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Entertainment industry A-listers sign a letter to Biden urging a cease-fire in Gaza

Dozens of entertainment industry A-listers have signed a letter urging President Biden to push for an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues into its third week.

Created by a group of Hollywood insiders calling itself Artists4Ceasefire, the letter's signatories so far include such celebrities as Cate Blanchett, America Ferrera, Bassem Youssef, Jon Stewart, Dua Lipa, Hasan Minhaj, Oscar Isaac and Michael Stipe.

"We urge your administration, and all world leaders, to honor all of the lives in the Holy Land and call for and facilitate a ceasefire without delay – an end to the bombing of Gaza, and the safe release of hostages," the letter states. It goes on to note: "Half of Gaza's two million residents are children, and more than two thirds are refugees and their descendants being forced to flee their homes. Humanitarian aid must be allowed to reach them."

Some signees, such as Ferrera, have also shared their views on the conflict in other forums. Speaking at Glamour's Global Honourees' Women of the Year Awards a few days ago, the Barbie and How to Train Your Dragon actor called for the conflict to end, and for women and children to "live in peace."

"All of our sisters are not safe," Ferrera said. "Like all of you, my heart is broken and heavy with the weight of what our sisters around the world endure every day. And as we sit here tonight celebrating, our sisters and their families in Gaza and Israel are living through horror. The brutality of terror and war is unfolding before our eyes. Entire families have been and continue to be erased."

The Artists4Ceasefire letter isn't the only such act of celebrity political advocacy to have emerged over the past couple of weeks.

Hundreds of celebrities, such as actors Gal Gadot, Michael Douglas and Jerry Seinfeld, signed an open letter supporting Israel published on Oct. 12. That effort, organized by the Creative Community for Peace, which describes itself as "a non-profit entertainment industry organization," states its mission is "to promote the arts as a bridge to peace, to educate about rising antisemitism within the entertainment industry, and to galvanize support against the cultural boycott of Israel."

The Biden administration has so far not issued any public statements in response to this or any other letter sharing the views of celebrities on the conflict. Biden has reiterated the "unwavering U.S. support for Israel" in recent statements and has supported Israel's retaliation for the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas. The White House has not specifically called for a cease-fire but has called for minimizing civilian casualties. Also, on Oct. 18, Biden announced the United States is providing $100 million in humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.

This is not the first time celebrities have voiced their opinions about the worsening state of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

For instance, Gadot postedcomments on her Instagram account following an escalation in violence in the region in May 2021. "This is a vicious cycle that has been going on for far too long," Gadot wrote. "Israel deserves to live as a free and safe nation. Our neighbors deserve the same." Meanwhile, at that time, Susan Sarandon expressed her support for Palestinians. In one on Twitter post, the actor and activist forwarded a statement describing Israel's actions as "settler colonialism, military occupation, land theft and ethnic cleansing."

The public has been divided about whether entertainers should air their political views. A poll from the survey company Morning Consult showed that 28% of adults want celebrities to speak up on political issues, while 29% said celebrities should stay out of politics.

The Israel-Gaza war, which began on Oct. 7 with a devastating attack by Hamas on Israel, has led to the deaths of more than 1,400 Israelis and more than 4,000 Palestinians to date.

Here is the Artists4Ceasefire letter and current list of signatories in full:

Dear President Biden,

We come together as artists and advocates, but most importantly as human beings witnessing the devastating loss of lives and unfolding horrors in Israel and Palestine.

We ask that, as President of the United States, you call for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Gaza and Israel before another life is lost. More than 5,000 people have been killed in the last week and a half – a number any person of conscience knows is catastrophic. We believe all life is sacred, no matter faith or ethnicity and we condemn the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians.

We urge your administration, and all world leaders, to honor all of the lives in the Holy Land and call for and facilitate a ceasefire without delay – an end to the bombing of Gaza, and the safe release of hostages. Half of Gaza's two million residents are children, and more than two thirds are refugees and their descendants being forced to flee their homes. Humanitarian aid must be allowed to reach them.

We believe that the United States can play a vital diplomatic role in ending the suffering and we are adding our voices to those from the US Congress, UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, The International Committee of The Red Cross, and so many others. Saving lives is a moral imperative. To echo UNICEF, "Compassion — and international law — must prevail."

As of this writing more than 6,000 bombs have been dropped on Gaza in the last 12 days - resulting in one child being killed every 15 minutes.

"Children and families in Gaza have practically run out of food, water, electricity, medicine and safe access to hospitals, following days of air strikes and cuts to all supply routes. Gaza's sole power plant ran out of fuel Wednesday afternoon, shutting down electricity, water and wastewater treatment. Most residents can no longer get drinking water from service providers or household water through pipelines.... The humanitarian situation has reached lethal lows, and yet all reports point to further attacks. Compassion — and international law — must prevail." – UNICEF spokesperson James Elder

Beyond our pain and mourning for all of the people there and their loved ones around the world we are motivated by an unbending will to stand for our common humanity. We stand for freedom, justice, dignity and peace for all people – and a deep desire to stop more bloodshed.

We refuse to tell future generations the story of our silence, that we stood by and did nothing. As Emergency Relief Chief Martin Griffiths told UN News, "History is watching."

Alia Shawkat

Alyssa Milano

Amanda Seales

Amber Tamblyn

America Ferrera

Andrew Garfield

Ani DiFranco

Anoushka Shankar

Aria Mia Loberti

Ayo Edebiri

Bassam Tariq

Bassem Youssef

Belly

Bonnie Wright

Caroline Polachek

Cate Blanchett

Channing Tatum

Cherien Dabis

Darius Marder

David Cross

David Oyelowo

Dev Hynes

Diplo

Dominique Fishback

Dominique Thorne

Dua Lipa

Elvira Lind

Elyanna

Farah Bsaiso

Fatima Farheen Mirza

Florence Pugh

Hasan Minhaj

Hend Sabry

Ilana Glazer

Indya Moore

James Schamus

Jeremy Strong

Jessica Chastain

Jessie Buckley

Joaquin Phoenix

Jon Stewart

Kehlani

Kristen Stewart

Macklemore

Mahershala Ali

Margaret Cho

Mark Ruffalo

May Calamawy

Michael Malarkey

Michael Moore

Michael Shannon

Michael Stipe

Michelle Wolf

Miguel

Mo Amer

Natalie Merchant

Oscar Isaac

Quinta Brunson

Rachel Sennott

Ramy Youssef

Ravena Aurora

Riz Ahmed

Rooney Mara

Rosario Dawson

Rowan Blanchard

Ryan Coogler

Sandra Oh

Sebastian Silva

Shailene Woodley

Shaka King

Simi Haze

Stephanie Suganami

Susan Sarandon

Taylour Paige

Tommy Genesis

Vic Mensa

Victoria Monét

Wallace Shawn

Wanda Sykes

Yara Shahidi

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.