Who knew a mere two words could ignite a firestorm of controversy? Yet when Rihanna posted a tweet – which garnered nearly 7,000 retweets until it was subsequently deleted eight minutes later– saying “#FreePalestine,” shockwaves were felt throughout the internet.
It was one of the dozens of instances where celebrities got involved in the Israel-Hamas war and ended perhaps wishing they hadn't.
In an attempt to backtrack and assuage the critics who inundated her Twitter account with questions asking if she’s a Hamas supporter, Rihanna then posted a much more PC tweet: "Let's pray for peace and a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict! Is there any hope?” Selena Gomez, too, entered the fray two weeks ago when she posted an Instagram photo picture, “It’s about humanity – pray for Gaza.”
“Please pray for those families and babies today. Please always remember what’s important in life. It’s not any of this. We are here to help, inspire and love. Be that change. #wearethenextgeneration.”
That post generated 665,000 likes and commentators on both sides of political spectrum weren’t exactly shy when it came to telling the pop star what they thought of her post.
It was most likely the vitriol of those comments which prompted Gomez’s next post: a picture of her in a zen-like yoga pose on a tranquil body of water with a caption that read, “And, of course, to be clear, I am praying for peace and humanity for all!” Last week, Zayn Malik, of the latest boy band sensation One Direction, posted the famous hashtag as well. At press time, it was retweeted 290,000 times and, proving the anonymity of the internet can bring out the worst in people, hundreds of replies to his post called for the death of Malik, his fans, the people of Israel, the people of Gaza and anybody else deemed remotely related to One Direction and this conflict.
Of course, this kind of half-hearted political activism is the bread and butter for comedians and it didn’t take long for the likes of Joan Rivers, Stephen Colbert and Howard Stern to take the bait.
“Oh, Selena Gomez, that college grad!” Rivers said sarcastically, never missing a chance to speak her mind. “Let’s see if she can spell Palestinians.”
“If New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe them out!..You’re all insane, they started it! BBC should be ashamed of themselves and CNN should be ashamed of themselves and everybody stop it already!” she told TMZ.
“These girls should shut up and put on pretty clothes and get themselves off of drugs and leave me alone!” She told Chanel 10, providing a stereotypical ‘get off my lawn’ take on the issue.
“We’ve all been heartbroken by the horrors of this war. But now there have been reports of damage to one of our most important national institutions, One Direction. Who are – according to credible reports – divided over Gaza. That’s right – One Direction now has two directions…this makes me question my previously held beliefs that could subvert the entire boy band epistemology!” Colbert said feigning outrage, on his mock news program The Colbert Report.
But no controversial issue would be complete without the 'King of All Media," weighing in on the subject.
"Israel is at no fault," he bluntly said on his radio program. "I don't want to hear any anti-semtism. Jews get shi** on all over the world, Jews are the indigenous people to that area, I'm sick of this bullshi**…if you're anti-Israel then you're anti-America – it's the only Democracy over there!," Stern proclaimed during his tirade supporting the Jewish state.
He also took the opportunity to blast BDS activist Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and, yes, Gomez and Rihanna.
"Eddie Vedder – that genius. Must be great to be so smart," he said snidely. "Why don’t support Iran and give them a nuclear weapon? Go live in Tehran." Weighing in on the Gaza conflict is not only limited to musicians and comedians, actors have also taken to the internet to voice their opinion on the issue.
Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem came under fire for their letter penning support for the people of Gaza. The married couple signed an open letter by Spanish artists condemning Israel's "genocide" in Palestine. Cruz (but not Bardem) issued a statement retracting her position a few days later.
"I'm not an expert on the situation and I'm aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a ceasefire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace," the statement read.
In response, on Saturday, actor Jon Voight penned a strongly worded column in the Hollywood Reporter condemning the letter. "I am more than angry, I am heartsick that people like Penelope Cruzand Javier Bardem could incite anti-Semitism all over the world and are oblivious to the damage they have caused," he wrote. "You should hang your heads in shame. You should all come forth with deep regrets for what you did, and ask forgiveness from the suffering people in Israel," he added.
Regardless where they stand on the issue, one thing is for certain: If there is a politically and emotionally charged cause to latch onto, celebrities will be there to comment. Whether they know anything about the issue or not.