If in the next few days you come across social media photos of minor American actors who are in Israel, either at the Western Wall or the Jordan River, you should know that they are the guests of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. As part of his roles as information minister and strategic affairs minister, and as part of the cabinet’s efforts to block the campaign calling to boycott Israel, Erdan invited actors Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost” and “Hawaii-Five-O”), Meagan Good (“Deception”), Sonequa Martin-Green and Kenric Green (“The Walking Dead”) and Mark Pellegrino (“Dexter” and “Supernatural”) to Israel.
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You don’t recognize these names? You’re not alone. On their Instagram pages you’ll at least be able to find out what they did here – visit the Western Wall and the Dead Sea, while making sure to stay away from politics. Daniel Dae Kim stressed on Instagram that his visit to Jerusalem was apolitical. Of course it was. But coming on a government-sponsored visit posed no problem for him.
The visit of this delegation of minor Hollywood actors was the initiative of America’s Voices in Israel, an organization that strives to promote Israel’s image in the United States. It has already sponsored similar visits in the past. It now appears that the government wishes to join this initiative.
The question is, why should the government pay for flights and stays of Hollywood actors, well-known or less-known, in order to combat the boycott movement? This money could have been used to help people who live here, not for casual visitors who will forget what they saw here by next week.
Even if, as the official description of their visit contends, “they will document their visit for 50 million of their followers on social media,” their ability to impact anything here is marginal. For them it’s a freebie, an opportunity to collect yet another country’s stamp in their passports while touring it at someone else’s expense.
Erdan writes that the aim of the visit is “to expose the complex reality of Israel without any biased mediation,” but this is precisely what he’s doing. He’s a cabinet member trying to further its policies. What could be more biased than that? At the end of his announcement he writes “we see great importance in bringing influential people from diverse areas here, in order to show them the truth about Israel. We’re building bridges between Israel and communities around the world in all spheres of life.”
It’s all well and good to build bridges between Israel and international communities from all spheres of life. It’s actually important to do so, really. But first, it would be better to build bridges between neighboring countries in the Middle East. As long as that isn’t happening it would be better to present visitors with a more complete picture, including the occupation and all it entails. It may not show as well as Hollywood in photos, but that’s the true picture.