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Blockout 2024: Celebrities silent on Gaza must remain blocked indefinitely

May 16, 2024 at 4:26 pm

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators chant near the Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2024 in New York. [Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images]

Celebrity influence extends far beyond entertainment, with many leveraging their platforms to raise awareness about important global issues. However, one issue that has highlighted the divide between outspoken celebrities and those who remain in comfortable silence is Israel’s ongoing war crimes of genocide in Gaza.

The Blockout 2024 movement was ignited by this year’s Met Gala, under the flashing lights of New York City, where Hollywood’s elite from film, stage, sports and fashion paraded in outrageously extravagant outfits that seemed to mock the very real suffering just beyond their red carpet.

Notably present at this superficial event was Zendaya, an actress recognised for portraying heroic characters, like her current role as Chani in “Dune”, directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Ironically, Chani is a skilled fighter belonging to a desert-dwelling people native to the planet Arrakis and part of a resistance movement against the oppressive rule of the Harkonnen family and the larger political powers controlling Arrakis.

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Given these parallels, it is all the more horrifying that, despite embodying traits of strength and courage in her roles, Zendaya has yet to lend her voice to the genocide unfolding in Gaza.

Similarly, Bollywood actress, Alia Bhatt, who was also present at the Met Gala, was featured on the growing ‘Blockout 2024 list’. Alia has portrayed several roles fighting for rights and justice, and is, therefore, renowned for her character as Roop in “Kalank”, who challenges societal norms in patriarchal structures during a period of political upheaval leading up to India’s Partition.

However, much like the rest of the attendees who wore dramatic dresses made of sand or tens of thousands of crystals, the high-profile actress made the damaging decision to remain silent on Gaza.

The Met Gala, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is known not just for its star-studded red carpet, but also for its high entry costs. A single ticket to the event is reportedly priced at around $75,000, with whole tables costing upwards of $350,000.

Meanwhile, that night, Israel approved plans to launch a ground offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1.5 million people have taken refuge from Israel’s brutal onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

This stark contrast has not gone unnoticed by the public, sparking discussions about the striking divide between fictional heroism and real-world indifference. Viewers of events like the Met Gala have long likened them to “The Hunger Games”, the popular book franchise by Suzanne Collins, in which characters also parade in ostentatious costumes against a backdrop of oppression and suffering – a haunting echo of the spectacle witnessed at the Met Gala.

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These comparisons go beyond superficial observations, reflecting a deeper societal critique. The lavish displays at these events, juxtaposed with global crises, highlight the disconnect between celebrity culture and the urgent need for social responsibility.

The celebrity blockout includes other popular names such as Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Kylie Jenner, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Zac Efron, Nick Jonas, Kevin Jonas, Justin Timberlake and many others.

Moreover, what adds to the perplexity of this situation is that both Zendaya and Alia Bhatt, along with other high-profile attendees, have a track record of using their platform to address critical issues and advocate for social justice.

Zendaya has actively engaged with significant topics, inspiring positive change by speaking out against racial inequality and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of George Floyd in 2020. She took to social media to express her support for justice and systemic change, urging her followers to educate themselves and take action against racism.

Additionally, Zendaya has shown a strong commitment to education, supporting initiatives that provide educational opportunities to under-served communities, advocating for equal access to quality schooling for all.

Despite her advocacy efforts, Zendaya has remained silent on the ongoing atrocities against Gaza schools, including the killing of four Palestinians in an Israeli airstrike that targeted a school housing displaced people in the Shati Refugee Camp, west of Gaza City.

This silence contrasts sharply with her vocal stance on other social justice issues and has since lost 153,000 followers on Instagram and 40,000 on X.

Similarly, Alia Bhatt has been vocal on various important issues such as the need to destigmatise mental health struggles and emphasised the importance of empathy towards those dealing with mental health challenges.

However, Alia Bhatt has yet to express a word of concern for the deteriorating mental health of Palestinian children in Gaza, exacerbated by prolonged violence, displacement, starvation and disease under a nearly 17-year blockade.

Save the Children warned in March about the dire mental health consequences facing Gaza’s children, whose capacity to imagine a future without war has virtually disappeared.

The ongoing cycles of violence and separation from family and friends have significantly impacted children’s mental health in Gaza, leading to fear, anxiety, disordered eating, bed-wetting, hyper-vigilance, sleep problems and behavioural changes.

Remaining silent, despite the release of damning reports on Israel’s crimes, speaks volumes. Consequently, the public has rightly demanded accountability through the Blockout 2024 movement which underscores that celebrities who have failed to use their influence to address the ongoing genocide in Gaza, must remain boycotted indefinitely.

It is imperative that celebrities leverage their platforms responsibly, advocating for social justice consistently and inclusively, rather than selectively choosing which crises or genocide deserves their attention. Selecting a humanitarian issue is not like selecting a role to play on TV and speaking up on real-life crimes against humanity is not a script for a temporary character.

To think it is, is wrong and dehumanising and, most scary of all, makes them complicit in the genocide in Gaza, which has left more than 114,000 Palestinians dead and wounded, most of them children and women.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.