Israel is teetering on the edge of civil war, and what do celebs do? They leap in Tweet first.
Israelis and Palestinians are killing each other. Again. This time it could turn into a full-blown civil war. But never fear, the celebrities have arrived and they’re going to settle this millennia-old dispute, in 280 characters.
We mustn’t talk about Israel. No, no, no. It’s the ultimate political quagmire. Just leave it alone. It’s way too complicated and, well, the actual details are ancient and a little bit boring for a generation who define their entire existence in 280 Twitter characters and other social media posts.
A deadly and significant conflagration looks imminent between Israelis and Palestinians, though, and today real people are really dying – including children. But that hasn’t stopped a whole load of celebs leaping in Tweet first, as it were.
Israeli actress Gal Gadot was hounded by the digital mob after a pretty mild and all-too-human Tweet saying that she hoped the ‘vicious cycle’ of violence would end. “My heart breaks. My country is at war. I worry for my family, my friends. I worry for my people.”
Like most Israelis over the age of 18, the ‘Wonder Woman’ star and former Miss Israel winner had served in the Israel Defence Forces. So, the mob says she may be a tad biased towards the Israeli side.
But then again, the supermodel sisters Bella and Gigi Hadid are also a tad biased, towards the Palestinian side. They also sparked the inevitable furious backlash for an Instagram post claiming Israel wasn’t a country but had been settled by colonisers. Their dad Mohamed was born in Palestine.
Swedish pop star Zara Larsson though, she isn’t Israeli or Palestinian. But she was labeled as an anti-Semite after calling on ‘apartheid’ Israel to stop killing Palestinian civilians.
Meanwhile boxer Tyson Fury seemed to have a boot in both camps, with an old photo of him in shorts with “Free Palestine” emblazoned across them resurfacing, and also a “Pray for Israel” post appearing on his Instagram story. He subsequently insisted that the later one wasn’t actually by his hand. He felt compelled to Tweet out a statement: “First and foremost I send Love, Strength, Hope and Peace to ALL those people caught in the conflict in the Middle East. I stand with the people. I represent and embrace all cultures in this world – always have. I pray for peaceful resolution.”
And on and on the posts will continue as the conflict escalates, no doubt, as celebs voice their opinion – many not having much of an idea of even what the fight is all about. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – all these posts that set off digital firestorms. It’s all too easy to have an ill-informed opinion.
None of this stuff existed the last time things truly exploded in Israel. The fight itself, of course, is nothing new. The last big explosion was in 2000 when the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third most important site after Mecca and Medina. Over 5,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis died.
The latest clash began at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as tensions rose over Jewish settlers evicting Palestinians from land claimed by both. That pretty much sums it all up, ‘a land claimed by both.’ Yet, genetically, studies say they are brothers and have been for thousands of years.
I spent a couple of months in Jerusalem towards the end of the second intifada conflict that kicked off in 2000 as a news correspondent and producer. Like most journalists, I arrived buzzing about all that history. Let me give you a quick little tour, as this is pretty much where all the problems lie.
Think of Jerusalem and an image probably comes to mind of a huge gold-painted sphere – The Dome of the Rock. Underneath this dome, to believers, sits the stone upon which the world itself was founded. This spot is the Holy of Holies in the Jewish faith, where the Arc of the Covenant was placed – the big box with the Ten Commandments inside (remember the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie?)
Upon this site, the Jews built their Temples. The first was destroyed by the Babylonians and the second was destroyed by the Romans. There’s a bit of that one left, that’s the Wailing Wall where orthodox Jews can be seen nodding back and forth in prayer.
But that Dome of the Rock is an Islamic structure, built by the fifth Caliph at the end of the seventh century. The Al Aqsa mosque is on the same ground across the way, the chunk of land known as the Temple Mount. Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven from here.
And then, of course, there are the Christians. Just a short stroll away is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Christians believe this church is built over the site where Jesus was crucified and it also holds the empty tomb from where he was resurrected.
Then there were the crusades, where the English king Richard the Lionheart and others rode to free Jerusalem. On and on it goes. Throughout most of history though, this land was not the country called Israel – this state was created after World War Two and the horrors of the Holocaust.
No Jew though, to my knowledge, was murdered in a German concentration camp by a Palestinian.
The Zionists had been arguing for a Jewish homeland here for a long time. And here’s a crucial fact to any celeb such as Zara Larsson accused of being a Jew hater, it is possible to be anti-Zionist – opposed to the state of Israel – and not be an anti-Semite. Plenty of Jewish people were anti-Zionist, including the devoutly religious.
Israel went to war with its neighbours in 1948 and then again in 1967. Land, it’s two peoples wanting the same slab of desert.
But the Israelis are massively well-armed and well-trained, it’s difficult to down an apache helicopter with a bottle. They’re also supported by the western world because, well, they’re a democracy just like us, aren’t they? America, in particular, is a powerful force in Israel.
I’m not Jewish, Christian or Muslim. But it’s kind-of intoxicating, all that history. Like lots of hacks fresh to the Middle East, I arrived in Jerusalem full of hope that things might actually change while I was in town.
I left depressed, vowing never to set foot in that Godforsaken hellhole ever again – even as a tourist.
One grizzled old hack summed it up to me over a beer in the American Colony Hotel – a watering hole for grizzled old hacks like him and, now, me. When I asked him what he thought should be done to bring peace to the Holy Land, he replied: “They should flatten the whole damn place, bulldoze it, turn it to dust then cover it in concrete. There is far too much history here and not nearly enough present – they carry the past into the future like a corpse. It’s just a scrub of dirt.”
Obviously he was a tad cynical and he was neither an Israeli nor a Palestinian. But he was, I can assure you, an expert who knew the land and its issues a little too well. Then along come celebs with their social media feeds. Try and get all that in a Tweet or a pithy Instagram post.
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