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Don’t be Afraid to Stir it up with Your Favourite Celebrities

Sara McCleary

Though the eyes of the public remain fixed on the United States and the actions of its President-elect (especially on Twitter), there is more happening in the world that is worth discussing.

For example, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement has declared the week of Nov. 25 to Dec. 3 the “International Week of Action Against HP.” It was timed to coincide with the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Nov. 29.

According to the BDS Movement’s website, companies owned by Hewlett Packard “provide imaging for Israel’s apartheid checkpoints and ID cards system, enable Israel’s deadly blockade of the Gaza Strip, provide services to illegal Israeli settlements and manage people for profit in Israeli prisons where torture is systematic.”

When I learned of the “Week of Action,” I was surprised I hadn’t seen anything about it from any media source (I happened across a blog post about it during an unrelated Google search). I could argue that it’s a good thing that so few people are talking about this – I take it to mean that it hasn’t gained much traction and isn’t a particularly popular idea. Maybe it means that the BDS movement is starting to lose some steam.

But then it occurred to me that every such anti-Israel action is worth talking about. Even if it’s just one person outside a store with a sign, we need to talk about it, because conversation is the only way to raise awareness of the harm that the BDS movement can do. Without any kind of dialogue, it is far too probable that many who don’t fully understand the situation will hop on board the BDS train without being aware of the repercussions of their actions.

And this got me thinking about how that can happen. Roger Waters has made the news many times recently for his pro-BDS stance, urging other singers to cancel shows in Israel and, most recently, for losing the financial backing of American Express due to his support of BDS. But when was the last time we heard a celebrity (preferably a non-Israeli one) speak out strongly against BDS?

Don’t get me wrong, I know it has happened. In 2014, Scarlett Johansson made the news for refusing to end her work with SodaStream, and J.K. Rowling wrote an excellent essay, evoking some of her beloved characters, in opposition to BDS. These women join a handful of other celebrities who have spoken on behalf of Israel, but very little of this has been shared widely and become public knowledge.

To return to the issue that remains on everyone’s minds – this past election campaign – innumerable celebrities spoke out about the importance of voting. They made videos, tweeted, and made appearances on talk shows imploring Americans to get out and vote, sometimes on behalf of a specific candidate. The celebrities’ ultimate goal was to get people talking. If even one conversation started with: “Hey, did you see that video with Judd Appatow and Mark Ruffalo about the election?” then they did their job.

So I argue that it’s time to call on celebrities to use their voices to start more conversations. No, celebrities can’t speak out about every single issue, nor should we expect them all to choose a side on every matter – like the rest of us, they have causes they care about and others they don’t. But if Ashton Kutcher tweeted to his 17.6-million followers about his pro-Israel stance, I can only imagine how many conversations that would spark. Some of his fans might be unhappy, and I know that’s why most celebrities keep quiet on politics and social issues, but a disagreement can lead to a very productive discussion so it’s a risk that I think is worth taking. So next time you take to Twitter or Facebook, try reaching out to your favourite actor or singer, ask them their stance on Israel, or any other issue. Maybe they’ll respond, and maybe it will spark a conversation worth having.

Sara McCleary has written extensively on a wide range of topics while working as a news reporter and freelancer. She has also completed a master’s degree in history, and further graduate work in interdisciplinary humanities.