Steve Leder, the rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, was invited by WME to visit the agency’s Beverly Hills headquarters for four days following the Hamas terror strikes in Israel on October 7. He arrived to offer consolation to workers in shock following the biggest assault on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Several employees complained, and their concerns were forwarded to WME co-chairmen Richard Weitz and Christian Muirhead, even though Leder’s speech was regarded as humanist and the gathering was not required. Rather than give in, WME requested Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, to address the organization on November 1. Those there said that Greenblatt didn’t hold back while criticizing the Writers Guild of America for holding off on making a statement following the Hamas assault.
The agency’s most formidable adversary, CAA, was handling a situation across town. One of its senior agents, Maha Dakhil, started a stir on Instagram with a post that said, “What’s more heartbreaking than witnessing genocide? Witnessing the denial that genocide is happening.” As a result, Dakhil lost her position as co-chief of the motion picture division, although she was still permitted to work as an agent. That Tom Cruise, her most significant client, told CAA he was supporting her didn’t hurt either. On November 15, Cruise met with Dakhil at her CAA office. According to an informed source, he made the uncommon decision to see his troubled agent in person to offer support.
However, the Dakhil problem didn’t stop there. According to insiders, a group of CAA assistants felt she was being mistreated by the agency and threatened to quit. They finally gave up on their threat because they thought management was railroading her. Simultaneously, a number of the agents who lodged internal complaints against Dakhil’s posts were disheartened and thought she ought to have been dismissed. Separately, due to inflammatory anti-Israeli social media remarks, CAA severed connections with two clients and a staff member. Similar incidents of firings, accusation-leveling, and betrayal are occurring throughout Hollywood as the sector struggles to deal with the intense emotions sparked by the escalation of bloodshed in the Middle East.
Even as around 240 hostages are still being held by Hamas, an increasing number of people, from elites to common people, are outraged by the antagonistic language used in Israel and the absence of unity. Some identify with the Palestinian plight and think Israel is doing the wrong thing. The sector has generally put up a united front in politics, from its unwavering support of reproductive rights to its unified opposition to former President Trump, which makes the polarisation noteworthy. However, the fissures are visible when it comes to Israel.
“There’s just no excuse for not condemning Hamas and demanding the release of the hostages. Hollywood was quick to declare Black Lives Matter, as they should, and Time’s Up, as they should, and myriad other important causes”.Greenblatt says to Variety. “There’s plenty of room for criticism of Israel or to voice concerns about the ongoing war in Gaza, but that doesn’t provide celebrities and industry reps with an open license to wage unfair accusations against Israel, such as accusing it of ‘apartheid’ or ‘genocide’ or, worse, to celebrate the actions of Hamas terrorists.” Some people are done. According to insiders, Melissa Barrera was secretly fired by Spyglass from the upcoming “Scream” movie because of her social media posts in which she called Israel a “colonized” land and promoted the antisemitic myth that Jews own the media, saying that, “Western media only shows the [Israeli] side. Why do they do that, I will let you deduce for yourself.”
After originally declining to comment, Spyglass later clarified in a statement to Variety that the actress was let go because her posts were deemed to be antisemitic: “Spyglass’ stance is unequivocally clear: We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form, including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech.”
Similarly, insiders claim that after the writer-director of “Sorry to Bother You,” Boots Riley, urged his fans on X to boycott an industry screening of footage of Hamas acts of violence at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, “La La Land” producer Marc Platt texted WME leadership about why Boots Riley was still a client. “When IDF and Israeli officials are at The Hague for war crimes, massacres, and genocidal actions- you won’t want your name or image to have been anywhere near it,” he said, branding the video as “murderous propaganda.”Riley is still a client of the agency, though. An official from Platt claims he only highlighted the posts. When social media messages become negative, CAA has been more inclined to sever ties. Assistant Jouman (Jasmine) Barakat was sacked by the agency due to her posts mocking Israel’s official account, which said, “Even Israelis Deserve to Live,” and referring to it as a “fascist regime.” Barakat also dubbed all Israelis white supremacists.
The co-authors of the 2022 book “White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better,” Saira Rao and Regina Jackson, were also fired by CAA due to their social media statements. In an article on X, Rao stated, “Zionists are starting to panic that more and more of the world sees them for the bloodthirsty genocidal ghouls they are.”
Variety is informed by Rao that “people of color” are being punished by Hollywood for voicing out.” “It’s disgusting. The genocide is indisputable. You can watch it on live TV. CAA will be on the wrong side of history. And shame on CAA for doing that to Maha.”. According to a CAA spokesman, Rao was removed for remarks that were judged to be antisemitic rather than for his support of Palestinians.
The word “genocide” has long been associated with problems in Hollywood especially when it pertains to Israel. After claiming that Israel was committing genocide, Mark Ruffalo issued an apology in 2021, saying, “It’s not accurate, it’s inflammatory, disrespectful, & is being used to justify antisemitism here & abroad.” Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem stated in 2014 denouncing Israel’s actions in Gaza as “genocide.” Both of them eventually defended their stances in response to harsh criticism. The differences within Hollywood might get wider. WME agent Robert Newman adds, “I’m not entirely surprised by the Jew-hating we’re seeing, but the fact that the dead weren’t even being buried when, at best, you were getting both sides-ism was horrifying. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”