Pop singer Lorde, in explaining her decision to cancel a performance in Israel, described herself as an “informed young citizen,” who finally read up on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Billboard magazine reported on December 24.
Events of the week though have conspired to show that that pop star is far from being fully informed about the conflict and is just a recent rare trophy for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign that seeks to delegitimize Israel. Though the founders of BDS are quite clear in their statements that their goal is to destroy Israel, they cloak the campaign in the language of Palestinian rights.
The campaign itself, often overstates or even lies about its successes. For years BDS claimed that the American rock band The Pixies and legendary guitarist Carlos Santana had joined the boycott Israel. Both had canceled concerts for their own reasons but subsequently performed in Israel, demonstrating that they weren’t part of the campaign.
Other artists have stood up to the pressure tactics of the BDS campaign. This year, notably, Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds and Thom Yorke of Radiohead spoke out against BDS as they performed in Tel Aviv.
Yorke called BDS “offensive” and “partronizing” in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine ahead of his bands trip to Israel.
Cave said that he loved Israel and Israelis and that the BDS campaign makes it difficult, explaining that “you have to go through public humiliation from Roger Waters and his partners and no one wants to embarrass themselves publicly.” But he took “a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians. So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”
One of the more outspoken opponents of an artistic boycott of Israel is pioneering punk-rocker John Lydon, who went by Johnny Rotten as leader of The Sex Pistols, who told The Independent in 2010, ““If Elvis-f***ing-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated.”
Lydon’s formulation shows the hypocrisy of the BDS campaign. BDS treats Israel, not as an imperfect country, but as one that is uniquely evil, requiring ostracization. But when compared with much of the world, and especially in comparison to its neighbors in the Middle East, Israel is a remarkable success, and, in many ways a beacon of virtue.
It is this distinction that eluded Lorde, and, presumably, the reading she did on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provided by the BDS campaigners was highly selective. But the news this past week actually highlighted these differences.
The same day that Lorde’s remarks about being “informed” were reported, Israeli media reported that Israeli players would be denied visas to participate in a tournament in Saudi Arabia, despite being ranked eleventh in the world.
Two days later it was reported that a baby born to Syrian refugees in Cyprus had been airlifted to Israel for life-saving heart surgery. Of course, Israel has become known for offering medical aid to Syrians who live on the border with Israel and are denied even standard medical care due to the civil war.
These two news stories demonstrated the speciousness behind BDS. On the one hand, Israel was excluded from an international tournament because it is the Jewish state. On the other, Israel offered treatment to a helpless baby born to people with whom it is technically at war. Despite the hatred displayed towards it, Israel’s humanitarian instincts shone through.
By cancelling her show in Tel Aviv, Lorde sided with the bigots, not the humanitarians.
Two other stories this week further emphasized this disparity.
A study released this week showed that Israeli Arabs have a higher life expectancy than 21 other nations in the Arab and Muslim world. If Israel were truly the villain the BDS campaign makes it out to be, this wouldn’t be true.
Longtime Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported this week that Iraq just passed a law denying Palestinians citizenship rights. “Iraq,” in his words, “has just joined the long list of Arab countries that shamelessly practice apartheid against Palestinians.” For Palestinians this means that “they have more rights in non-Arab countries than they have in Arab ones.”
On the one hand, we see that Israel allows all of its citizens—even its minorities—to thrive. On the other, we see that those most vocal about accusing Israel of discrimination are themselves discriminating against the Palestinians.
Lorde chose to take a stand on a week when the news undermines the premise of her interlocutors, that there was a compelling moral reason for her to cancel her concert in Israel.
Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand Dr. Itzhak Gerberg has reached out to Lorde asking for a one-on-one meeting. If Lorde accepts, he only needs to recount the news of the week to show her how shortsighted her decision to cancel her show was.
[Photo: 60Minutes9 / YouTube]