Yellow Ribbons on the Red Carpet for Israeli Hostages? Maybe
Pressure is on talent to show support at the Golden Globes as some handlers advise clients not to get involved
Even though the war between Israel and Hamas is raging half a world away it’s all but guaranteed to make a cameo — at least in some form or fashion — at Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony, and attendees already are fretting over how to handle the explosive and divisive topic.
Over the past few days, several of the industry’s most popular WhatsApp chat groups, where participants exchange ideas on how to advocate best for Israel, have been buzzing with ideas on how to push their agendas during the Jan. 7 Globes telecast on CBS, the first major televised event in this year’s awards season. According to several sources, an effort is underway to pressure celebrity attendees to wear yellow ribbons to remind viewers and their Hollywood colleagues of the Israeli hostages still in captivity after being abducted during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. More than 240 hostages were taken by Hamas and 105 of them were released during a temporary truce back in November (during that truce, 240 Palestinians also were released from Israeli prisons). At one point there was talk of urging attendees to wear dog tag necklaces to show support for the hostages but the effort, spearheaded by the group Bring Them Home, ultimately landed on the wearing of yellow ribbons instead.
Fears that the war could spread into a wider regional conflict were stoked in recent days by two deadly events. On Jan. 1, Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri was killed in an attack in south Beirut; on Jan. 3, Iran said that 103 people were killed by a bombing during a commemoration for a prominent Iranian general slain by the U.S. in a 2020 drone strike. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing but Iran's leaders immediately vowed to punish those responsible.
Back here in L.A., the holidays gave brief respite to mounting tensions that have resulted in Hollywood’s own casualties: broken friendships, lost jobs, agencies dropping clients for saying something inflammatory. But with international press arriving for the Globes, it seems all but unavoidable that the Israel-Gaza war will be a topic of discussion for reporters working the red carpet.
“It’s going to find itself front and center on the red carpet and it’s going to end up being, ‘who’s with Israel and who’s not?’ You had a lot of talent who signed the cease-fire letter. Are they going to put on a ribbon?” asks a public relations specialist, a member of one of the WhatsApp groups, who noted that in recent years industry awards shows haven’t exactly shunned complex political topics during the ceremonies.
Last year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a video appearance during the 80th Annual Golden Globes in which he thanked “the free world” for its support. During the peak of Time’s Up and Black Lives Matter, attendees donned bracelets and pins. Just last year some people wore blue ribbons to show solidarity with the world's refugee population. Says the PR specialist: “There are a lot of people who are pro-Israel who think Hollywood has dropped the ball on this and that talent isn’t doing what they need to be doing. It’s just so loaded.”
One crisis PR specialist said they would urge clients to try and avoid the topic if possible but if they felt like they needed to say something or were prompted to say something, to focus on safeguarding the lives of the most vulnerable victims — 1,200 people were killed in Israel on Oct. 7 and according to figures provided by Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry, more than 22,000 people have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza — regardless which side they are on. “This isn’t something as simple as we hate Trump or we support #BLM or Time’s Up — this is so much more nuanced.”