June 23, 2010 | 1:20 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
It comes as no surprise that Hamas has again denied The International Red Cross their request to visit captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, but if it were supermodel Bar Refaeli asking, would the answer be the same?
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “[T]he Shalits are hoping to join thousands of supporters, including supermodel Bar Refaeli and dozens of other local celebrities, on a cross-country march for Gilad’s release.”
The Shalits won’t be the first to make use of international celebrity to draw attention to their cause—it’s de rigueur today to link big name celebrities with humanitarian issues. Spotlights so big, it goes, can easily be shared. Plus, that kind of glitz helps shed some light on some of humankind’s darker corners. But what exactly do the Shalits hope to accomplish by using the supermodel as secret weapon?
Sure, famous people can draw attention to otherwise overlooked issues: From Bono in Africa to Angelina Jolie at the UN, celebrity equals awareness. But the difference between AIDS in Africa or sex-trafficking in Cambodia is that those causes need celebrity advocates to insist on their gravity. Shalit is already the poster child of Israel’s struggle against a terrorist enemy; his is a cause that plenty of people are attuned to—he has countless advocates, and they’re dutifully marking their calendars with the number of days he has languished in captivity.
The Shalit crusade is not the same as a humanitarian crisis. Shalit is caught in the middle of a war between two clashing cultures, opposing styles of government and radically different value systems. How do we think Hollywood can help here?
But the saddest part, is that Bar Refaeli, of all Hollywood people, seems to be the worst choice for bolstering Shalit’s cause. In case organizers of this cross-country march have forgotten, this is the ethically bold supermodel who publicly denounced Israel’s military service requirement, the concerned celebrity who said she’d rather live in New York than serve her country.
It’s doubtful George Clooney could get Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, but Bar Refaeli doesn’t stand a chance.
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