Recently, a friend and I were speaking about the war in Palestine. Our conversation made me realise that Muslim lives don't matter to Hollywood celebrities, whether they are white like Jerry Seinfeld or people of colour like Selena Gomez. As an empath and as a Muslim (even though I identify as a spiritual person more than a member of any organised religion), the apathy, antipathy, and double standards of the average celebrity have broken my heart. Instead of voicing their support for Palestinians, most famous folks have either made meaningless and neutral statements or posted about everything else but the genocide. While real bombs are killing Palestinian children in Gaza, Kim Kardashian deemed it okay to dress up her son as a gruesomely injured child for Halloween.
Many of these celebrities are the same people who rightfully spoke out about causes such as the Russia-Ukraine war and Black Lives Matter. Why then have they chosen to stay silent or unclear about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine? It has been over a month and a half since we saw the atrocities being committed against the citizens of Palestine. The United Nations have called out Israel for its war crimes. Refusing to speak up about this issue even now is peak Islamophobia, is it not? Whatever happened to the much-touted celebrity - people with the power to influence millions - ideal of putting humanity above everything else, including religion?
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine, stemming from a history marked by geopolitical tensions and territorial disputes, has left its people in a constant state of upheaval. Choosing to remain silent or neutral about the crisis is just as much an option as it is to be apolitical in today’s times. By not speaking up, influencers have shown that they are not to be trusted when it comes to using their fame for good. Even in 2023, we cannot expect them to do much beyond what they signed up to do: entertain. Unbiased advocacy isn’t something that we can expect from them - not only because most are ignorant, uninformed, or have vested interests but also because their hands are tied.
Several narratives circulating online suggest that within the intricate web of Hollywood, artists face not only public scrutiny but also potential professional consequences for taking a stand against Israel. We’ve seen this first-hand with Susan Sarandon being dropped by her agent and Melissa Barrera losing her role in the Scream movies. These claims propose that the industry's ties, allegedly influenced by powerful pro-Israel entities, may restrict the latitude of even the most socially conscious celebrities. Failing to do what is expected of them can have serious consequences on a celebrity’s life. Maybe this is the reason why folks from Hollywood came together last month to sign an open letter pledging their support for Israel. For the record, I think influential folks like Amy Schumer who are spreading hate and disinformation are far more harmful than those who have chosen silence or neutrality. But I digress.
Regardless of their reasons, we shouldn't care about what celebrities do. We should care about the intentional inaction of world leaders, and the mainstream media’s failure to report on the genocide without bias. We can use our freedom of expression to pressure them. While on one side of the world, the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit against Joe Biden, claiming that he has neglected his duties under both international and U.S. laws to intervene and prevent Israel from committing a genocide in Gaza, on the other side the BBC is now accused by its own journalists of failing to humanise Palestinians and omitting key historical context in its coverage.
We the people have far more power than we are aware of. We cannot and should not follow celebrities mindlessly and should take action as per our moral compass. Israel is the colonial oppressor that is using brute military power to ethnically cleanse Palestine under the flimsy guise of self-defence. Palestine is an oppressed, poverty-stuck state that has no security services - no army, air force, or navy - to defend itself, and its citizens do not have adequate food or shelter.
What you and I can do is ensure that we stand on the right side of history. There are a variety of petitions online urging governments to demand a ceasefire in Gaza and to protect civilian lives in both Gaza and Israel. Multiple organisations are putting together donations to make food and medical supplies available to the sick, wounded, dying, and anyone in need. People are organising grassroots marches and rallies to protest the war and boycotting brands that are benefiting from the genocide of the Palestinian people. Individuals have also helped set up systems to provide eSims to Palestinians in Gaza to help them stay connected to their loved ones and continue to document the horrors happening on the ground. It may seem like we are powerless in the greater scheme of things, but we still can and must do a lot to bring about positive change. Whether on social media or in the real world, taking action right now is essential.
Let celebrities look the other way and pretend that nothing wrong is going on; Muslim and Palestinian lives matter even if celebs choose to forget. Let’s continue to do our bit to make the world a better place. The only way to maintain our humanity in dark times is by standing up for what is right, to support the oppressed people of Palestine whether we are Muslim or not, and regardless of what the top 1% decides to use their fame for.