A top executive at one of Hollywood’s largest talent agencies weighed in at length on Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and denounced a letter that sought to take issue with statements of condemnation that were publicized shortly after the massacre that killed more than 1,400 people.
Jay Sures, vice chairman at United Talent Agency and also a member of the University of California system’s Board of Regents, wrote a letter dated Oct. 31 in response to a group called The UC Ethnic Studies Faculty Council. The executive, who was appointed to the UC Board of Regents in 2019 and was promoted to vice chairman at UTA last year, wrote that “there are absolutely no words to describe how appalling and repugnant I found” the Ethnic Studies Faculty Council letter and added that it is “rife with falsehoods about Israel and seeks to legitimize and defend the horrific savagery of the Hamas massacre.”
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That coalition of faculty members penned a letter on Oct. 16 to the Board of Regents stating that educational institutions’ statements “irresponsibly wield charges of ‘terrorism’ and ‘unprovoked’ aggression” and “have contributed to a climate that has made Palestinian students and community members unsafe, even in their own homes.”
The group that represents 300 faculty added, “UC administration statements that excuse Israeli genocide and erase Palestinian lives have directly contributed to this hostile climate on campus” and said that the school system’s communications “grossly decontextualize the structure of violence, daily death and suffering, and destruction of over 75 years of settler colonialism and globally acknowledged apartheid.”
The office of the president of the UC system, which the Ethnic Studies faculty group was taking issue with in this instance, had put out an Oct. 9 statement saying the attack “requires our collective condemnation.”
The faculty group’s Oct. 16 letter asked the UC leadership to “retract its charges of terrorism, to uplift the Palestinian freedom struggle, and to stand against Israel’s war crimes against and ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people.”
In reply, Sures wrote in his letter: “Let me be clear, I will do everything in my power to never let that happen. Full stop.” And the UTA chairman added that the school’s statement on the attack was “absolutely justified and necessary because terrorism has no place in our world.” He noted the UC System was “built on the promise that we must all find ways to foster healthy dialogue” and added, “Your letter does none of this … It perpetuates hate and discrimination.”
The letters reflect the polarized media environment in the weeks since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and Israel’s escalating war in Gaza. Hollywood, just like the rest of the corporate and academic landscapes, has seen rifts emerge as actors, executives and guild members have weighed in on the conflict. Numerous open letters, including ones signed by hundreds of actors, have been circulated and corporations like Disney, Paramount and Comcast have issued donations to humanitarian groups.
There have been flashpoints: UTA rival CAA drew backlash after top agent Maha Dakhil reposted an Instagram Story accusing Israel of “genocide” before deleting the comment and apologizing. Dakhil then stepped down for the time being from her leadership role as co-chief of the agency’s motion pictures department, as well as from the Century City-based firm’s internal board. Aaron Sorkin, a top client of Dakhil’s at CAA, decamped from the agency to rival WME after the incident.
Conversation in the industry has centered on the rise of antisemitism — Los Angeles saw a “record-setting” number of harassment and vandalism incidents in 2022, per an Anti-Defamation League report — but there has also been a groundswell of activist attention in Hollywood on the perceived lack of similar support for the Palestinian people amid the war in Gaza.
Sures’ full letter is below. The Los Angeles Times earlier reported the letter sent to the faculty group.
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