Wallace Shawn, Cynthia Nixon lead actors backing genocide charges against Israel

The Palestine Festival of Literature partners with a handful of TV and movie stars in a video series spotlighting South Africa’s charges to the International Court of Justice

Actor Wallace Shawn participates in a demonstration to support Gaza outside the White House on October 16, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images via AFP)
Actor Wallace Shawn participates in a demonstration to support Gaza outside the White House on October 16, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images via AFP)

Several leading actors, musicians and writers, including Cynthia Nixon, Susan Sarandon and Wallace Shawn, have expressed their support for South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide.

The 29 celebrities gave their backing in a series of videos that was started Friday by the Palestine Festival of Literature in which they read out sections of the charges in a show of support for the case.

The first video, which was published on Friday, included participants from nine countries with various positions in the entertainment industry.

One of the actors, Adam Bakri, is an Arab Israeli who completed a bachelor’s degree at Tel Aviv University before moving to New York. His acting credits include the Oscar-nominated film “Omar.”

Other famous names included Liam Cunningham, Charles Dance, and Lena Headey from the hit TV series “Game of Thrones,” based on the books by George R. R. Martin; Tobias Menzies and Khalid Abdalla who both appeared in Netflix’s “The Crown”; and Jewish actor Wallace Shawn from “The Princess Bride,” among others. Prominent anti-Israel activists Susan Sarandon and Cynthia Nixon also made contributions.

Nixon of “Sex and the City” fame recently took part in a hunger strike outside the White House in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, while Sarandon was forced to apologize for saying at a recent pro-Palestinian rally that US Jews fearing for their safety amid a spike in antisemitism “are getting a taste of what it feels like to be a Muslim in this country.”

Following her comments she was dropped by Hollywood talent agency UTA.

The Palestine Festival of Literature is a cultural initiative that describes itself as being “committed to the creation of language and ideas for combating colonialism in the 21st Century.” The festival takes place annually in cities across Israel and the West Bank like Jerusalem, Haifa, Ramallah and Nablus.

Partners of the initiative include Palestinian universities and cultural organizations.

Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on October 7 which resulted in the deaths of some 1,200 people in Israel, most of them civilians, and with around 240 others taken hostage, of which 136 remain in captivity after a temporary truce that saw the release of 105. At least 24 still in Gaza are believed to have been killed.

In response, Israel launched a war on Hamas with the stated intention of eliminating Hamas and releasing the hostages.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says over 23,000 people have been killed in the fighting, though these figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 8,500 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

As a result of the war, South Africa filed an application against Israel in the International Court of Justice in late December, accusing the latter of genocide and requesting that the judges impose emergency measures ordering the end of hostilities.

The Palestine Festival of Literature’s video was the first in a series made as a show of support for South Africa’s proceedings against Israel. Alongside the video, the organization said that “every state has a legal duty to support South Africa’s case” and urged people to pressure their countries to show their support.

But rather than support South Africa, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany have all spoken out against the proceedings with the latter requesting to join as a third party to claim that Israel is not committing genocide in Gaza.

Game of Thrones star Lena Headey answers a question as Liam Cunningham listens during an interview with the Associated Press in Athens, on Friday, June 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The hearing began on Thursday with South Africa’s representatives presenting their arguments to the court, listing a series of alleged Israeli actions throughout the war as well as controversial statements made by Israeli officials that South Africa claimed were proof of intent of genocide being perpetrated against Palestinians.

Israel launched its defense on Friday with its legal team rejecting South Africa’s “misleading” claims of genocide, pointing to Hamas’s targeted attack against Israeli civilians and and lack of concern for the residents of Gaza. Representatives also claimed that controversial statements made by certain officials could not be taken as intentionality to commit genocide as they have constantly been contradicted by the IDF’s orders not to target innocents.

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