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Stars Dabble in Diplomacy

Where presidents, diplomats and politicians have failed, Hollywood stars hope to succeed.

Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt and Danny DeVito are among celebrities hoping their star power can help achieve peace in the Middle East.

The Hollywood bigwigs have joined up with a group called OneVoice, which plans to appeal to Israeli and Palestinian "ordinary folk" to bring peace to a region that has recently seen every potential agreement shredded by bomb blasts.

"The past few years of conflict mean that yet another generation of Israelis and Palestinians will grow up in hatred," Pitt and Aniston said in a joint statement. "We cannot allow that to happen."

Signing up celebrities to put a face on specific causes is nothing new, but after Barbra Streisand (search) and Martin Sheen (search) experienced a backlash for expressing political beliefs, is it wise for stars to get involved in politics?

Experts say that while some Americans think celebrities, Arnold Schwarzenegger aside, should keep their noses out of politics, Pitt, Aniston and company aren't endangering their image by backing peace.

"When you have something as vague and general as 'We hope people will get together to have a path to peace,' I don't think anyone will say much," said Neal Gabler, Fox News contributor and author of "Life: The Movie." "It's comparable to a Miss America participant saying she prays for peace."

Lori Bardsley, who founded the group Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits (search), believe actors should keep their politics to themselves.

"The don't have any government training or political training. Just because they are big names, they have some clout," she said. "But they should stick to acting and stop throwing their weight around."

OneVoice, started by Mexican-American businessman Daniel Lubetzky, aims to galvanize Israelis and Palestinians by creating a "Proclamation of Principles for Reconciliation" and giving ordinary people a voice in the peace process.

The actual elements of the "Proclamation" have yet to be unveiled, but Lubetzky's idea is to put forth a series of possible criteria for an agreement people can vote on.

"It's the first time anyone is going straight to the people," said Lubetzky. "Imagine the historic power of creating a document created by the people. It has so much moral authority. It will propel and embolden political leaders to follow the will of the people."

The organization is planning Web sites, mail-in newspaper surveys and telephone hotlines where people can vote.

But what place do bold-faced names like Pitt, Aniston and DeVito have in such a serious issue? None, according to some scholars.

"From time to time, some celebrities think that they might help, and the media amplifies their mission," Oz Almog, an Israeli sociologist, told the British newspaper The Telegraph. "But this is an incredibly complex situation and I am afraid they are naïve."

Some celebs — Lubetzky wouldn't say which ones — will tape public-service announcements, participate in "goodwill tours," give donations and host events to spread the word about OneVoice's mission.

One of Hollywood's hottest couples can sell magazines and fill seats at theaters, but Almog, for one, was skeptical about the stars' ability to influence the people of the Middle East.

"Many Palestinians do not even have television sets," he told The Telegraph. "What is more, for the past three years here no one has listened to anyone, so what makes these people think they will listen to Danny DeVito?"

Lubetzky is aware that having stars associated with his organization is a mixed blessing that can bring attention on one hand and distract from the issues on the other. But he said the celebrities are merely concerned citizens who want to support a good cause.

"We've been careful to work with celebrities who know where their place is," said Lubetzky. "They don't dare say they have the solutions to the conflict. They are positive role models. They can encourage kids to be leaders and to be peacemakers."

For Bardsley, regardless of the cause, celebrity influence is exactly what she objects to.

"We didn't vote for them, but they can influence our kids," she pointed out. "They think they can affect foreign policy and bring peace just because they are celebrities."

Gabler said unless the actors take a controversial stand, their careers and public personas will remain unscathed.

"It would be very different if they said 'The Israelis have to negotiate with Yasser Arafat.' That would have repercussions," he said. But he added that their participation probably wouldn't have much impact either way.

"I don't think having Jen and Brad involved will facilitate the peace process," Gabler observed.

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