Palestine: 10 celebrities who have voiced their solidarity
A pro-Palestinian post on actress Emma Watson's Instragram account has set social media alight, with high profile Israeli officials even going as far as accusing the Harry Potter star of antisemitism.
More than 40 Hollywood stars, including Avenger's actor Mark Ruffalo and Thelma and Louise actress Susan Sarandon have come out in support of Watson, but the incident is not isolated.
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The ongoing Sydney Festival is also the subject of a boycott by artists concerned about Israeli embassy funding of the event.
At least 20 acts that were due to take part in the event have now withdrawn in solidarity with Palestinian activists.
In May last year, there were similar controversies, as celebrities including the Hadid family, Paris Hilton and Natalie Portman made statements about the threatened eviction of Palestinians from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, as well as the bombardment of Gaza.
Here, Middle East Eye looks at some of the celebrities who have expressed support for Palestinian human rights in the past.
1. Bella Hadid
Palestinian-Dutch supermodel Bella Hadid has long been outspoken when it comes to Palestinian rights.
The star, who works with high-end fashion brands, regularly celebrates her Palestinian heritage with her 48 million followers on Instagram and often uses the platform to shed light on Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.
In 2020, Hadid called out Instagram for removing one of her posts, where she shared a photo of her father’s passport, highlighting the section on place of birth, which read: "Palestine".
She later shared a screenshot of a message she received from the platform stating that she had violated community guidelines, including on harassment and bullying.
Hadid hit back, questioning the platform’s decision to take down the post.
She wrote: "What part of me being proud of my father’s birthplace of Palestine is 'bullying, harassment, graphic, or sexual nudity'? Are we not allowed to be Palestinian on Instagram? This, to me, is bullying.
“You can’t erase history by silencing people. It doesn’t work like that,” she added.
In 2017, the model also joined a pro-Palestine protest outside the American embassy in London to oppose US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the whole city of Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital.
Taking to Instagram at the time to convey her thoughts on the matter, she called the move a major step back for peace.
In May 2021, during Israel’s offensive on Palestine, which claimed the lives of around 248 Palestinians in Gaza, Hadid again expressed her anger towards Israel's actions.
In one of her Instagram stories, she said: "One cannot advocate for racial equality, LGBT and women’s rights, condemn corrupt and abusive regimes and other injustices yet choose to ignore the Palestinian oppression.”
The post was also shared by her sister, the model Gigi Hadid, while their brother, Anwar Hadid, also shared messages of solidarity and re-posted videos from their accounts.
2. Mohamed Elneny
Egyptian professional footballer Mohamed Elneny, who plays as a midfielder for Arsenal as well as the Egypt national team, voiced support for Palestinians during the May 2021 Israeli offensive on Gaza.
The 11-day Israeli military operation followed a crackdown by Israeli forces on Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, as well as attacks on worshippers at al-Aqsa mosque.
El Neny shared photos of the al-Aqsa complex, along with the Palestinian flag.
Alongside three photos, he posted a caption stating: “My heart and soul and my support for you Palestine.”
The post was retweeted more than 32,000 times, with the footballer widely praised among activists and social media users.
3. Selena Gomez
American singer Selena Gomez used her Instagram account to call for peace and raise awareness of Israel’s 2014 military campaign in Gaza, which caused hundreds of civilian deaths.
The Israeli bombardment on the besieged territory lasted for 50 days between July and August, and killed more than 2,251 Palestinians, mainly civilians. On the Israeli side, 72 people, mostly soldiers, were killed.
The war left much of Gaza in ruins, with over 18,000 homes destroyed and many other buildings severely damaged. Israel stated that the offensive on Gaza was launched to put an end to rocket fire by armed groups, however, Human Rights Watch reported that the air attacks targeted civilian structures and constituted war crimes.
In her post on 19 July 2014, Gomez posted a photo reading: "It’s about humanity, pray for Gaza.”
Alongside the photo, the singer and actor also wrote a caption calling for change.
“Please pray for those families and babies today. Please always remember what’s important in life. It’s not any of this. We are here to help, inspire and love. Be that change,” it read.
4. Natalie Portman
Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman has become increasingly vocal on the Palestinian issue in recent years.
Previously known as an outspoken advocate of Israel, in 2018 Portman nevertheless turned down an Israeli award, dubbed Israel's Nobels, in light of the Israeli army's shooting of Palestinian protesters demanding the right of return in Gaza.
The actor pulled out of the Gensis prize, saying that she could not "in good conscience" attend the ceremony.
Portman’s representative said that "recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel."
During the May 2021 protests in Sheikh Jarrah, the actress shared an infographic about what was going on to her 7.4 million followers. The post was originally shared by American actress and producer Viola Davis.
The post, titled "What to know about Sheikh Jarrah" gave information about the families subject to eviction to make way for Israeli settlers.
In a 2015 interview with Hollywood Reporter, the actor also expressed opinions against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who she said she was “very much against” and that she was disappointed that he was re-elected.
“I find his racist comments horrific,” she added.
5. Zayn Malik
British singer and former One Direction member Zayn Malik has spoken out for Palestinians a number of times over the past decade.
During Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2014, the singer tweeted the hashtag "#FreePalestine" to millions of followers, and received a flurry of abuse as a result.
Many also praised the singer for shedding light on what was happening.
In May 2021, the singer posted a detailed infographic on Instagram titled "What’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah."
In the caption, Malik said that he stands with the Palestinian people and supports their resistance to colonisation.
“My heart aches for the families who have lost loved ones. We can not stand as silent witnesses to children being orphaned and murdered and not demand for the human rights of all Palestinians. This must end. Free Palestine,” he added.
6. Mohamed Aboutrika
In a move that caused a furore, Egypt’s midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika lifted his jersey after scoring against Sudan in the Africa Cup of Nations in 2008 to reveal a white t-shirt underneath with "sympathise with Gaza" written on it in both Arabic and English.
Aboutrika was reprimanded for the statement, as it violated football governing body Fifa's rules on political statements.
He was given a yellow card by the referee for the move, and was also sent a formal warning by the Confederation of African Football. The footballer later stated that the statement reflected his own personal views.
Many activists praised the footballer for his statement, and in Egypt, he was hailed as a national hero.
The footballing legend later received a standing ovation at the Algerian Ballon d’Or ceremony in 2016 after speaking about Palestinian rights in his speech.
Later that year, the now-retired footballer stated that he wrote in his will that he wants the t-shirt from the 2008 match with Sudan "to be buried" with him when he dies.
7. Miriam Margolyes
Best known for her role in the Harry Potter film series, Miriam Margoyles has been outspoken on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The Jewish actor, who has an OBE, expressed her support for Emma Watson after her recent pro-Palestinian post on Instagram.
In an interview with Middle East Eye, the actor said that Watson’s post was "terrific" and "wonderful", adding that the backlash was an attempt to shut off criticism of Israel.
"The Israelis are really trying to clamp down on expressions of support for Palestine because they can sense, at least I sense, that public opinion is turning against Israel on this matter, and they want to stop that," she said.
“We have to be able to criticise Israel. We have to show where it is failing,” she added.
The prominent actor also spoke about the expulsion of Palestinians from their land during the Nakba.
"I’m Jewish and I’ve never hidden that…but I don’t in my heart believe that Israel should have been brought into being because in order for it to be brought into being, other people had their lives and their lands taken away from them.”
Despite the hateful remarks the actor says she receives as a result of her solidarity with Palestinians, she remains unrepentant.
8. Mark Ruffalo, actor
Ruffalo is one of the 40 actors who endorsed a letter organised by Artists for Palestine UK in support of Emma Watson’s Instagram post voicing support for Palestinian rights.
"We join Emma Watson in support of the simple statement that 'solidarity is a verb', including meaningful solidarity with Palestinians struggling for their human rights under international law," the letter said.
"We recognize the underlying power imbalance between Israel, the occupying power, and the Palestinians, the people under a system of military occupation and apartheid," it added, citing last year's report by Human Rights Watch that said Israel was committing crimes of apartheid.
Ruffalo, a Hollywood A-lister and member of The Avengers regularly tweets in support of Palestinians and has even called for sanctions on Israel.
9. The Weeknd
Canadian singer and songwriter The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, used his social media platforms to shed light on what was happening in Sheikh Jarrah at the height of the tensions last year.
The musician used his Instagram account to share a number of posts critical of the planned evictions.
One of the posts shared by the singer included a protest painting by a US-based Palestinian artist.
The illustration showed a number of Palestinians against a backdrop of Jerusalem, featuring al-Aqsa and a church. On the image, it said “protect Jerusalem” and “we will not leave” in Arabic.
10. Dua Lipa, singer
English singer and songwriter Dua Lipa voiced her support for Palestinians during the 2021 Israeli offensive against Gaza.
Lipa shared a number of posts on what was happening to residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied Jerusalem.
“The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people must come to an end. NO MORE!! This is a human rights issue!! WAKE UP PEOPLE!!,” she wrote.
The singer also condemned an advert placed in the New York Times, which featured a photo of her with model sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, alongside the caption: “Hamas calls for a second Holocaust. CONDEMN THEM NOW.” Lipa was dating the pair's brother, Anwar Hadid, at the time.
The ad was paid for by The World Values Network, an organisation set up and run by Shmuley Boteach, a controversial right-wing American rabbi with a history of taking out attack ads against figures critical of Israel.
The Grammy-winning singer responded by issuing a statement condemning the advert and what it insinuated.
“I utterly reject the false and appalling allegations that were published today in the New York Times advertisement taken out by the World Values Network,” the statement read.
“This is the price you pay for defending Palestinian human rights...,” she added.
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