Thursday, August 25, 2011

Katy Perry Stands Up for Israel - Then Sits Down

A number of outspoken celebrities have boarded the pro-Palestinian bandwagon recently to wage a “cultural intifada” against Israel, principally from among the music world, with such notables as the band Coldplay and singers Annie Lennox and Elvis Costello refusing to perform there.

When asked about the usefulness of support from such celebrities, Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the worldwide Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement designed to isolate and delegitimize Israel, said:
When celebrities of this caliber cancel events in Israel over its human rights record they help to reveal Israel's true face as a state practicing occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid and contribute to challenging Israel's impunity and infringement of international law.
It’s refreshing when a celeb bucks that trend. Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight is one of that rare but growing breed, Hollywood conservatives, and is unafraid to swim against the tide of his colleagues and publicly stand with Israel. Arguably President Obama’s most outspoken celebrity critic, Voight joined media giant Glenn Beck in Jerusalem this week for Beck’s "Restoring Courage" rally, and made his loyalties clear: “I came to stand alongside Israel and fight the anti-Semitism and lies in the world today.”

He isn’t entirely alone – here’s a list-in-progress of celebrities, including such A-listers as actors Natalie Portman and Harrison Ford, who have spoken out in support of Israel and/or contributed to pro-Israel causes in the past. Ex-Kiss band member Gene Simmons, for example, has blasted his music industry cohorts for condemning the tiny democracy, and musicians like Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, and Rihanna resisted pressure to boycott Israel and performed there recently. But the supporters number in the minority.

In addition to Voight, another celebrity casually voiced her support for Israel this week and caught hell for it from many of her fans. Michelle Malkin reports that pop singer Katy Perry received a request Monday from one of her followers on the social media network Twitter. A young Israeli sent her a “tweet” to “please pray with us” Israelis in the wake of the recent Gazan assault near the Red Sea resort of Eilat that left eight Israelis dead and more than thirty wounded. “I am!” Perry gushed. “My prayers are for you guys tonight, SHALOM!!!”

Not exactly a controversial political stance, or even unequivocal support for Israel. But this sympathetic gesture, this innocuous wish for peace, triggered an avalanche of disapproval from Palestinian, Muslim, and progressive Twitter followers who clogged Perry’s Twitter feed with comments ranging from disappointed accusations of ignorance about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, to angry denunciations of her support for Israeli “baby-killers.” Here is a sampling of the venom, complete with the account names of the twitterers:

Umm_Issa: Nice. @katyperry prays for Israel but spits on Gaza and it’s murdered children like little 2 year old Malik killed by a bomb with his dad
Afrooooji: @katyperry You heartless lesbian. Israel has killed THOUSANDS of PALESTINIANS, yet you’re gonna pray for Israel? You shiz.
SmithSofia: @katyperry Are you insane to pray for Israel who are bombing a caged civilian population? Get your head straight and read up on the issue!

I have no idea how informed Perry is on Israel (hopefully she’s more informed about that than her husband, actor-comedian Russell Brand, is about the causes of the recent rioting in his native England: “These young people have no sense of community because they haven't been given one. They have no stake in society because Cameron's mentor Margaret Thatcher told us there's no such thing,” he wrote in a UK Guardian op-ed). But perhaps it’s such hateful and/or clueless commenters as those above who should “read up on the issue,” as one tweeted, and enlighten themselves about who is doing the baby killing. The Sultan Knish’s devastating catalog of murdered Israeli children and pregnant mothers specifically targeted by Muslim butchers would be a good place to start.

Perry’s fans in Israel tweeted their gratitude for her support. But she then tried to pacify the haters by seemingly backtracking on her initial tweet, or perhaps clarifying it: “A kid asked me to pray for him & I did. I don’t support ANY violence in ANY place for ANY reason.” But trying to be the Switzerland of pop stars wasn’t appeasing enough for some, who shot back at her bland neutrality with more vicious retorts:

ZahraN: @katyperry you’re amazing, keep on praying for Israel, keep praying for the people who kill babies and women! Great role model!
AalN3aimi: GO to Hell with ISRAEL B**ch
sim_mmo: @katyperry I hope your private jet crash lands in Palestine so they can stamp on you like the whore you are see if Israel come help you

This isn’t just the shallow stuff of tabloid gossip. A celebrity’s social media soundbites are important in this instance because Katy Perry is at the top of the music industry heap. Five songs thus far from her latest album have reached number one on the music charts, tying the all-time record set by deceased superstar Michael Jackson. She has almost nine and a half million Twitter followers; as of this writing, she sits at number three in the list of most followed Twitter users, above even ubiquitous fame queen Kim Kardashian, and just under Barack Obama himself (Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber are first and second, respectively). As with any famous recording artist or movie star, virtually everything Perry wears, says, does and tweets exerts an influence on the many millions who see her as a role model, and it impacts popular culture and the political realm accordingly.

That means if Perry takes a bold stand – say, to side openly with Israel against terrorist assaults, media smears, and peer condemnation – then countless numbers of her followers might be encouraged to reconsider their kneejerk enmity toward Israel, and possibly even to think for themselves. Conversely, if Perry ducks her head to avoid alienating her fans and to remain in that safe zone of political correctness, then the false narrative is perpetuated: Palestinians = victims, Israelis = baby-killers.

(This article originally appeared here at FrontPage Mag, )