The time for neutrality is over — celebrities need to let us know if they stand with humanity

With the death toll at nearly 10,000, silence is no longer an option. And neutrality or "abstaining" is complicity.
06 Nov, 2023

It has been one month since the siege of Gaza began. The Palestinian death toll nears 10,000 with countless others injured. The world, however, is doing next to nothing. And by the world, we mean those in governments and those with public platforms.

You may wonder why we’re focusing on celebrities — people who are often there to entertain, not educate. Here’s why — they are the original ‘influencers’. And when millions of people across the globe are making themselves seen and heard, celebrities need to join them instead of avoiding the public eye.

Celebrities have a great sway over public opinion. You may not always value their opinion or their words, but there are a lot of impressionable people around the world who look up to them enough to believe what they have to say and be influenced by it. At a time when a people are being massacred, for so many celebrities with such huge followings and public sway to be silent is criminal.

We’re not talking about Pakistani celebrities in this piece — because most, if not all of them have been actively using their platforms to speak about Palestine. We’re talking about the celebrities in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in the West — the ones who have political clout, who have hundreds of millions of followers but are silent. And whose countries are allies of Israel’s atrocities.

It’s not as if these celebrities don’t have opinions — of course they do. They’re vocal when they want to be. Beyonce talks about the presidential candidate she’s supporting and Taylor Swift talks about feminism.

They’re allowed to have opinions and they’re allowed to be cautious about posting about something they previously had no knowledge about. But the time for wilful ignorance is over. Educate yourself that this is not a political issue or a religious one — it’s a humanitarian issue and millions of people’s lives are at risk.

Though some people — like Amy Schumer — have tried to conflate the massacre in Gaza with antisemitism, it is clear that this is about humanity. Calling for peace is not antisemitism, calling for an end to the violence is not antisemitism. Calling for peace is not ‘choosing a side’, unless by a side you mean choosing humanity.

It’s now time to make those opinions clear because we do not want to follow any zionists or war-mongers on Instagram. We do not want to watch their movies or listen to their songs. We do not want to show them even the slightest hint of support when they couldn’t be bothered to show support for people being killed for the simple act of existing. Men, women, children — no one is being spared in Gaza.

So let us know who you truly are. Let us know whether you support the massacre of Palestinians and the bloodshed and violence. Let us know if that’s who we’re supporting.

As the number of celebrities speaking up grows, it’s becoming increasingly easy to weed out those who are complicit. Because at this stage, silence is not neutrality — it’s complicity.

We see some of these celebrities liking posts by literally the worst person in Hollywood — Amy Schumer for the unversed — so we know they’re not unaware. At this point, there can’t be anyone with internet access who doesn’t know what’s happening, let alone celebrities sitting in cities where massive, historic protests are being held every weekend.

Are we to suffice with ‘they supported Palestine before’? Do we give them a free pass because they ‘don’t post about things like this’? Why should anyone get a free pass to ignore a massacre?

Many celebrities have played the role of human rights activists. Amal Clooney, known for her activism and her fierce defence of human rights, has been silent. Emma Watson, who once received backlash for speaking about Palestine, has been silent. Clearly, they think only some humans’ rights matter.

At times like these, it’s not asking too much to question who exactly are you supporting; someone who can happily bury their head in the sand when gross human rights violations are being committed? Someone who will continue to take our money for their music or movies but look the other way when people are being slaughtered?

DJ Khaled, who is literally a Palestinian, has been not only silent but also putting up his everyday shenanigans. Taylor Swift, with her massive, massive influence, has been silent. Leonardo Messi with his 490 million followers on Instagram and cult-like following has been silent — even when fellow footballers are being vilified for their support of Palestine.

We understand that it is difficult for some celebrities to pull themselves out of their apathetic stupor, but if there was ever a time to do it, it’s now. Celebrities cannot claim to be human rights activists and not stand up for the people of Palestine. They cannot claim to be feminists and ignore the plight of women and girls in Gaza. They cannot claim to speak for people of colour when the only ones they speak for are within the borders of their country. They cannot be human and not stand up for humanity.

So many celebrities choose to support by sharing a donation link on Instagram or resharing someone else’s words about the violence — so in case you don’t want to attach your name to a condemnation, take a cue from them.

Also, if you’re still concerned about ‘backlash’, know that celebrities with a far smaller following and not as much star power have taken a stand. Why can’t the big ones?

When Kid Cudi, Kehlani and Macklemore spoke out, why can’t you? When Zendaya, Drake, Zayn Malik, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper and many others have signed a list calling for a ceasefire, why can’t you? No one is asking you to head to the frontlines —the least you can do is sign a list calling for a ceasefire.

Do you not realise your influence? That a single post from Taylor Swift will massively help the cause, that Messi throwing his support behind the people of Palestine could make major waves? At the very least, ask government representatives to advocate for a ceasefire.

It’s not just the West. In India, there is almost absolute silence, save for a few brave celebrities — Sonam Kapoor and Irfan Pathan. The deafening silence is horrific, especially when you think of the massive influence of people like Shah Rukh Khan — someone with a following that could possibly influence a government.

So to the big names who have remained silent — across the globe — we’re looking at you. The anger is brewing and it’s sending a message — if you can’t speak for us, we don’t need you.