Richard Gere firmly stands by Palestinians while promoting new film in Israel

Published March 12th, 2017 - 03:43 GMT
Richard criticized Israel for its settlements in Palestine and its government's shift to the political right. (File photo)
Richard criticized Israel for its settlements in Palestine and its government's shift to the political right. (File photo)

Richard Gere has lashed out at Israel over its settlements in territory that Palestinians want for a state.

The 'Pretty Woman' star came to Jerusalem for the local premiere of 'Norman': The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer,' a new film by Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar in which he stars.

During his fourth visit to the country, the 67-year-old actor discussed his month-long internal debate about whether he should come due to his opposition to Israel's settlements in Palestine and what he sees as its shift to the right with newspaper Haaretz.

He said: 'There's no defense of this occupation. Settlements are such an absurd provocation and, certainly in the international sense, completely illegal.

'And they are certainly not part of the program of someone who wants a genuine peace process.'

His beliefs were compounded, he said, by the Israeli government's shift to the right following the election of US President Donald Trump and friends - even Israeli ones - telling him he would be 'co-opted' by the government as a sort of public relations boon.

He cited criticisms Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has launched at an organization critical of the country's Defense Forces as counter to 'Jewish culture.'


#josephcedar and #richardgere #masterclass few days ago at #jerusalem #jlm #cinematheque

A post shared by Leanna Berkovitch (@leanna.ber) on Mar 12, 2017 at 1:22am PST

He told the paper: 'To question authority makes you a traitor? If you question bad policies you are a self-hating Jew? That is insane.' 

He talked through his dilemma with his film's director, Joseph Cedar, who was born in New York City but grew up in Jerusalem, and eventually decided to make a 48-hour trip to promote the film.

He also met with groups promoting peace between Israel and the Palestine, two nations which have been in some form of conflict since the formal founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

He told Haaretz he was particularly impressed with Women Wage Peace and YaLa, two groups working towards a end to the decades-long conflict.

In his film, which debuted in Israel last week and is set for a US release in April, Gere plays a man named Norman Oppenheimer whose life changes after his friend becomes Prime Minister of Israel. 

Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory are a contentious issue as the international community mostly considers settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace, while Israel says settlements along with other core issues like security should be resolved in peace talks. 

The Obama administration took a harder line against Israel than previous US governments, but the nascent Trump administration appears to support the nation more.

Trump and Netanyahu have offered praise for each other in the past, and Netanyahu came to visit Trump in Washington in February.

It is not yet clear what, exactly, the Trump administration's policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict will entail.

By Forrest Hanson and AP

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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