JERUSALEM – A pro-peace group is hoping that a potent mix of Hollywood glamour and religion will motivate Palestinians to vote in next week's presidential elections — and their star attraction is actor Richard Gere (search).
Gere, together with an Islamic cleric and a Greek Orthodox Church official, recorded a public service announcement calling on the Palestinians to vote in the Jan. 9 election to replace Yasser Arafat (search).
"Hi, I'm Richard Gere and I'm speaking for the entire world. We're with you during this election time. It's really important: Get out and vote," Gere said, according to a transcript of the announcement obtained by The Associated Press.
Gere ended the 80-second announcement produced by the pro-peace group, "One Voice," with an appeal in Arabic: "Take part in the elections."
The ad is to be aired on Palestinian TV and Arabic satellite channels in the next few days, said Fathi Darwish, a Palestinian director of "One Voice."
The group tries to harness the power of ordinary citizens to push for creation of a Palestinian state to live peacefully next to Israel. The people power is backed by Hollywood stars like Danny DeVito (search) and Rhea Perlman. Its Internet Web site claims support from actors Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Edward Norton.
"We chose Richard Gere because he believes that freedom and liberty are for everyone," Darwish said. "He is a known supporter of the Palestinian people," he said.
Gere has made a number of visits to Israel and the Palestinian areas in the last few years. A spokeswoman for Gere had no immediate comment.
Turnout for the presidential elections, the first held since 1996, is expected to be high. Last week EU observers said voter registration exceeded all expectations.
Joining Gere in the announcement are Sheik Taissir Tamimi, the head of the Islamic court in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Atallah Hanah, the spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.
In the broadcast transcript Tamimi said, "To the Palestinian people, it is a vital process, national necessity and religious obligation."
"We want democracy in our country, a place with freedom, and freedom of speech," Hanah said in the ad.
Hanah said he and Tamimi recorded the broadcast together. Gere made the recording in the U.S., Darwish said.
While Gere was chosen for his star appeal, it's not clear how much celebrity status he has among the Palestinians.
"I've never heard of him before," Hanah said of his co-star.