After apologizing for remarks made following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, CAA’s co-chief of the motion pictures department Maha Dakhil is stepping away from her leadership role in the division. Additionally she’s resigning from the Century City-based firm’s internal agency board.
Dakhil, whose clients include Tom Cruise, Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon, Anne Hathaway and more, came under scrutiny for an Instagram post that had been highly critical of Israel and referenced “genocide.” That post was later deleted and the agent apologized for the remarks.
“I made a mistake with a repost in my Instagram story, which used hurtful language,” Dakhil wrote in an Oct. 19 statement. “Like so many of us, I have been reeling with heartbreak. I pride myself on being on the side of humanity and peace. I’m so grateful to Jewish friends and colleagues who pointed out the implications and further educated me. I immediately took the repost down. I’m sorry for the pain I have caused.”
As word of the post reverberated across town, attention turned to what action, if any, that the Bryan Lourd-run major agency — which was subject to multiple headlines about the comments — would take in response. While Dakhil will not lead the motion pictures department, she will continue to work with clients.
The shake-up reflects the fraught social media environment in the weeks since Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,400 people, and the country’s airstrike response in Gaza. Leaders like Jonathan Greenblatt, who runs the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), have encouraged Hollywood voices to speak out firmly in favor of Israel, arguing, “In light of how distorting social media algorithms can present the world, it’s even more important for these voices to cut through.” Earlier this year, the ADL published a report stating that 2022 saw a “record-setting” number of antisemitic incidents (including harassment and vandalism) in Los Angeles.
But while major studios — including Disney, Paramount and Comcast — issued donations to humanitarian organizations after the attack and executives like Bob Iger and Shari Redstone condemned Hamas’ actions, there’s been a groundswell of activist attention in Hollywood on the perceived lack of similar support for the Palestinian people.
In the days following the attack, a petition circulated with 700-plus entertainment industry names signing an open letter in support of Israel, which included signatures of the top execs at CAA including Lourd and co-chairmen Richard Lovett and Kevin Huvane. “The open letter calls on the entertainment community to speak out forcefully against Hamas, to support Israel,” that note read.
Shortly after, an A-list group of at least 57 stars put their name to a letter addressed to President Biden to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. “We believe all life is sacred, no matter faith or ethnicity and we condemn the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians,” that letter read.
The conflict has raised a debate about when and how Hollywood companies should weigh in on a divisive issue that has fractured opinion among typically liberal-leaning executives and talent. While the Directors Guild and SAG-AFTRA released statements on Oct. 11 and Oct. 13 deploring the initial Hamas attack, the Writers Guild of America held off from comment as the board was divided on a response and ultimately didn’t make a statement.