Ryan Kavanaugh on Gaza: Hollywood Must Stand Up to "Anti-Creative, Violent" Hamas

Ryan Kavanaugh Headshot - H 2013
Courtesy of Relativity Media

Ryan Kavanaugh Headshot - H 2013

"How can a Hollywood community so tolerant … tolerate this utter tyranny?" asks the CEO of Relativity Media, who challenges celebrities with anti-Israel views on the conflict in the Middle East

Editor's Note: Ryan Kavanaugh, the CEO of entertainment studio Relativity Media and an outspoken supporter of Israel, submitted to The Hollywood Reporter this open letter to the Hollywood community. If you have a topic you would like to discuss, send potential submissions to letters@thr.com …

If you're a woman, gay, Christian, Jewish or just non-Muslim and reading this, be thankful you don't live in Gaza. Not only would you not be allowed to read this, you probably would be publicly executed. If you've ever voiced an opinion that isn't shared by Hamas publicly or merely attended a meeting where people are discussing anything Hamas does not support, be thankful you don't live in Gaza, as you probably would be publicly executed. In fact, a half-dozen unarmed peaceful protestors were beheaded this month, on camera. Anyone who wishes to see can do so via the Internet, with a minimal amount of work.

Be thankful you live in and around Hollywood.

Hollywood is a special place; a place filled with creative geniuses — actors, screenwriters, directors, sound engineers, computer graphics specialists, lighting experts and so on. Working together, great art happens.

But in the end, all artists depend on diverse audiences who can enjoy, be inspired by and support their work. Without audiences, artists would be doing something else, and their creative and technical skills would fall on absent eyes.

What a shame that would be. Which is why we are left to wonder: Why, in a community that celebrates the human spirit and the right to share opinions via art, do some celebrities express opinions that Hamas would support in its war against Israel. Israel is perhaps the closest free-thinking place to Hollywood.

Israel is a wonderful place to be an artist — a place where imagination flourishes. Israeli culture is refreshingly avant garde — making films, music, performance art and visual art that continues to push the envelope, inspire and empower.

And not just in the arts. Israel is a place of inventors and innovators. Much of our hyperconnected, digital world is made possible by the work of groundbreaking Israeli technologists. These are people who reject the status quo — in a truly good and powerful manner. In short, Israel is one of the most creative nations on the planet, in every dimension of life — invention, research, technology and yes, the arts.

I ask any of Israel's Hollywood critics … have you been to Tel Aviv?

It is an arts mecca. You would be hard-pressed to find a city anywhere in the world that is more similar in spirit to Los Angeles. It has energetic streets, an extraordinary music and film scene, and one of the world's most vibrant centers of gay culture. Rejected in their own communities and countries, Arab homosexuals frequently move there, because they are welcome there. When actors visit Tel Aviv, they always come back and tell us how warmly embraced they felt there.

So when we see some in Hollywood — truly gifted artists and good people — aligning themselves with views that would be supported by Hamas, which fires rockets frequently and indiscriminately at innocent Tel Aviv citizens, we have to wonder what they're thinking.

Are they thinking?

War is a tragic and horrific reality in the region. We understand that many are moved by the images of destruction and violence and loss. All of us know that the loss of innocent human life is a tragedy when and wherever it takes place. You don't have to be an artist to be empathetic.

Yet we humbly ask that they consider the consequences of siding openly with views supported by Hamas — not the least of which is giving prominent credibility and propaganda victories to one of the most anti-Western, anti-creative, violent forces on the planet.

We ask that these Hollywood celebrities, leading artists and globally respected icons of their craft pay closer attention to the world of Hamas — a world of fanaticism. It's the world of the Muslim Brotherhood. A world where individual freedoms, especially the freedom to create art, is repressed severely.

Hamas has created a society in Gaza that openly celebrates the death of innocent men, women and children. While Israel uses its missiles to protect its children, Hamas uses its children to protect its missiles. The true tragedy? This could be avoided. Hamas need only stop firing rockets and let Israel exist in peace.

But Hamas continues to fire, because it is virulently committed to killing Jews and destroying Israel. Period. Genocide is the stated policy of Hamas. This is not opinion but their self-stated charter. In fact, this is a charter which all of Hamas is required to follow. A line from the charter says, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

Hamas also encourages and facilitates the inhumane treatment of women as property and second-class citizens — and among Hamas' supporters are many who force preteen girls to marry men. In Gaza and other places ruled by the same tyranny, gays are lynched and Christians, if they refuse conversion, are beheaded.

How can a Hollywood community so tolerant … tolerate this utter tyranny?

I know we as community do not stand for this type of oppression. Many of you have boycotted the Beverly Hills Hotel because it is owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Why? Because Brunei is supposedly governed by Sharia law. But Sharia law is enforced strictly by Hamas, yet we remain silent — or worse. I would propose there is only one answer: Anyone who has actually visited Gaza and seen the truths Hamas stands for, would not only be supporting Israel but violently opposing Hamas.

My grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, used to say, "Remember Ryan … remember this happened. Remember that the U.S. stood by and allowed Hitler to take over Poland and so many other countries, and slaughter 6 million Jews." It took five years before the U.S. did anything, and one-third of the Jewish population was captured and killed. Remember the very streets in London with rallies chanting "Free Palestine" are the same streets where some British citizens rallied and chanted in favor of the Nazis. And remember our government did nothing.

President Barack Obama has said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is "sincere in his desire for peace," even though Abbas denied the Holocaust occurred until recently, when he shifted his public position on the issue as he was being promoted as a moderate statesman to broker peace.

My friend, Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, recently told me, "Congress is steadfast in its support of Israel and absolutely and completely condemns Hamas. In fact, Congress recently unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution condemning Hamas for its use of human shields."

So here is a modest proposal for our Hollywood colleagues to consider before they weigh in on the conflict in the Middle East — or anywhere, for that matter. Ask yourselves the following questions:

Where can my artistic work be seen and enjoyed without censorship or restriction?

Where would I feel comfortable working and living? Where would I feel comfortable having my daughter begin a career as an artist?

Where could I openly mock, in my art, the political or religious leadership of a country without fear of imprisonment — or worse?

If you decided Gaza or Palestine, and actually moved there and practiced any of the above, you would no longer be alive. Consider this: One-fifth of Israel's population is Arab; they are among the freest Arabs in the world. Yet no Jews live in Gaza. Why? They would immediately be killed.

And so I ask you … in what world are we better off with Hamas?

If Israel were to put down its arms tomorrow, Israel would be decimated and all its citizens killed within 24 hours. If Hamas were to put down its arms tomorrow, there would be immediate peace.

The sad part is that every time both sides have agreed to a cease fire, Hamas immediately fires.

Ryan Kavanaugh is the founder and CEO of Relativity and recipient of the Anti-Defamation League's Entertainment Industry Award.