Hollywood Stars Sign Petition in Support of Israel

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Minnie Driver and Kelsey Grammer among celebrities who voiced their criticism against the 'singling out' of Israel during Gaza war.

Jon Furniss /Invision/AP

After weeks of behind the scenes strategizing, the Creative Community For Peace (CCFP), a non-profit organization started by Hollywood moguls to counter the BDS movement, has enlisted Hollywood’s biggest stars in support of Israel.

The petition, the largest of its kind representing bold face names from television, film and music, will appear Sunday in such trade publications as The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Variety, and also major U.S. newspapers.

Though the past few weeks have seen a spike in anti-Israel sentiment, expressed by Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Mark Ruffalo, Coldplay Penelope Cruz, Javier Barden and most recently Russell Brand, among others, there have been few celebrities rallying for Israel, save for Joan Rivers, Jon Voight, Howard Stern, Bill Maher, Mayan Bialik and Roseanne Barr.

Now other celebrities have joined in to defend Israel, lending their signatures to a CCFP letter. These include Sarah Silverman, Minnie Driver, Ziggy Marley, Seth Rogen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Kelsey Grammer, Tom Arnold, Benji Madden, director Ivan Reitman, writer Aaron Sorkin, producer Michael Rotenberg, Chairman and CEO of PMK•BNC Michael Nyman, producer Haim Saban, Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun and many others.

While it recognizes that its diverse signatories may disagree on how peace in the Middle East may best be achieved, the letter is clear in its opposition to the “singling out of Israel for boycott.”

The petition also laments the loss of life on both sides and condemns Hamas for its racist ideology and terrorist tactics.

“While we stand firm in our commitment to peace and justice, we must also stand firm against ideologies of hatred and genocide, which are reflected in Hamas' charter, Article 7 of which reads, ‘There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!’,” the letter reads.

“Hamas cannot be allowed to rain rockets on Israeli cities, nor can it be allowed to hold its own people hostage. Hospitals are for healing, not for hiding weapons. Schools are for learning, not for launching missiles. Children are our hope, not our human shields.

“We join together in support of the democratic values we all cherish and in the hope that the healing and transformative power of the arts can be used to build bridges of peace,” the letter concludes.

The CCFP, whose members range from former NBC Entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman to Jody Gerson, co-president of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, are major power brokers in Hollywood who have resisted rallying its star-studded fleet for public statements until now.

Rather, as Operation Protective Edge drew slews of celebrities expressing political views on social media, CCFP focused its energy on what it describes as "educating" Israel’s outspoken critics.

The organization successfully campaigned to have Rihanna withdraw her “Free Palestine” Instagram photo and Selena Gomez to recant a similar post. Other attempts didn’t elicit the same response. Cruz and Barden’s “clarification” reinforced their opposition to Israel’s military and wasn’t deemed a retraction. They merely eschewed being labeled anti-Semitic.

This campaign, started no doubt amidst criticism that Hollywood’s Israel supporters had stayed silent amidst growing pro-Palestinian support, rapidly took off as CCFP’s advisory board members, along with other prominent industry leaders, began reaching out to their friends and associates.

“We are heartened to have received such an enormous response from within the industry -- from artists to producers, agents, attorneys, managers, and industry executives -- which is gratifying especially as we witness the disturbing growth of anti-Semitism around the globe. We fully expect the list of signatories to continue to grow," says David Renzer, CCFP co-founder and chairman of Spirit Music Group.

“We are asking fans of art and music to spread our message through a social media campaign using the hashtag #CCFPandFriends,” says Lana Melman, CCFP director.
 


Though this was supposed to be Israel’s best summer for major international acts touring the country, many, including the Backstreet Boys, Lana Del Rey, Neil Young, and CeeLo Green, were forced to reschedule their performances due to the threat of rocket attacks.
 


"We and all of our friends in Hollywood hope for a speedy end to the conflict so that artists can resume travel to Israel and see for themselves the country's thriving democracy, its rich culture, and its people's profound desire for peace, once again allowing the power of art and music to bring people together,"
 Steve Schnur, president, EA Music Group and CCFP co-founder, adds.

Through its board and industry contacts, CCFP has had the ability to reach out directly to artists and their representatives, but it hasn’t been as successful getting equal press time.

Billboard, for instance, turned down a CCFP editorial submitted last November when the music trade weekly chose Roger Waters as its keynote speaker for its 10th Annual Touring Conference & Awards.

In the end, the letter, which took Waters to task for attempting to convince artists into boycotting Israel, ran in The New York Post. “After the anti-Semitic statements he made, I couldn’t believe Billboard would chose Waters to give their keynote speech,” says CCFP board member Craig Balsam, president of Razor & Tie Records and the editorial’s author.

At the time, the magazine said it turned down Balsam’s letter because it didn’t run political editorials. It also agreed to limit Waters’ statements to pure industry talk.

As for the press, the days of an entertainment editor as outspoken as Billboard’s legendary Timothy White, known for being a moral compass, unafraid to navigate loaded political waters and defending artists rights and freedom of expression when he was at the helm in the 1990s, sadly may be long gone.