Richard Gere Says Palestinian City Reminds Him Of Jim Crow Era

“It’s exactly what the Old South was in America. Blacks knew where they could go. You didn’t cross over if you didn’t want to get your head beat in, or you get lynched.”



A Hollywood “A” list actor became deeply uncomfortable when he visited the West Bank city of Hebron, and did not mince words when voicing his displeasure at the “dead city” that reminded him of the Jim Crow era.

Richard Gere visited Hebron — a Palestinian city partially occupied by the Israeli Army — to promote his new movie titled “Norman” in the company of director Joseph Cedar, an Israeli, and two crew members from Channel 2 News. The group was guided by the Israeli anti-occupation group, Breaking the Silence, created by former members of the Israel Defense Forces.

But while touring the city, the actor said the city reminded him of “the Old South in America.”

“This is the thing that’s flipping me out right now…This is really bizarre, this is genuinely strange … It’s a dead city but who owns the city, and their feeling of ‘I’m protected, I can do whatever I want,’” said Gere, as he watched Jewish settlers walking around freely in the city which was once a thriving commercial area for the Palestinians — and where now the oppressed people are unable to show their faces for fear of persecution.

“Blacks knew where they could go: They could drink from that fountain, they couldn’t go over there, they couldn’t eat in that place. It was well understood — you didn’t cross over if you didn’t want to get your head beat in, or you get lynched,” Gere added.

The actor was speaking about the Jim Crow era, a racial caste system between the late ‘80s and the mid ‘90s, run by a series of rigid anti-black laws. Under the discriminatory laws, African Americans were relegated to lower class citizens. They were forced to sit at the back of the bus, forced to drink from ill-kept, unhygienic water fountains, forced to subsist on cheap, low quality food or served last in eateries (or not at all, in some cases).

If a black person touched a white woman, implied a white person was lying, impugned upon his “honor,” or demonstrated superior skill or knowledge, all of this could become grounds for lynching.

But that was in the “dark ages” of the South.

It’s horrifying to see that such treatment of human beings exists in the 21st century.

The territory of Hebron observed by Gere is home to around 500 “radical Jewish settlers,” according to 972 Mag, known for their “extreme racism.” Over 160,000 Palestinians also live in the city but scarcely any can now be seen on Shuhada Street, which is now occupied by a heavy Israeli military presence.

As for the Palestinian citizens, their shops have been welded shut, their homes that face the streets going toward the synagogue, bricked up.

In an interview last week, Gere fears the horrible conflict between Israeli and Palestinians is there to stay.

"There's a sense of acceptance that the terrible status quo is the way it's going to be," he said.






Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Kevin Lamarque

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