Sarandon said “There are a lot of people afraid of being Jewish at this time, and are getting a taste of what it feels like to be a Muslim in this country, so often subjected to violence.”

“There’s a terrible thing that’s happened where antisemitism has been confused with speaking up against Israel,” the New York Times quoted Sarandon as saying. “I am against antisemitism. I am against Islamophobia.” Sarandon’s outspoken views on the Israel-Palestine conflict have not only subjected her to public criticism but led to tangible professional repercussions, with her being dropped by her talent agency UTA just four days later.

Subsequent to the backlash to her comments Sarandon issued an apology  on Instagram saying her ‘… phrasing was a terrible mistake, as it implies that until recently Jews have been strangers to persecution, when the opposite is true. As we all know, from centuries of oppression and genocide in Europe, to the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, PA, Jews have long been familiar with discrimination and religious violence which continues to this day. I deeply regret diminishing this reality and hurting people with this comment.” [4]

Similarly, Gigi Hadid faced criticism from Israel after sharing a statement on the Israel-Hamas war. The half-Palestinian supermodel, 28, posted an Instagram Story infographic discussing the conflation of support for Palestine with antisemitism or support for Hamas. She was subsequently trolled by the State of Israel’s official Instagram account who responded by reposting an altered version of the infographic, asserting that condemning Hamas is not anti-Palestine and supporting Israelis against “barbaric terrorists” is the right stance. The State of Israel accused Hadid of turning a blind eye to Israeli casualties, questioning her silence and ominously stating, “We see you.” In a subsequent post, an image of what appeared to be blood next to children’s toys and clothing was shared, with a direct message to Hadid urging her to condemn such incidents if her words were to hold any meaning.

The model would later issue an apology to her 79.1 million followers on Instagram for using ‘misinformation’ saying “My focus was intended to be on human rights issues. This is why I also want to reiterate that attacking any human, which of course includes Jewish people, is NEVER OK. Taking innocent people hostage is NEVER OK. Harming someone BECAUSE they are Jewish is NEVER OK. It is wrong. To want freedom and humane treatment for Palestinians and to also want safety for Jewish people can both be important to the same person – including myself (sic).”[5]

For many years the renowned pro Palestinian actor John Cusack has been notably vocal on social media. On 23 November he claimed that he is subjected to shadow banning on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. On the site, his account does not surface in searches. Cusack took to X to express his concern, stating, “Hey since I’m being shadow banned by me free speech – spread around if you agree,” as he reposted another tweet of his. In that tweet, he conveyed, “The ultimate hope in the midst of this unspeakable, paralyzing horror – so uncharacteristically out in the open, so unmasked, is that million of Jews, Christian, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists stand together and refuse the bait; which is to seek a biblical justification for its crimes against humanity. The world revolts. Millions refuse to accept the immoral choice offered to them by political leaders who would make the price of safety of one people, the extinction of another.” [6]

The Hollywood executive and agent Maha Dakhil, known for representing celebrities like Tom Cruise, Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Ava DuVernay, and Anne Hathaway, resigned from her leadership positions amid controversy over her characterization of the Israel-Hamas conflict as a “genocide” on social media. Dakhil stepped down from the internal board at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and temporarily relinquishing her role as co-head of the motion picture department, according to the Los Angeles Times. Despite these changes, she will continue working with her current A-list clients. It is widely believed it was the direct intervention of actor Tom Cruise that elevated her punishment. [7]

Melissa Barrera the young actress from ‘Vida’ faced termination from the Scream horror film franchise due to her Instagram posts primarily advocating for a ceasefire. Her dismissal was attributed to the re-sharing of an article accusing Israel of engaging in “genocide” during its strikes on Gaza. The production company behind the Scream films, Spyglass Media Group, asserted that some of the actress’s posts were perceived as antisemitic. Spyglass declared ‘We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form, including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech,” a Spyglass spokesperson told Variety.’[8]

However Melissa Barrera has not let this professional setback silence her and has further shown her resilience in the face of adversity by declaring that she “will continue to speak out for those that need it most and continue to advocate for peace and safety, for human rights and freedom”.

Subsequently, On December 1, 2023, a letter was authored and endorsed by 1,300 actors and artists within the film and entertainment sector, denouncing Barrera’s termination. The letter condemned “systematically repressing, silencing and stigmatising Palestinian voices and perspectives. This includes targeting and threatening the livelihoods of artists and arts workers who express solidarity with Palestinians.” The most prominent signatory was Olivia Coleman. [9]

Cultural affinity and political support for Israel run deep in the entertainment industry, as they have since Israel’s founding in 1948. It’s commonplace for top executives to be on a first-name basis with prominent Israeli politicians and business leaders. As a consequence, the current Israeli incursion into Gaza, even with its civilian and child casualties, has not generated public debate among executive ranks. The celebrities and athletes who have expressed pro-Palestinian sentiments are persecuted.

These developments serve as a poignant example of the industry’s apparent intolerance for dissenting voices on the Israel-Palestine issue, raising important questions about the scope for diverse perspectives within Hollywood’s ostensibly progressive landscape.

Cultural affinity and political support for Israel run deep in the entertainment industry, as they have since Israel’s founding in 1948. It’s commonplace for top executives to be on a first-name basis with prominent Israeli politicians and business leaders. As a consequence, the current Israeli incursion into Gaza, even with its civilian and child casualties, has not generated public debate among executive ranks. The celebrities and athletes who have expressed pro-Palestinian sentiments are being dismissed.

Taking a pro-Palestinian stance in Hollywood a risky move, akin to committing career suicide. The entertainment industry has historically been sensitive to political opinions, and expressing support for Palestinian causes can lead to professional repercussions. Individuals who openly advocate for Palestinian rights or criticize the Israeli government’s policies will most probably face backlash, ostracism, and challenges in securing roles or collaborations. The prevailing notion within Hollywood is that such viewpoints can potentially jeopardise an actor’s career trajectory, revealing the complex dynamics that exist between political advocacy and professional success in the entertainment world.

References

  1. https://www.reuters.com/world/hundreds-entertainers-sign-letter-support-israel-2023-10-12/
  2. https://www.newsweek.com/noah-schnapp-stranger-things-israel-hamas-1843133
  3. https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/lifestyle-buzz/james-woods-triggers-internet-fury-with-tweet-against-palestinians-and-controversial-call-to-kill-them-all/ar-AA1kdX8R
  4. https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2023/12/susan-sarandon-hamas-israel-palestine-apology
  5. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/model-gigi-hadid-apologizes-says-she-did-not-fact-check-post-on-israels-treatment-of-palestinian-children/ar-AA1kGCy6
  6. https://www.albawaba.com/entertainment/john-cusack-turns-his-social-media-pro-palestinian-platforms-sharing-hundreds-tweets 
  7. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/tom-cruise-agent-palestine-maha-dakhil-b2452162.html
  8. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/melissa-barrera-fired-scream-vii-1235669458/
  9. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/olivia-colman-melissa-barrera-fired-scream-7-b2457294.html

 

Tariq Kurd was born and grew up in Hertfordshire. His family is originally from Halabja, Kurdistan but due to periodic migration currently reside across the Baluchistan region.
He has a BA Hons. in History from the Open University. Besides English, Tariq can speak Baluchi and Brahvi, he is also conversant in Persian and Pashto.
His has an eclectic range of interests including military and tribal history. Tariq lives in London and is currently studying Islamic apologetics through the Sapience Institute.