Selena Gomez has deleted Instagram after backlash to speaking out about the Israel-Palestine war. “I’m taking a break and deleting my Instagram,” she said on Friday. “I’m done. I do not support any of what’s going on.”
The Rare Beauty founder, 31, had previously spoken out about the violence in Gaza, which has seen at least 9,061 people killed by Israeli airstrikes since October 7, including 3,760 children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 1,400 people in Israel were killed by Hamas on October 7, with hundreds more taken hostage. (Note: it has not been possible for journalists to independently verify death toll figures from either Israeli or Palestinian authorities.)
“I’ve been taking a break from social media because my heart breaks to see all of the horror, hate, violence and terror that’s going on in the world,” she said on Instagram Stories earlier this week.
“People being tortured and killed or any act of hate towards any one group is horrific. We need to protect ALL people, especially children and stop the violence for good. I’m sorry if my words will never be enough for everyone or a hashtag. I just can’t stand by innocent people getting hurt. That’s what makes me sick. I wish I could change the world. But a post won’t. Love, Selena.”
Her statement sparked backlash online, with Twitter users claiming it was hypocritical for Selena to post in support of other issues but not speak up more about Israel-Palestine. “Only Selena Gomez would find a way to make a genocide about herself,” one (particularly nasty) tweet read.
Although it’s a situation calling for the world’s smallest violin, it’s worth noting that celebrities and content creators are facing backlash no matter what right now. Speaking up, not speaking up, speaking up in the ‘wrong’ way — taking a stance in this conflict means opening yourself up for hate, or even losing work. “The fury in my DMs was unparalleled,” Deb Perelman, a cookbook author with 183k followers on Instagram, told the New York Times after she expressed dread at the death “on both sides”. She’s not alone, with dozens of people who rely on social media for work telling the paper they were afraid to speak up, even in the wake of posts telling them their “silence is deafening”. Although social media has played a huge role in major news events over the last decade, the NYT noted that the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a uniquely thorny and divisive issue to navigate on social media, though, particularly for those not educated about the region or its history, or who are still forming their opinions.”
Why are people asking celebs like Selena to speak up?
The world’s eyes might be on Gaza, but getting information out of what the situation is like on the ground is immensely difficult. Last week, internet and phone services went down for 36 hours due to network damage, with humanitarian groups warning it could be used as a cover for war crimes. Israel cut Gaza’s comms a second time this week, according to Al Jazeera.
In addition, at least 34 journalists have been killed in airstrikes since October 7, according to international media freedom group Reporters Without Borders. The organisation is calling on International Criminal Court prosecutors to investigate the deaths, and has already filed a complaint regarding eight Palestinian journalists it says were killed in Israeli air strikes. Attacks intentionally targeting journalists is a war crime.
A group of United Nations experts have called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, warning that Palestinian people are at “grave risk of genocide”. They expressed “deepening horror” at Israeli air strikes on the Jabalia refugee camp, and said they were deeply concerned about the safety of UN and humanitarian workers, hospitals and schools providing refuge to the people of Gaza. The Israeli mission to the UN in Geneva has yet to respond.
Australia’s response has been weak in comparison. Foreign Minister Penny Wong has urged Israel to “listen” to its friends asking it to protect innocent lives in Gaza, and warned that the world “will not accept continuing civilian deaths”. However, Australia has fallen short of calling for a ceasefire, instead calling for a “pause” to allow aid into Gaza.
Plan International is asking Australians to call on Minister Wong and the Australian government to call for an immediate ceasefire and increase humanitarian aid. You can join those calls here.