Barrera’s Firing: Is This Really What American Jews Want?

By Glenn Sacks

Spyglass Media Group has dropped actress Melissa Barrera from the cast of “Scream 7”, where she was a lead actress, because the company has “zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form…or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech.” Yet the Instagram posts for which Barrera has been dismissed do not attack Jewish people, they criticize Israeli government policies and the American media’s coverage of them. 

Variety magazine cites Barrera resharing an article about those distorting “the Holocaust to boost the Israeli arms industry” as one of the reasons for Spyglass’ action. In that article, Israeli historian Raz Segal, an associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University, criticizes an Israeli company for going along with Bulgaria's minimization and whitewash of its role in the Holocaust in order to get a lucrative defense contract. Is resharing an Israeli’s criticism of an Israeli arms manufacturer anti-semitic?

Variety’s sources also say Barrera was fired due to her social media posts that referred to Israel as a “colonized” land. To be fair to Israelis, “colonized” is a simplification. It would be more accurate to say:

“Jews colonized part of Palestine after fleeing from the worst event in all of human history at a time when other countries–including the US–refused to take them in. This colonization has been a disaster for the Palestinians.” 

Simplifications are common on Instagram and in short posts–should a young actress be expected to write with the depth and precision of a seasoned historian?

Another Barrera post being criticized states that "Gaza is currently being treated like a concentration camp. Cornering everyone together, with nowhere to go, no electricity, no water…THIS IS GENOCIDE & ETHNIC CLEANSING."

Again, this could be better–a more accurate statement would be:

“While hunting for terrorists who committed a horrific, indefensible atrocity against Israeli civilians, Gaza is currently being treated like a concentration camp. Cornering everyone together, with nowhere to go, no electricity, no water…” 

There is nothing remarkable or original about Barrera's statement–these descriptions are common amongst human rights activists in many countries, including Israel. 

According to Variety, sources say that another of Barrera’s Instagram statements that hastened her dismissal is, “Western media only shows the [Israeli] side. Why do they do that, I will let you deduce for yourself.” 

Here Barrera is accused of peddling the old anti-semitic “Jews control the media” trope. Yet there are numerous reasons for American media’s pro-Israel tilt that Barrera was perhaps instead considering, including the longtime pro-Israel position of American presidents and members of Congress, as well as most Americans’ positive view of Israel. Perhaps Barrera believes the American-Israeli alliance and the $300+ billion the US has given Israel since World War II, most of it military aid, influences media coverage.

To be fair Barrera’s critics, “only shows” the Israeli side is an exaggeration–“mostly” shows would be more accurate. Before Israel's internationally-condemned, overkill response to October 7th, “only” would have been more accurate than it is today. 

Among Barrera's other statements being cited by various critics are that “the world has been trying to make [the Palestinians] invisible for decades” and “People have [learned] nothing from our histories. And just like our histories, people are still silently watching it all happen.” The former is unremarkable and largely correct, the latter is what people say whenever something terrible in the world is going on and the rest of the world does not take meaningful action to stop it. No anti-semitism here either.

Internationally it is widely understood that Americans and American media have long held a very different view of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than do those in most countries. This is one reason why America and Israel have so often been on the losing side of lopsided United Nations votes condemning various Israeli actions and policies. Since 1972, the US has vetoed over 50 UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel. Barrera is a Mexican actress expressing a view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is common in her country, in Latin America, and in the world as a whole.

Barrera is not the only one in Hollywood being punished for comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but her dismissal is clearly the most unjust.

Many prominent Jews and Jewish organizations are cheerleading for these types of punitive actions, including Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who explains that “celebrities and industry reps” don’t have “an open license to wage unfair accusations against Israel.” Such attitudes have helped create a blind overreaction guaranteed to create a backlash–a backlash that will probably include anti-semitism. 

Barrera lost her job for legitimate criticism of a foreign government. Is this really what American Jews want?