Hypocrite Hollywood? Who would have thought? If soft activism-glam always sold well in Malibu and Calabasas, well received by the establishment, it was only if the cause was considered "noble."
At the outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel on Oct. 7, following the militant group's surprise triple incursion into Israeli territory, a heavy silence took over in the small world of show business, despite a few hot reactions from the stars of the small screen who have to shoulder their daily airtime.
While Israel's all-encompassing retaliation against the Palestinian enclave was quickly launched, the timing of support messages from celebrities raised a few eyebrows. Initially reticent, leading artists such as Jessica Chastain, Tilda Swinton and Angelina Jolie launched petitions calling for a cease-fire, or made high-profile television appearances, in support of organizations helping the beleaguered Gazan population.
Cyber-harassment, insults, threats: Expressing support for Palestine can be costly, and can even jeopardize an entire career. While the non-exhaustive list below promises to grow as the conflict intensifies, let's take a look at the reasons that have prompted agencies and studios to part ways with some of their talent.
For years, she has been considered Hollywood's up-and-coming actress. Star of the latest installments of the horror saga Scream, relaunched in 2022, the Mexican actress was one of the first personalities to express her support for the population of Gaza as it was bombarded by Israel. "Gaza is a concentration camp. What is happening is genocide, ethnic cleansing," she wrote on her social networks in October, on the 15th day of the war.
Denouncing the censorship and algorithms masking any publication related to Palestine, she added, "I too come from a colonized country [she was born in Mexico]. Palestine will be liberated." This statement was one sentence too many, which clearly didn't please Spyglass Media, who promptly informed her of her dismissal from the hit franchise. "Our position is unequivocal: We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism or incitement to hatred," explained the American production company.
Outraged by the decision, Jenna Ortega, another key actress in the latest Scream series, decided to terminate her contract. The successful saga will therefore have to do without its leading ladies.
A rising star in Hollywood cinema, Melissa Barrera's career has been put on hold. (Credit: AFP)
Censorship doesn't just affect young leads. Multi-award-winning actress, Oscar winner in 1996 for her role in The Last Walk, Susan Sarandon, known for her positions on the margins of the Democratic Party she once supported, has publicly supported the Palestinian cause since 2015, and her admiration for the "courageous women of the region."
Susan Sarandon at red carpet event. (Credit: AFP)
"So many people don't understand the context in which this assault happened. They don't understand what has happened to the Palestinian people in history," she stated in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack. In protest marches and on her social networks, the 77-year-old actress expressed her anger at the "destabilization of Gaza. [Her] stance on this issue has undoubtedly embarrassed her own artistic agency, which has decided to exclude Susan Sarandon from its ranks. Her dismissal by the United Talent Agency recalls the resignation of Maha Dakhil — renowned for having been the agent of Tom Cruise and Natalie Portman among others — from the board of Creative Talents a few weeks earlier. "You are supporting genocide," she had published between two tirades explaining her decision.
Lebanese-American Mia Khalifa says she campaigns for the "liberation of Palestine." (Credit: AFP)
The Lebanese-born star has seen her collaboration with Playboy magazine suddenly halted. After a jab at what she described as a "Zionist apartheid regime overthrown by guerrillas wearing fake Gucci shirts" and her defense of "freedom fighters in Palestine" to whom she asks to "turn their phones upside down and shoot horizontally," Playboy went straight to the point. "Mia made abhorrent and reprehensible comments in which she celebrated Hamas attacks on Israel and the murder of innocent men, women and children," the publication said.
Yara Jamal and Zahraa el-Akhrass
"Jews can exist. Zionism cannot. Not Israel," said Palestinian-Canadian journalist Yara Jamal in a long thread on X (formerly Twitter). On Nov. 28, the CTV channel was quick to express its displeasure with the only "Middle Eastern" journalist on its editorial staff, reproaching her for her "lack of impartiality."
A month earlier, Zahraa el-Akhrass, a journalist and reporter of Palestinian origin, had her contract cancelled by the Global News channel after publications calling out the Israeli authorities as "racists [and] occupiers who thirst for blood."
Before being dismissed, both had strongly criticized Western media coverage of the war, even within their own newsrooms.
This article was originally published by L'Orient-Le Jour.