Artists without borders. Or facts.
I am an Israeli, I am an American, and I am an artist. As such, the following topic is especially irritating to me. As the war in Gaza breaks yet again, we have seen an influx of artists and celebrities chipping in with their personal two cents. It can come in the shape of Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz signing an open letter condemning Israeli “genocide”: a curiously indefensible position given the tremendous Palestinian population growth since 1967, not to mention Israeli provision of aid and medical care (even in this present war) to wounded Palestinian civilians. Or it can come in the form of a popular catch phrase such as #FreePalestine, tweeted from the likes of Rihanna and Selena Gomez.
I do believe in the power of entertainment to shape society’s point of view. Artists such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Bono have made a tremendous difference when it comes to our perception of worldwide injustice. They followed their conscience while being versed in, let’s say, the facts. They have dedicated their talents to shifting humanity’s perceptions. I don’t believe that I can say the same about, for example, Selena Gomez.
Tweeting a bumper sticker such as #FreePalestine or signing a letter condemning “genocide” without the mention of the word Hamas, is what German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as “Cheap Grace,” which he defined as “Grace, without discipleship.” Discipleship in this case would be knowledge of history and of the facts. I wonder if any of these “spokespeople” would be able to tell me what the Sykes-Picot agreement is and how it is currently affecting the Middle East, or how many border crossings Egypt controls in Gaza. But I could be wrong.
Artists tend to lean towards the underdog, or the perceived underdog. Therefore it is not at all surprising that artists would lean towards the Palestinian people. They are right, the Palestinian people are indeed miserable. My heart goes out to them and the unimaginable pain and suffering they experience. But here is a fact to know prior to speaking out: the Palestinians are under siege by their own leaders.
Much like the whole region suffers now from the rise of Political Islam, Hamas in Gaza is the same as ISIS in Iraq and other violent, fundamentalist groups. If people can’t make that connection, they can’t possibly understand what is very clear to an Israeli such as myself. Those same people, who are hurting their own people and coming after me for now, will come after them as soon as they possibly can.
It is challenging for someone who did not grow up in the region, as I did, to decipher what the hell is going on over there. However I wonder if Cruz and Bardem got a chance to read the Hamas Charter before signing their letter. They would’ve found that when Radical Political Islam reaches Spain – and we all know that it eventually will – Ms. Cruz and Mr. Bardem may find themselves on the very wrong side of history. After all, folk singer Pete Seeger and actor Paul Robeson did find Stalin to be highly admirable at first, and when American POWs claimed to have been tortured by the North Vietnamese, Jane Fonda rushed to publically call them hypocritical liars. They were in fact brutally tortured. And I don’t think I need to get into Stalin.
Media is to blame as well: it covers Israel and Palestine obsessively, largely because Israel, as a flourishing democracy, provides a safe place from which to do that. You won’t see Selena Gomez make fact-finding tours in, say, Syria or Iraq. Skewed coverage results in skewed perception and artists are as susceptible to misinformation as much as everyone else.
Should public personalities choose to get acquainted with the facts, they will also find out that Israel is the only Western Democracy in what is effectively a whole region of failed states. More so, they may actually decipher values from propaganda. What do these people you say you support stand for? What do they want? How naked does Rihanna think she can get if Political Islam achieves its international goals?
And if they do decide to research the facts prior to passionately tweeting, they will realize that the war Israel is waging is not against the Palestinian people, the war is against the ideas of radical Political Islam and its horrific manifestation on Israel’s borders. Israel is fighting for its peoples right to live free of rockets and terror. But it is also fighting against the forces of fundamentalism that threaten us all. It is fighting on behalf of Rihanna’s right to get as naked as she chooses.
So if you prefer acting or partying to fact-checking that’s fine, but please just stick to that. With power (and millions of Twitter followers) comes at least some responsibility.
For now I will just comfort myself that there are a handful of entertainers, like Bill Maher, calling this conflict for what it is: A war against radical political Islam and for Western values.
A small ray of light in these crazy times, but I’ll take what I can get for now.
Noa Tishby (http://noatishby.com) is a producer, actress and model. She was co-executive producer of the HBO series, In Treatment and founder of ActForIsrael. (http://www.actforisrael.org). Follow Noa on Twitter and Instagram @noatishby