Concert goers in Israel are having a good summer. Early June saw the arrival of Deep Purple. A few weeks later the Pet Shop Boys arrived. Two weeks after that Alicia Keys took the stage. Meanwhile Israel’s late summer and fall line-ups are rumored to include Rihanna, Psy, and The Killers.
Many of those acts and musicians have been openly dismissive of demands – made by activists from the so-called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement – that they cancel their concerts. BDS activists, who have been blasted by top watchdog groups as anti-Semitic in their tone and intention, have issued their demands alongside open and explicit threats of violence. According to Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs researcher Adam Shay, anti-Israel activists have gone so far as to threaten to murder former Beatle and rock legend Sir Paul McCartney:
“The situation is that the singer or the band was attacked in the virtual world by bullies, suffered actual violence and threats to their income or their lives or threats to blow up the show. Video clips were put up on YouTube calling on people to boycott the singer or band if they played in Israel,” says Shay.
“It’s the easiest thing to do all this on the Internet because there’s no accountability… if an artist gets 600 emails saying that’s going to happen to him, he can do nothing but be frightened. Artists complain of massive attacks, to the point where their websites crash, before they perform in Israel. These are well-timed attacks, coordinated among all the groups in the BDS movement, right up to the date and the hour.”…
“Yes, it is, and unfortunately very few artists have the guts to get up and say, ‘I got death threats, but I’m coming anyway.’ Paul McCartney did it. He went to the media and said: I got explicit death threats, but I have no intention of surrendering. I refuse to cancel my performances in Israel.
The intimidation has also engendered blowback from other musicians. Shay describes how Moby ended up suspecting something “dark and dubious” due to the tone of the attacks. Deep Purple members mocked artists who would cancel shows in the Jewish state over political concerns as “wimps.” The Pet Shop Boys blasted attacks on Israel as grounded in “crude caricatures.” Keys simply noted that music “is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love.” Shay describes how Moby reacted:
Sir Paul – who was among four lads lauded by Harvard-based psychologist Timothy Leary as “prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with a mysterious power to create a new human species, a young race of laughing freemen” – played to predictably and appropriately adoring crowds: