Barnes Campaigns With Celebrity Anti-Israel Activist on Eve of Election

Mark Ruffalo, who called for sanctions against Israel and compared Jewish state to apartheid-era South Africa, headlines Barnes fundraiser

'13 Going on 30' actor Mark Ruffalo / YouTube
November 7, 2022

Mandela Barnes, the Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate, capped off his campaign by hosting a fundraiser on Sunday with actor and anti-Israel activist advocate Mark Ruffalo, who is under fire after objecting to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism.

Ruffalo, who is best known for his supporting role in 13 Going on 30, on Sunday headlined a "Save Democracy" fundraiser for Barnes, which also included appearances by actors Don Cheadle and Rosario Dawson. Ruffalo has called for sanctions against the Jewish state, compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa, and had to apologize last year after accusing Israel of "genocide."

The event with Ruffalo comes as Barnes has faced criticism for praising other prominent Israel-bashers—including Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and anti-Semitic pastor Jeremiah Wright.

"Wisconsin … ASSEMBLE," wrote Barnes in a Twitter post promoting the fundraiser. "Can't wait to be joined by @markruffalo@doncheadle@rosariodawson@YOSOYCORDOVA, and @clarkgregg to send Ron Johnson packing."

Ruffalo recorded a video inviting fans to the "exclusive live-streamed event." "We're gonna fight for the safeguard of American democracy against these nutjobs," said Ruffalo in the video.

Ruffalo sparked outrage on Friday after he posted an article on Twitter from Qatar-funded news outlet Al Jazeera opposing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism, which has been adopted by the United States and dozens of other countries.

Anti-Israel activists have objected to the definition because it categorizes certain attacks on Israel, such as calling the Jewish state a "racist endeavor" and comparing Israeli policy to "the Nazis," as anti-Semitic.

"Alon Confino, a Pen Tishkach chair of Holocaust Studies & professor of history & Jewish studies at UMass Amherst, warned that if the U.N. adopts the [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's] definition, 'the damage will be exponentially bigger to human rights, but also the U.N. itself,'" wrote Ruffalo in the Twitter post.

Ruffalo's comment drew strong criticism from Israel supporters, who noted the star's history of demonizing the Jewish state.

"Mark, you have absolutely no right to tell Jews what they consider hateful," wrote Jerusalem Post columnist Troy Fritzhand. "You are not Jewish and therefore have no insight into what we consider as anti-Semitic. So please, keep your mouth shut."

Michael Dickson, the executive director of StandWithUs, noted that Ruffalo's post came during a wave of violence against Jews, anti-Semitic comments from celebrities, and threats against synagogues.

"At a time of rising hatred and violence towards Jews, privileged Hollywood actor @MarkRuffalo would like to water down the internationally recognized definition of anti-Semitism so it can be open season on Jewish people," wrote Dickson.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an anti-Semitism watchdog group, said that it "agrees with @MarkRuffalo—if @TheIHRA definition of #Antisemitism is accepted by the @UN it will cause irreparable harm—not to free speech but to anti-Semites and to those who demonize #Israel and seek the Jewish state's destruction."

Ruffalo said last year that it was "time for sanctions on Israel," signed a letter accusing Israel of "apartheid occupation and settler colonialism," and accused Israel of committing "genocide." He apologized after his genocide comment drew public backlash, saying it was "inflammatory, disrespectful, & is being used to justify anti-Semitism."

Ruffalo also criticized Israel in 2014 for striking an empty Gaza hospital that Hamas was reportedly using as a rocket launch base and expressed disbelief that the terrorist group would use children as human shields as it launched rockets from schools and hospitals.

"Do you honestly think these people [Hamas], these fellow human beings, would use their own children as shields? Use your heart," wrote Ruffalo.