By: Malina Saval
As tensions continue to flare in the Middle East, Creative Community for Peace, an apolitical, non-profit entertainment industry organization, has come together to issue a collective call for “peace, balanced discourse and an end to inflammatory one-sided accounts” of the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Territories. This divisive rhetoric, notes the org, serves only to foment an already incendiary crisis that has, this past week alone, claimed more than 200 lives.
Creative Community for Peace was founded in 2012 by David Renzer, former chairman/CEO of Universal Music Publishing, and Steve Schnur, worldwide executive & Music President, Electronic Arts.
More than 125 leaders in the entertainment industry, including KISS frontman Gene Simmons, Grammy Award-winning artist Michael Bublé, Haim Saban, chairman & CEO, Saban Capital Group, and songwriter-producer Diane Warren, signed the Creative Community for Peace-endorsed open letter, which urges peace in the Middle East and implores fellow members of the entertainment industry to use their celebrity platforms to encourage productive, fact-based discourse, with peace as the main objective. The open letter also acknowledges the pain and loss impacting all parties involved in the conflict.
“I pray for peace,” says Saban, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt and moved with his family to Tel Aviv, Israel when he was 12.
“There has to be a way to sit down and talk through differences,” says Simmons, who was born in Haifa, in northern Israel, and emigrated with his family to the States at the age of eight.
“I pray for peace. For all.”
The joint statement from the Creative Community for Peace comes amid a surge of violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, including indiscriminate rocket attacks targeting metropolitan areas throughout Israel, as well as Israel’s retaliatory response in Gaza. Hamas, a militant Palestinian Islamic organization that has controlled the Gaza Strip since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the territory in 2005, has launched more than 2,000 rockets into Israel, including Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. On May 15, an Israeli air raid flattened a 12-story tower that served as a Hamas stronghold. The building, located in Gaza City, also housed offices belonging to Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera and the U.S.-based Associated Press.
Friction between Israel and Palestine has also mounted over an Israeli court order to evict Palestinian residents from the neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah in East Jerusalem. That order is currently awaiting an appeal in Israel’s Supreme Court.
A flurry of anti-Israel memes and posts have since erupted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, with Israeli actor Gal Gadot skewered on social media after posting a statement calling for peace.
“My heart breaks. My country is at war,” Gadot posted on Twitter. “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 and 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.”
Gabriella Geisinger, Deputy Movies Editor at Digital Spy, called Gadot’s post “harmful.” Writer and activist Aaron Vallely commented that “Gal Gadot’s statement is far worse than that tone-deaf ‘Imagine’ video from last year.”
This vitriol, says Ari Ingel, an entertainment attorney and director of Creative Community for Peace, serves only to “increase the animosity and hatred, which unfortunately, has real life consequences.”
“Misinformation that is being spread online and then amplified by social media influencers, influencers with no real knowledge of what is happening, is only working to inflame the situation, instead of working to de-escalate it and work through some sort of resolution to the situation,” Ingel continues. “The misleading and fallacious memes that are being posted from people that have no real concept of what is happening there and are not experts on the conflict are just making a horrible situation far worse.”
The open letter, notes Ingel, is also to inform the public that “Hamas is playing a leading role in this violence.”
“While we may have differing views on whether the evictions are legitimate or not legitimate, that doesn’t take away from Hamas firing these missiles indiscriminately at civilian populations in Israel, which affects Arabs and Jews,” says Ingel. “People need to call on [Hamas] to stop firing missiles and stop inflaming the situation.”
Along with Gadot, Ingel also highlights entertainment figures such as Rihanna, who wrote on her Instagram page that she “stand[s] with humanity,” and DJ Khaled, who issued a call for “love and light and prayers.”
“I think we need to elevate the voices of people like Rihanna, who are calling for an end to the violence and not choosing sides,” says Ingel. “That is really what entertainers should be doing. Because it’s horrible that both Israelis and Palestinians are suffering. We need to de-escalate this violence as soon as possible.”
The Creative Community for Peace open letter is as follows:
“We are deeply concerned by the escalating violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The loss of life and violence is heartbreaking. We call on the leaders of all parties to end the violence, urge calm, and work toward de-escalation.
“We also call on our colleagues and friends in the entertainment community to stop posting misinformation and one-sided narratives that only work to inflame the conflict instead of bringing about peace.
“While we may have differing opinions on the conflict, it is never okay for Hamas to publicly call for the killing of civilians, use civilians as human shields, and rain down missiles indiscriminately on civilian populations with no care about who is killed—Arab or Jew.
“When lives are at stake, we all bear responsibility to unite rather than divide. Incendiary language only benefits those at the extremes who have no interest in peace. Our thoughts are with all Israelis and Palestinians who are experiencing unfathomable levels of fear and violence, and hope for the day when both peoples can live side by side in peace.”
The signatories to the open letter include: Gene Simmons; Meghan McCain (co-host, “The View”); Haim Saban; Sherry Lansing (former CEO of Paramount Pictures); Orly Agai Marley (president, Tuff Gong Worldwide); David Draiman (frontman, Disturbed); Noa Tishby (author, producer, actor); Selma Blair; Michael Buble; Diane Warren; Ben Silverman (chairman and co-chief executive officer of Propagate Content); Steve Schnur; Michael Rotenberg (partner, 3 Arts Entertainment); Mitchell Gossett (Industry Entertainment Partners); Andrew Gould (EVP Music Publishing, Roc Nation); Emmanuelle Chriqui (actress, activist); David Byrnes (partner at Ziffren, Brittenham, LLP); eve Barlow (music journalist); Aton Ben-Horin (global vice president of A&R for Warner Music Group); Kosha Dillz (artist, rapper); Amanda Kogan (agent, The Gersh Agency); David Renzer; Traci Szymanski (president, Co-Star Entertainment); Matisyahu (musician); Adam Taylor (president, APM Music); and Jordan Frazes (founder FRAZES CREATIVE).
A complete list of signatories can be found here: https://www.creativecommunityforpeace.com/blog/2021/05/14/open-letter-on-the-middle-east-situation/