Opinion: Celebrities speaking out on the war in Gaza should consider this


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Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion on CNN.CNN — 

Arguments are raging over whether Israel is adequately protecting civilian life in a war that has killed more than 15,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health and whether the world has adequately responded to a brutal terrorist attack in which Hamas, according to Israeli officials, killed more than 1,400 Israelis, raped women and kidnapped civilians.

Jill Filipovic

Jill FilipovicCourtesy Jill Filipovic

Perhaps the last thing we need right now is that we’re grappling with controversy over what celebrities should or shouldn’t say, and how they should apologize when they inevitably botch commentary over complex world events.

Julianna Margulies, for example, has apologized for offensive comments she made on a podcast last month, in which she said she was disappointed that the Black and LGBTQ communities hadn’t come out in full-throated support of Jews in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks and the ongoing war in Gaza. “The fact that the entire Black community isn’t standing with us, to me, says either they just don’t know or they’ve been brainwashed to hate Jews,” she said.

She also said that, as an actress who played a lesbian on TV, she was offended by pro-Palestinian LGBTQ activists who “have no idea that if they stepped foot in an Islamic country” they “will be the first people beheaded and their heads played with… like a soccer ball on a field.”

A man puts his arm around a friend during a conversation.

Meeting someone with radically different views from mine taught me this important lesson

Margulies apologized in an emailed statement to CNN on Friday, saying she is “horrified” that she “offended the Black and LGBTQIA+ communities, communities I truly love and respect.”

“I want to be 100% clear: Racism, homophobia, sexism, or any prejudice against anyone’s personal beliefs or identity are abhorrent to me, full stop,” she wrote. “Throughout my career I have worked tirelessly to combat hate of all kind, end antisemitism, speak out against terrorist groups like Hamas, and forge a united front against discrimination. I did not intend for my words to sow further division, for which I am sincerely apologetic.”

Somehow, though, Margulies’s comments aren’t the only offensive and bizarre celebrity commentary on Israel and Palestine. Last month, Susan Sarandon spoke at a pro-Palestinian rally and told the crowd, “There are a lot of people that are afraid, that are afraid of being Jewish at this time, and are getting a taste of how it feels to be Muslim in this country.” Sarandon issued an apology in a social media post last week saying the “phrasing” she chose “was a terrible mistake, as it implies that until recently Jews have been strangers to persecution, when the opposite is true.”

Anti-Semitic events have been a stubborn reality of life in the United States, from the defacement of synagogues to targeted assaults on Jews to a horrific mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018. By late October of this year, the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, reported that the numbers were up by 400%.

Model Gigi Hadid posted a criticism of Israeli arrests and detentions of Palestinians, including children, but got so many of the facts wrong she eventually took it down and apologized for sharing “something that I did not fact check or deeply think about prior to reposting.” Several Hollywood figures who have opined about Israel or Palestine or both have seen swift professional consequences, from backlashes on social media to being dropped by their talent agencies.

Julianna Marguiles, left, and Susan Sarandon.

Julianna Margulies, Susan Sarandon issue apologies over recent controversial comments sparked by Israel-Hamas war

Others have used more measured terms and mediated means to weigh in. In October,  more than 700 celebrities and other Hollywood types signed onto an open letter condemning Hamas and urging the immediate return of Israeli hostages; that same month, hundreds of others signed onto an open letter urging President Joe Biden and Congress to “call for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Gaza and Israel before another life is lost.”

Celebrities have said a lot about this war, some of them far too much. And yet some commentators are nevertheless incensed about the apparent celebrity “silence” on the war – by which they mean, of course, that not enough celebrities are speaking out in favor of their side.

It’s difficult to develop a hard-and-fast rule for celebrity political engagement. Most of us, I suspect, appreciate it when celebrities throw their influence behind the causes we care about, and are pretty disgusted when they publicly oppose the causes we support.

But we can expect a few things from people who are famous for their beauty or acting skills, not their mastery of international relations. First, we can ask that they speak when their conscience calls, not when the pressure to post calls.

Celebrities are human beings who are more knowledgeable and passionate about some issues than others, and also live under the microscope of fame. If they feel called to speak out on a particular issue, good for them. But if they feel insufficiently informed on it, or even scared of professional backlash, that’s ok too — whether Taylor Swift comments on the Israeli-Hamas war may shape the opinions of some Swifties and lend strength to one side of the social media battle but it is extremely unlikely to have any tangible effect on the conflict itself. (Swift has not made any statements on the issue. )

Second, we can also ask that when celebrities do post about politics or world events that they take extra care to make sure that they’re getting their facts right, and that they have at least a very basic understanding of what they’re discussing.


When celebrities post https://lokeberhasilan.com on social media, virality often follows, and their words can shape thousands of people’s perceptions and beliefs. They owe their followers a modicum of responsibility by fact-checking what they’re posting (or, even better, have staffers double and triple check).

And third, we can ask that when celebrities get it wrong, they apologize with sincerity, and reflect on what happened and why. And when that happens, the public can choose to offer them some grace.

Finally, it might be more helpful for all involved to take a step back and ask who it is we should actually be listening to and who we want to be speaking out. There are a great many people who are subject-matter experts and knowledgeable observers and human rights defenders and careful reporters, not to mention millions who are living the conflict as it happens. Most of them haven’t appeared on the big screen, starred in any reality TV shows, sold out Madison Square Garden, or walked in Fashion Week. But they’re the people whose voices we should be elevating in these grave and knotty moments.

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