Israel-Hamas War Sows Division Within Entertainment Industry

From a Wall Street Journal story by Joe Flint and Sabrina Siddiqui headlined “Israel-Hamas War Sows Division Within Entertainment Industry”:

A midshow spat between comedian Dave Chappelle and a fan. Division within the writers’ union after months of solidarity. Private discussions among Hollywood executives and stars about antisemitism.

The entertainment industry is grappling with the same debates over Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks and Israel’s response that are playing out on college campuses, in offices and among friends.

Last week Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger was part of a group of industry executives, actors and writers who gathered at the Bel-Air home of Daniel Loeb, chief executive of the hedge fund Third Point, to discuss antisemitism.

Other attendees included the journalist Bari Weiss, who spoke to the gathering, “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson, playwright David Mamet and actor Chris Pine, according to people familiar with the event. Loeb also was a sponsor of an antisemitism conference held in Los Angeles last week hosted by the entertainment publication Variety.

Both events were planned before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, motivated by growing concern about the rise of antisemitism in the U.S.

The conflict has sowed division among movie and television writers who were united for months in demanding new contract protections from studios—and celebrating hard-fought concessions. Several prominent Jewish writers have expressed anger and disappointment at the Writers Guild of America for not issuing a statement condemning the attacks.

On Friday, more than 75 Hollywood writers met over Zoom to further discuss the guild’s approach on the matter and what steps should be taken to show the anger that has been stirred up, people familiar with the meeting said. Among the suggestions: potentially withholding dues until the organization explains its rationale for not making a statement, one meeting participant said.

Members critical of WGA said the union in the past has commented on political and social issues from hate crimes against Asian-Americans to the 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court and President Trump’s 2017 travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“When terrorists invaded Israel to murder, rape, and kidnap Jews…the Guild stayed silent,” dozens of prominent Hollywood figures, including Jerry Seinfeld and Sacha Baron Cohen, wrote in an open letter published on Medium last week. Other signatories included “Modern Family” co-creator Steven Levitan and Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of “Gilmore Girls” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

Meredith Stiehm, president of Writers Guild of America West, emailed some members Saturday saying that the board shares their anguish from recent weeks and that they “wish there had been a simple answer here.”

“Like the membership itself, the Board’s viewpoints are varied, and we found consensus out of reach. For these reasons, we have decided not to comment publicly,” the email, seen by The Wall Street Journal, said. A spokesman for the WGA didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The war and the way elected leaders, chief executives, entertainers and the public respond to it have become societal flashpoints. The fallout has been wide ranging, affecting universities, company morale, job opportunities, union solidarity and even performers’ relationships with fans.

Maha Dakhil, a top agent at Creative Artists Agency, resigned from the agency’s board and stepped back as co-head of its motion pictures unit after posting material on her Instagram account that was critical of Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks.

Comedian Dave Chappelle told the audience at his Boston show last week that he didn’t plan to talk about conflict in the Middle East but partway through the set criticized the Israeli government’s strikes on Gaza.

He said the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel were wrong and added that there was no excuse for cutting off water, electricity, food and medical supplies to innocent civilians. Chappelle was also critical of the financial assistance the U.S. is providing Israel.

At one point, an audience member told him to shut up and Chappelle responded by criticizing the man for trying to silence him at his own show. The comedian told the audience member to shut up, attendees recalled.

Chappelle show attendees said the crowd appeared mostly supportive of his comments, and many shouted “Free Palestine.” A small faction of attendees got up and left the show while a handful shouted, “What about Hamas?” attendees said.

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