Visiting West Bank, Richard Gere Compares Hebron to Segregated U.S. South

Touring the city with members of anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence, the American actor and activist comments on 'dark energy.'

Richard Gere during a press conference at the Israeli premiere of the 'Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer' movie, in Jerusalem, March 9, 2017.
Dan Balilty/AP

American actor Richard Gere, who visited Israel earlier this month to promote his new film, "Norman," had one analogy to make after touring the West Bank city of Hebron.

"This is really bizarre," says Gere in a video made while he walked around the city with members of anti-occupation veterans group Breaking the Silence. "this is genuinely strange."

"It's exactly what the Old South was in America. Blacks knew where they could go, they could drink from that fountain, they couldn't go over there, they couldn't eat in that place," he says in the video, which was initially broadcast on Channel 2.

"Who owns this city?" he asks rhetorically. Referring to Hebron's Jewish residents, he comments on "their feeling of 'I'm protected, I can do whatever I want,' and that sense of where the boundaries are."

In the segregated South, Gere says, "It was well understood, you didn't cross here if you didn't want to get your head beat in, or get lynched."

At a certain point during the tour, a car driven by an Israeli settler quickly passed very close to the group. "That's a really dark energy," Gere says. "You're not one of us, what are you doing?"

"It's like an old cowboy movie or something," he adds.

Gere, who is also known for his human-rights activism, told Haaretz that despite the fact he has traveled to Israel numerous times in the past, this visit “was more complex than any other time I’ve come here.”