Celeb battles heat up on social media over Israeli, Palestinian conflict
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Celeb battles heat up on social media over Israeli, Palestinian conflict

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As soon as the first rocket barrages were fired from Gaza last week, Israelis looked to Gal Gadot, the most popular international star from Israel, to speak out. The Wonder Woman star has taken on the role of unofficial Israeli ambassador in recent years, teaching late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien Israeli customs for warding off the evil eye and sharing quintessentially Israeli treats such as sufganiyot (Hanukkah donuts) and Elite chocolate on Jimmy Fallon’s show. On Wednesday, Gadot released a carefully worded statement on her social media accounts decrying the war and violence, using rather generic language and not assigning blame. However, her words ignited a backlash and she disabled comments on her Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Her statement read: “My heart breaks. My country is at war. I worry for my family, my friends. I worry for my people. This is a vicious cycle that has been going on for far too long. Israel deserves to live as a free, safe nation. Our neighbors deserve the same. I pray for the victims and their families, I pray for this unimaginable hostility to end, I pray for our leaders to find the solution so we could live side by side in peace. I pray for better days.”

Her words received a great deal of attention. The Pnai Plus website may have indulged in a bit of hyperbole when it headlined an article about the controversy, “‘Wonder Woman wake up!’ How Gal Gadot became a public enemy,” but many did criticize the superstar.

In a typical tweet, a Twitter user called Luna retweeted a picture advertising Gadot’s latest movie, Wonder Woman 1984, and wrote above it: “don’t watch this. DO NOT support gal gadot. she has openly and directly been supporting the genocide in palestine. y’all didn’t listen to us before, PLEASE listen now.”

Many comments were positive, however. US Senator Ted Cruz praised her, tweeting, “God bless @GalGadot.” A Twitter used named Greg Price wrote, “The internet is angry at Gal Gadot because she’s an IDF veteran, which all Israelis are required to serve in for at least two years, and had the audacity to share a heartwarming message for peace in the conflict.

Although the hashtags #BoycottGalGadot and #BoycottWonderWoman have been trending, it is not likely that Gadot will suffer for her choice to speak out. In fact, her Instagram following actually increased after her statement, from 53.3 to 53.4 million followers. Her films have already been officially banned in much of the Arab world, although unofficially, they are streamed by many Arabs.

Gadot usually steers clear of politics, although in 2019, she did post, ”Love your neighbor as yourself,” after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was not “a state of all its citizens.” In 2020, she was the subject of ridicule after she posted an out-of-tune celebrity singalong of “Imagine,” at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Models Gigi Hadid and Bella Hadid, whose father is Palestinian, and who have, respectively, 66.4 million and 42.3 million Instagram followers, posted multiple pro-Palestinian messages over the last week, including photos from pro-Palestinian rallies in the US. Bella also posted a comic strip which purporting to explain the situation, which has since been removed. The Israeli government reproached Bella via Twitter.

Singer Dua Lipa, who is reportedly dating the Hadids’ brother, Anwar, posted similar messages. The musician, The Weeknd, posted a message to “support Jerusalem” as a nod to the families in Sheikh Jarrah.

One person who got angry at both the Hadid sisters and Gadot was Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, who tweeted, “The models of Palestinian descent Gigi and Bella Hadid, with millions of followers, have been conducting antisemitic propaganda against Israel 24/7 since the beginning of the mess. The only Israeli figure, with the same number of followers, and with the power of an international celeb, who can give them a fight in publicity is Gal Gadot. She chose to write a neutral post as if she was from Switzerland.”

Another celebrity who made waves decrying the suffering on both sides was pop diva, Rihanna, who posted on Instagram, ““My heart is breaking with the violence I’m seeing displayed between Israel and Palestine. I can’t bear to see it! Innocent Israeli and Palestinian children are hiding in bomb shelters…” Many criticized the singer for this post. Back in 2014, she tweeted #FreePalestine a post that was reportedly reweeted nearly 70,000 times before she took it down.
If a photo of Twilight star Kristen Stewart, supposedly from a Facebook post, showing the actress wearing a kafiyah and mourning the death of the Palestinian fan who gave her the scarf in an Israeli airstrike seemed too good to be true, that’s because it was. The Egyptian website Ahram Online discovered the fake, posting the photo with the kafiya alongside the original photo to prove that the garment was photoshopped in. The site also revealed that the site was registered to a Facebook user named Sean Potter, who apparently recently changed the name. The post has been removed.

Celebrities who actually did support the Palestinians include actor Mark Ruffalo, musician Roger Waters and actress Lena Headey.

A number of talk-show hosts weighed in, most recently John Oliver, who emphasized the disproportionate nature of the casualty figures on both sides, as did Trevor Noah on the Daily Show earlier in the week. Oliver said on his show, Last Week Tonight, “Look, there is a real tendency, particularly in America, to both-sides this situation. And I am not saying that there aren’t some areas where that’s warranted, but it’s important to recognize there are also areas where it’s simply not. Both sides are firing rockets, but one side has one of the most advanced militaries in the world. Both sides are suffering heartbreaking casualties, but one side is suffering them exponentially. . . . if you believe Israel’s actions are warranted and proportionate this week, you’re welcome to try and make that argument.”

While there is talk of an imminent ceasefire, the social-media fight will likely continue.

The writer’s novel, If I Could Tell You, is available at https://amzn.to/33NwgxG

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