A member of a popular Irish-British pop group sparked anger and threats from Israeli fans after he tweeted “#FreePalestine” on Monday as a show of support for the Palestinians.
The one-phrase post by Zayn Malik of the boy band One Direction was retweeted nearly 120,000 times by Tuesday morning.
Malik’s show of support for the Palestinians came amid an ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and provoked heated responses from fans, both for and against the post.
According to the Mirror newspaper, some Israeli fans threatened to kill Malik over of the tweet while others warned he would lose all of his followers in the Jewish state.
— zaynmalik1D (@zaynmalik) July 28, 2014
“U have fans in #Israel. It broke me that one of my idols wand me to die [sic],” one fan wrote.
Twitter user Ziv Gershom told Malik that the post was offensive to his Jewish followers:
— ZivGershom✡ (@ziv_gershom) July 29, 2014
Malik’s post could also put him at odds with his own boss, music mogul Simon Cowell, who owns Syco Music, One Direction’s label. Last year Cowell donated $150,000 for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a New York-based nonprofit that raises millions for the well-being of Israeli servicemen and -women.
Malik isn’t the only star to raise hackles on the social network by using the #FreePalestine hashtag.
Earlier this month, both singer Rihanna and basketball player Dwight Howard alienated partisans on both sides by tweeting #FreePalestine and then deleting it.
Israel says that the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge, which is entering its fourth week, aims to stem rocket fire from the Gaza Strip at its towns and cities as well as to destroy a network of tunnels dug under the border that Palestinian operatives have used to launch attacks inside Israel. Several Israeli soldiers have been killed in those attacks.
Palestinian sources report that over 1,100 Gazans have been killed during the military offensive. Israel says the figures include hundreds of armed combatants.
As of Tuesday morning, Israel had lost 53 soldiers, two Israeli civilians, and a Thai agricultural worker.