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Silence Not an Option’: Celebrities in US Speak out Against Genocide

Academy Award Winning Actor Susan Sarandon was dropped from her long-time agency United Talent Agency (UTA) on November 21, days after addressing a rally in support of Palestine and a ceasefire in New York City on Friday, November 17.

“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,” she said, commenting on the decades of racism and Islamophobia that has been stirred up by dominant institutions in the United States bent on a reason to justify imperialist interests in the Middle East.

Melissa Barrera, Mexican-born actress, known most recently for the “Scream” franchise films, was dropped by the production company Spyglass Media Group after sharing to Instagram her disgust with Western media’s one-sided narrative driving the Israeli destruction of Gaza. She argued that “Gaza was being treated like a concentration camp, cornering everyone together, with nowhere to go, no electricity no water,” referring to the ways Nazis in Germany targeted Jews and enemies of the state in the 1940s. In response, Spyglass said in a statement withdrawing her from any future Scream films that its position “is unequivocally clear: 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.”

After she was dropped by Spyglass, Barrera refused to equivocate her beliefs:

“First and foremost I condemn Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. I condemn hate and prejudice of any kind against any group of people. As a Latina, a proud Mexicana, I feel the responsibility of having a platform that allows me the privilege of being heard…” She continued, “I pray day and night for no more deaths, for no more violence, and for peaceful co-existence. I will continue to speak out for those that need it most and continue to advocate for peace and safety, for human rights and freedom. Silence is not an option for me.”

Fans and activists have condemned the reaction by the agencies, claiming they are tampering with their constitutional rights. Others have drawn out how foolish the companies are in conflating anti-Israel sentiments with antisemitism, drawing on decades of the Zionist ad hominem attack strategy that deflects any blame of Israel or its leadership.

Hundreds of artists, including Barrera and Sarandon, signed on to an open letter to President Biden urging for a ceasefire, declaring: “As of this writing more than 6,000 bombs have been dropped on Gaza in the last 12 days – resulting in one child being killed every 15 minutes. We refuse to tell future generations the story of our silence, that we stood by and did nothing.” As Emergency Relief Chief Martin Griffiths told UN News, “History is watching.”

Artists and actors like Barrera understand the significance of their platform in Hollywood; they are workers who labor in an industry that plays a major part of western media, which is part and parcel of the military-industrial complex. Barrera’s doubling down on her solidarity with Palestine draws attention to the complicity of Hollywood in regurgitating a jingoistic narrative that the Pentagon wants to popularize, both on and off the screen. There has been a decades’ long relationship between the Pentagon and Hollywood studios. Oftentimes entire movies don’t get the greenlight without approval from the US Department of Defense.

Actors are not the only ones being shunned. Agents, authors, and other cultural workers have also faced retaliatory measures for their comments about Israel. Creative Actor Agency, which represents many A-listers in Hollywood, dropped authors Saira Rao and Regina Jackson, after Rao posted to X: “Zionists are starting to panic that more and more of the world sees them for the bloodthirsty genocidal ghouls they are.” Rao retorted that Hollywood is “punishing people of color for speaking out…It’s disgusting. The genocide is indisputable. You can watch it on live TV. CAA will be on the wrong side of history.”

CAA also notably removed long-time agent Maha Dakhil from a top leadership position within the agency after she shared a post to her Instagram that read: “What’s more heartbreaking than witnessing genocide? Witnessing the denial that genocide is happening.” Her comments provoked an internal uproar, with famed writer Aaron Sorkin attacking her and leaving CAA. Dakhil, the daughter of Libyan immigrants, was reportedly only able to keep her job after actor Tom Cruise spoke up in support.

Many have termed the accusations of antisemitism as baseless and have pointed out that last November, Dahkil helped lead a CAA town hall specifically on fighting antisemitism. A letter to the editor that she wrote as an undergrad at UCLA in 1996 where she denounced an article in a local paper for not addressing the “brutal Israeli forces [who] mercilessly raided innocent victims in Lebanon,” has been recirculating in Hollywood circles, demonstrating her concern with war in the region for decades. Movie directors Ava Duvernay and JJ Abrams have both spoken out to CAA leadership about their support for Dakhil as well.

Popular artists and celebrities who speak out about US foreign policy have long faced attempts to censor and silence them, as they actively prevent the building of consensus around the US government’s positions in global affairs in general and their aid to Israel in particular.

Muhammad Ali was jailed and prohibited from boxing professionally for years for speaking out against the Vietnam War. In the late 1940s, as the US State Department ramped up its public opinion campaign to convince Americans that the Soviet Union was actually Enemy Number 1 – not the ally against European fascism that American audiences knew. A long list of famous actors, radio personalities, and film directors were put on a blacklist for being a suspected Communist and Soviet Union sympathizer. The blacklist was disseminated throughout Hollywood as a way to instill fear in others in the industry of speaking out against the US government.

The contradiction between what the western media wants its audience to know and public sentiment behind the Palestinian struggle has never been more clear. Public opinion polls are showing an actual decrease in positive sentiment toward Israel and its response, while support for a ceasefire has grown dramatically among both Republican and Democratic voters. American audiences are able to see and hear with their own eyes and ears how the mass death and destruction in Gaza is too much for the world to bear. The people stand with Palestine.

Source: News Click