More celebrities risk sharing opinions on conflict in Gaza
By Chris Talbott, AP
August 3, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
When director Jonathan Demme was approached to show support for all victims of the conflict in Gaza, he didn't hesitate to sign on. Actor Wallace Shawn is willing to put up with jeers on the street for his opinions about the violence. And Mark Ruffalo is determined to air his views about the fighting on Twitter, no matter the cost to his social media numbers.
The Israel-Palestinian debate was once considered so delicate a topic, it was pretty much off-limits to celebrities. But in another sign that social media is intensifying how we wrestle with sensitive global issues, stars of all stripes are taking to the Internet to openly discuss the conflict that has killed more than 1,300 people. The result is a high-profile divide rarely seen within the predominantly liberal entertainment community.
"I don't see this as being politics or statehood for Palestine or Hamas," Demme said. "I think it's about taking innocent lives and the destruction of a culture ... I've never been ashamed of my pacifist point of view of things at any time since I became a card-carrying hippie back in the '60s."
Demme is among dozens of musicians, actors, filmmakers, authors and sports figures who have chosen to speak out about the conflict. Yet some, like pop star Rihanna and Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, had second thoughts and erased their messages of support for Palestinians soon after they were posted.
And Penelope Cruz and husband Javier Bardem quickly clarified their stand on the issue after they joined 100 Spanish signees of an open letter calling the Israeli attacks genocide. Later, more participants sought to tone down the rhetoric.
Others, though, haven't backed away from their commentary. Demme, Shawn, Chuck D and dozens more, including Nobel Peace Prize winners, participated in a Jewish Voice For Peace video in which each held up a sign with the name and age of a conflict casualty. The video attracted 100,000 views in two days on the Web.
Shawn, who is Jewish, narrates the video and said he's been criticized on the street in New York because of it. He said he understands the Jewish community's need for Israel to exist, but he would like to persuade those stars who support Israel's actions — including such notables as Scarlett Johansson, Joan Rivers, Howard Stern and Bill Maher — that violence is unnecessary.