Richard Gere's election appeal perplexes Palestinians
Many Palestinian voters, already struggling with the labyrinthine politics of the West Bank and Gaza, say they have never heard of Richard Gere who has been recruited to urge them to vote in elections this weekend.
Well known for his vocal support of Tibet's Dalai Lama and celebrated for his captivating good looks, Gere urged Palestinians in a television commercial broadcast ahead of Sunday's poll in the West Bank and Gaza to get out to vote for a new president to succeed Yasser Arafat, who died in November.
"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 in the advertisement. He repeated the final phrase in Arabic.
"I don't even know who the candidates are other than Mahmoud Abbas, let alone this Gere," Gaza soap factory worker Manar An Najar told Reuters.
"We don't need the Americans' intervention. We know who to elect. Not like them - they elected a moron."
Moderate Fatah faction candidate Mahmoud Abbas is the frontrunner to succeed Yasser Arafat in the first Palestinian election since 1996.
The Gere spot, sponsored by grassroots Israeli-Palestinian peace lobby One Voice, recalled ads put out by Hollywood notables to support Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry in November's US elections.
He lost to President George W Bush.
The actor's Los Angeles-based spokesman, Alan Nierob, said Gere has visited the Middle East several times during the past year "just educating himself" about the region.
He said the 15-second public service announcement was taped in New York in recent months on behalf of One Voice after the non-profit group asked Gere to do the spot.
Gere, 55, said in a statement that while he is not "officially associated" with One Voice, he felt that "this is a truly historic moment for the Palestinians as well as for the entire region, with the possibility for a real vision of peace and security for all people".
Gere, star of American Gigolo and Pretty Woman, was last seen in theatres with Jennifer Lopez in the film Shall We Dance.
He is due to appear with actress Juliette Binoche in the upcoming family drama Bee Season.