British Comedian Russell Brand: I’ve Stayed Quiet About Middle East Conflict Because ‘I Don’t Have Anything Positive to Add’
Despite fielding many requests to comment on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, British comedian and actor Russell Brand said he doesn’t believe he has anything worthwhile to say on the topic, in a video on Wednesday.
“I’ve been sort of doubtful that I’ve got anything positive to add, to what seems like a situation that is defined by a polarity and intransigence,” Brand, 45, explained in a nearly 9-minute clip uploaded onto his Youtube page.
The “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” star instead urged people to avoid polarizing the conflict or focusing on apparent disparities between Israelis and Palestinians, in terms of the death tolls, human rights issues and historical dynamics. “I feel like it’s such a complex and challenging problem,” he said, “and I feel like as a person over here in England … I feel like I don’t have anything particularly positive to offer.”
The father-of-two then talked about taking a walk with his children over the weekend and coming across “a pro-Palestine protest,” before saying that the only side he is taking on the Middle East conflict is that of “solution.”
“I support anybody who wants to end conflict, that wants to find a peaceful solution to this ongoing tragic, sad, historically complex problem,” he said. “For me, these are the two sides: ongoing conflict and solution. If there were a side labeled solution, I would be on that side.”
He added, “What I feel is, what would you have any individual do, other than say, can we find forgiveness in our hearts? Can we move forward? Can we look for things we have in common? Can we find love together? What is there in this issue that can bring anything other than sadness? How can any situation be resolved unless the people that are entrenched on either side are willing to change.”
“If I could advocate for one thing, it would be an end to polarization,” Brand said.
He concluded the video by asking viewers what might be done to minimize hate on both sides of the conflict.
“How can we find ways of getting along with one another, allowing people to be different, allowing people to hold their own views [and] trying to create conditions in which we can live peacefully side by side,” he said. “Not aspiring for utopia or perfection but, for G-d sake, something better than this.”
After the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, Brand joined other celebrities in calling for a boycott of Israel, and for financial institutions to cut off investment ties with the Jewish state.
On Thursday, Brand began publishing a series of interviews with people representing what he called “different opposing sides” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His first guest — the Holocaust survivor and Hungarian-born physician Gabor Maté — lambasted Israel during their conversation.
“There’s no way you could have ever created a Jewish state without oppressing and expelling the local population,” Maté said. He called Gaza the “world’s largest outdoor prison,” and that “given those conditions, of course people will go for extremist leadership,” referring to the 2006 electoral victory of Hamas.
“The disproportion of power and responsibility and oppression is so markedly on one side, that you take the worst thing you can say about Hamas, multiply it by a thousand times — and it still will not meet the Israeli repression, and killing, and dispossession of Palestinians,” he told Brand.