Russell Brand has been vocal in his criticism of the media coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict. Particularly in his satirical YouTube series, The Trews.
He memorably dissected FOX News reporter Sean Hannity’s pro-Israel bias that appeared not to recognise the disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties and disallowed Palestinian guests on his current affairs show from being able to be an active part of the debate.
He recently took on Bill O’Reilly, also of FOX News, his self-congratulatory reporting of the Islamic State after the beheading of American photo journalist James Foley.
But it was a video he made highlighting an Avaaz.org petition that caused the biggest stir of all. In it, he called for viewers to put pressure on British businesses to sever ties with investments in Israel he says “facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza”.
Using Barclays as an example, he said the bank manages “the portfolios of an Israeli defence company called Elbit, which makes the drones that bomb Gaza.”
The petition has amassed over 1.7million signatures of support. His support of it, however, meant he was labelled an anti-Semite and received death threats.
In response, he’s written a blog for the Huffington Post UK, explaining why he is directly opposed to anti-Semitism. Which starts with a description of him crying at a Passover dinner he enjoyed with a long-time friend Matt when he was 16. He was on acid at the time, he says, and had managed to convince himself that the Holocaust was his fault.
The famous on Israel-Gaza
The famous on Israel-Gaza
1/21 Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem
Oscar-winning married actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem signed an open letter accused Israel of "genocide". They said: "Gaza is living through horror these days, besieged and attacked by land, sea and air'.
2/21 Zayn Malik
The One Direction singer was bombarded with Twitter death threats after posting #FreePalestine to his 13 million followers. The tweet collected over 130,000 retweets, but it soon became apparent that not everyone agreed with his opinion.
3/21 Mia Farrow
Mia Farrow, the actress and Unicef ambassador, said on Twitter: 'We can passionately protest Israel's assault upon Gaza without descending, even remotely, into the hideousness of anti-Semitism'.
4/21 Katy Perry
Way back in 2011, Katy Perry faced a slew of angry responses from Palestinians and their supporters after she tweeted to her fans, asking them to 'Pray for Israel'.
ABC via Getty
5/21 Massive Attack
Massive Attack spoke of their ‘love and commitment’ to supporting the plight of young Palestinian refugees after the band visited the Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon.
6/21 Selena Gomez
The former Disney child star caused a stir when she posted an image on her Instagram account than began: 'It's about humanity. Pray for Gaza.' Joan Rivers responded to the TMZ celebrity news website: 'Oh, Selena Gomez, yeah, that college grad. Well if Selena said that...let’s see if she can spell Palestinian'.
7/21 Russell Brand
Russell Brand is currently caught up in an entertaining spat with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. Brand uploaded a video where he accused Hannity of terrorism after his agressive behaviour in an Israel-Gaza debate. Hannity, who is famously right-wing and pro-Israel, asked Yousef Munayyer if he was 'thick in the head'.
Rihanna tweeted, then deleted, the hashtag #FreePalestine after eight minutes. She claimed its publication was an accident.
9/21 John Legend
The singer waded into the debate on Twitter when he wrote: 'So sick watching our Secretary of State have to grovel so hard to tell Israel how much he loves them while Israeli cabinet shits on him'.
10/21 Bar Refaeli
Leonardo DiCaprio's former girlfriend added to the debate when she posted a quote on her Instagram account, which she attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately it was actually taken from a Lincoln figure encountered by Captain Kirk and Spock in Star Trek, season three, episode 22.
11/21 Bill Maher
Bill Maher received a storm of criticism after he compared Hamas to a 'crazy woman trying to kill you'. 'You can only hold her wrists for so long before you have to slap her,' he tweeted.
12/21 Jon Voight
The actor and father of Angelina Jolie unleashed a rant on Fox News. Reading from a script, he criticised Obama’s actions over the current unrest in Israel and Gaza.
13/21 Joey Barton
Despite already getting into a dispute with Yossi Benayoun over comments on the Israel-Gaza conflict: Joey Barton has continued to deplore the violence in Gaza, tweeting the hashtag '#stopisraelkillinginnocents'.
14/21 Howard Stern
When a caller attempted to blame Israel for the war with Hamas last week, SiriusXM radio host Howard Stern told him to'“F*** off!' before launching into an impassioned defense of Israel, saying: “If you’re anti-Israel, then you’re anti-America”.
15/21 Wonder Woman
Otherwise known as Gal Gadot: the Israeli actress took to Instagram, writing: 'I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children'.
16/21 Piers Morgan
Piers Morgan was branded 'Zionest scum' for his stream of tweets about the Israel-Gaza conflict. He declared various opinions such as 'I like Jews. I like Arabs' and 'Same nonsense made Northern Ireland a murderous tinderbox for 30 years'.
17/21 Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers didn't hold back when she was interviewed by TMZ; likening Israel's position to that of New York if it was attacked by New Jersey. Asked where she thought civilians caught up in the crossfire were supposed to go, she replied: 'I don't care, they started'.
18/21 Dwight Howard
NBA star Dwight Howard 'did a Rihanna' - tweeting '#FreePalestine' before quickly deleting it and spending the rest of the day apologizing for the 'mistake'.
19/21 Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban
Nicole Kidman uploaded a short video to her Facebook page, featuring Keith Urban with their daughters Sunday Rose and Faith Margaret, captioned: 'Keith, the girls and I are joining Reba McEntire to #PrayForPeace. xxNic'.
20/21 Simon Cowell
X Factor boss pledged almost £100,000 to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at a US fund-raiser in Beverly Hills in 2012. The gala brought in more than £12million for the organisation, which helps to provide welfare services for IDF soldiers and their bereaved families. So far, however, he has only commented on the conflict to say that he is "praying for peace".
21/21 Brian Eno
Musician and producer Brian Eno condemned the Israeli action in Gaza as 'ethnic cleansing' in an open letter on David Byrne's website.
But there was a very serious message lurking just behind the mentally harrowing, though comedic, introduction.
“It is difficult to countenance condemnation when the action for which you have been condemned has been editorialized to be conflagratory,” he writes. “My support of the petition has been attacked as anti Semitic. I understand anti Semitism to be a hatred of Jews, the denial of the right for Jews to have a homeland, the denial of the horrors of the last century and the plight of the Jewish people throughout history. This is obviously not my position, anti Semitism, Islamaphobia and homophobia are all prejudices that I resolutely reject, like any right-minded person. In the context of the accusation that I face, anti Semitism must be taken to mean opposing big businesses making profit from violence against Palestinian people.
He continues: “It is the exclusion of the sane majority that allows extremists to prosper. The insanity across the Middle East is so deeply terrifying and giddyingly futile that most people, despondent and bilious want to look away. We know the US can't be trusted. We know the UN are inactive. We know something has to be done to stop the violence in Gaza and the new medieval horror of ISIS but who can we trust? Our own governments, about who we know nothing for certain except they lie and pursue their own ends, sexing up and dumbing down, arming then attacking, fair-weather friends but perennial weapons suppliers?”
“One of the few ways we, ordinary, uneducated and as yet not directly affected people can participate in a climate where big business and big government do nothing but profit and prevaricate is to let them know that they do not act on our behalf and will not profit from our indifference. Methods like the Avaaz's petition provide a moderate but direct way to tackle extreme problems that we can all participate in.”
He goes on to condemn the removal of kosher and Israeli good from supermarkets as measures that “negatively impact ordinary people who are nothing to do with this extraordinary problem”.
However, he writes, we can “no longer allow arguments and our shared communicative spaces to be dominated by extremist profiteers”.
“We must disavow anti Semitism and all forms of prejudice that lead to exclusion and execution like the people of Palestine now face. All governments and institutions that permit violence and proliferate weapons in order to meet territorial or economic objectives ought be equally condemned and confronted and I, like all of us, welcome any means through which we, the ordinary people, can be empowered to act.”
He concludes by writing that peace can only be achieved when people of all faiths, classes and colours are able to mutually condemn violence in the world – whether it be in Gaza, Iraq or on the streets in Ferguson, US.
“When humble means emerge, such as this petition, which applies pressure exclusively to those who benefit from destruction the rest of us have an obligation to sign it. Small measures like this remind the powerful that they are not free to divide and desecrate, they are accountable to us and when we unite their tyranny is overthrown.”