It's even war in Tinseltown as stars try out Gaza soundbites - and get bitten

By Tom Tugend, August 7, 2014
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Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz

"Rule 1: talk about anything in Hollywood … except Gaza" read a headline in the Hollywood Reporter last week.

In the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, meanwhile, entertainment columnist Danielle Berrin noted that "prominent entertainment industry leaders, who have raised money for Israel and accepted awards from pro-Israel organisations in the past, have not been heard from".

Ms Berrin added that Jewish megastar Barbra Streisand had recently "issued statements on gay marriage and climate change... but nothing about Gaza".

The reason for this uncharacteristic silence, opined irascible comedian Jackie Mason (a former rabbi) was that while "Hollywood is run by Jews," it is "ignorant" and "stupid" on issues involving Israel.

Jon Voight

Jon Voight

A more nuanced interpretation holds that Gaza situation is so complex and volatile, that thoughtful analysis cannot be reduced to the usual soundbite.

The danger of jumping in before looking was illustrated by actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, who joined 100 other Spanish celebrities in signing a vitriolic open letter, accusing Israel of genocide and demanding that the EU step in.

Ms Cruz and Mr Bardem were quickly taken to task by veteran (non-Jewish) actor Jon Voight, who described the Spaniards' statement as "ignorant" of Middle East history and urged them to "hang your heads in shame".

Startled, Ms Cruz "clarified" her position, acknowledging "she was not an expert on the situation" but only wanted peace for both Israel and Gaza.

Similarly, pop star Rihanna and basketball star Dwight Howard, after first joining the "Free Palestine" tweeters, quickly abandoned them.

Perhaps the soundest advice came from TV executive Ken Solomon, whose grandparents lived in Israel and who told the Hollywood Reporter, "I think there is a place for celebrities to get involved whether it's the environment or social issues. But getting involved in foreign policy debates? It doesn't make a lot of sense... With all due respect to Rihanna, unless she's been studying this, she shouldn't be talking about it."

    Last updated: 5:45pm, August 7 2014