Celebrities' meddling in the Middle East backfires

Last updated 14:34 01/08/2014
Rihanna
Reuters

DIPPING HER TOES: Rihanna briefly enters political fray.

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Celebrities who are better known for their partying rather than politics are angering fans when they go ''off brand'' and post strong views on social media.

The situation is Gaza is a complex one which even the savviest of diplomats struggle to navigate. However, that didn't stop One Direction star Zayn Malik from weighing in on the crisis this week. The British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent received death threats after tweeting ''#FreePalestine'' to his 13 million followers.

A week earlier Rihanna wrote the same message to her 36 million fans. She then deleted it and issued an apology, claiming she had accidentally posted the hashtag. She then wrote: ''Let's pray for peace and a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict! Is there any hope?''

In between a plethora of selfies and photos from exotic locations, Selena Gomez posted a number of images on Instagram informing her 11 million followers: ''I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!'' Her two photos attracted more than 1.3 million comments.

Pop stars aren't the only ones to experience a backlash though.

While world's fastest man Usain Bolt refused to be drawn on the topic of Gaza during a press conference in Glasgow recently, saying ''I don't have the full details'', other athletes have been a little more outspoken.

NBA star Dwight Howard posted the same verse as Malik and Rihanna before deleting it and writing: ''Previous tweet was a mistake. I have never commented on international politics and never will.''

On Tuesday English cricketer Moeen Ali was banned from wearing ''Save Gaza'' and ''Free Palestine'' wristbands in the remainder of the Test series against India. Former Australian cricketer David Boon, the International Cricket Council's match referee, overturned a decision which would have allowed Ali to wear the bands.

''Moeen Ali was told by the match referee that while he is free to express his views on such causes away from the cricket field, he is not permitted to wear the wristbands on the field of play and warned not to wear the bands again during an international match,'' a statement from the ICC read.

A group of actors including Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz have written an open letter denouncing Israel's actions as ''genocide''. Bardem, in his native Spain, is notorious for his political activism, whereas Cruz is not.

Earlier this year, Scarlett Johansson quit her role with Oxfam after the global charity criticised SodaStream, the soft drink company she was the face of, for producing its wares in an Israeli factory near the West Bank. Johansson was an Oxfam ambassador for eight years but said she didn't regret her decision.

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''I was aware of that particular factory before I signed. And it still doesn't seem like a problem - at least not until someone comes up with a solution to the closing of that factory and leaving all those people destitute,'' she told The Observer.

In 2012, reality TV star Kim Kardashian tweeted that she was ''praying for everyone in Israel'' and then subsequently posted the same sentiments for those in Palestine. She then removed both tweets and issued an apology for naivety on her blog.

''The fact is that regardless of religion and political beliefs, there are countless innocent people involved who didnt [sic] choose this, and I pray for all of them and also for a resolution. I also pray for all the other people around the world who are caught in similar crossfires,'' she wrote.

It seems celebrities are learning the hard way that Twitter isn't the place to voice an opinion about complex issues using only 140 characters.

- Stuff

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