Israeli Artists Opposing the War Come Under Attack on Social Networks

Actors, singers and directors are expressing sympathy for the victims on both sides. That irks some rightists.

Ofer Vaknin

As the guns roar in Gaza, Israeli artists who express sorrow over the deaths on both sides have been pilloried on social networks. “A disgrace to the State of Israel,” is one of the kinder phrases.

Comedienne and actress Orna Banai is just one example. She described herself as a “weirdo left-wing Arab-lover” on a news broadcast — and yes, expressed sorrow over the deaths of civilians on both sides and said she opposed the war. In turn, wags on social networks have turned the guns on her, mixing in a dose of misogyny and homophobia; Banai is a declared lesbian.

The actress discussed her views with a local Tel Aviv newspaper, whose editor provided the following headline: “Orna Banai: ‘I’m ashamed that this is my people.’”

Over the weekend, a Hebrew-language Facebook page surfaced entitled “Orna Banai and anti-Israel artists to Gaza.” The page’s custodians made sure to add a subtitle: “Over there they’ll be happy to rape you and your daughters in front of your husband, and only afterward slaughter him as well.”

During the Jerusalem Film Festival, which ended Sunday, a raft of directors called for a cease-fire in a letter; one of them was Shira Geffen. None other than Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat replied in a Facebook post, referring to the directors as “a disgrace to the State of Israel.”

When Geffen’s film was about to be screened, the director went onstage, read out the names of four Palestinian children who had been killed on a Gaza beach, and asked those who felt as she did to stand for a moment of silence.

The responses were harsh. A Hebrew-language Facebook page entitled “Contra B’tselem” — referring to the rights group — published a post reading: “Does such a woman have a place in the State of Israel?! Does such a woman deserve that Israeli army troops should protect her while she sleeps?! Our troops are fighting and she stands for a moment of silence for the enemy that fires on us without letup?!

“Shira Geffen, you are a disgrace to the country! Why don’t you stand in silence in memory of Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak, a combat soldier who fell defending the country? We are ashamed that there are people like you in the country. And it’s even sadder to me that Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak, of blessed memory, was killed as he protected a woman like you. What does your brother [the singer Aviv Geffen] sing? We’re a screwed-up generation? Well, we’re a screwed-up generation because of people like you!"

Shira Geffen’s own Facebook post about the incident reads: “The fact that expressing empathy for the four dead children draws such hateful and violent responses shows how low our society has sunk. With your permission, I would like to come out of the closet — when a child is killed, it hurts me no matter whether he is an Israeli or a Palestinian, from Ashkelon or from Gaza."

According to Geffen, “My very ability to feel empathy for both sides does not make me anti-Israel. I can have compassion and mourn with the three mothers who lost their children in the abominable terror attack of kidnapping and murder, just the same as I can feel compassion for a child who was burned alive."

Trouble in Spain, too

On Thursday, the singer Achinoam Nini, also known as Noa, described an anti-Israel demonstration outside one of her concerts in Spain.

“Before the concert, there was a very loud demonstration against Israel,” including cries of “Noa terrorista.” As Noa described the situation on Facebook, in Israel she is attacked by the right and pays “a very high price for being outspoken about peace and expressing left-wing political views, and in Spain, the left calls me a terrorist.”

According to Noa in her English-language post, before the concert she told the audience how once again “we are paying the price of the failure and cowardice of political and religious leaders, who have betrayed us, Arabs and Jews alike, by not doing everything in their power to avoid violence. No excuses are acceptable.

“I believe in peace, I believe in two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, supporting each other, growing together. I believe in dialogue, it is the only way.”

On the other side of the political map, rapper Yoav Eliasi, also known as Shadow, has launched a group called Shadow’s Lions, which expresses hatred of the war’s opponents. Eliasi’s people hold right-wing demonstrations directly across from left-wing rallies.

The Lions say they’re for anyone “tired of the left wing’s hypocrisy – anyone tired of sitting at the keyboard who wants to do something beyond putting up angry posts.” Eliasi marks out targets for the group and has his picture taken with rifles.

But he, too, has a tough adversary: the left wingers who make fun of the images he posts. They bash his musical career and create Facebook pages with titles like “Shadow does cute things.” Or they report his posts as offensive and try to get them taken off Facebook. He details these problems on his own page.

In the meantime, Noa is on the defensive. “To remove any shadow of a doubt: I have no sympathy for Hamas or any of the insane jihadis of whatever kind. The relentless, deliberate bombings of civilians are intolerable, and I too am frightened for the welfare of my family and for all of Israel,” she wrote in Hebrew on Facebook.

“I’m worried about the welfare of innocent civilians wherever they may be, even in Gaza! What — are they fair game? But I say again and again that our leaders have a responsibility to make peace in any way possible, and by doing so to protect our lives.”

Daniel Bar-On
Assaf Snir