Lorde performs during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, U.S. April 16, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The sudden cancellation of New Zealand pop sensation Lorde’s concert next June in Tel Aviv, only days after it was announced, was undoubtedly a blow to the “BDS is ineffective, everything is fine” mantra we, Israelis, like to believe.
She was, by far, the biggest contemporary name to announce a 2018 show in Israel, distantly followed by British rockers Alt-J, who are huge in the rock world and are returning for the second time. Although big summer shows at Park Hayarkon are likely to still be announced, the acts booked so far for 2018 are all from the oldies circuit even if they include a former Beatle (Ringo Starr, Ozzy Osbourne, Foreigner, The Scorpions).
On the one hand, who needs Lorde? There was a stellar lineup of performers who graced Israel’s shores this year, led by Radiohead and Nick Cave, both of whom were vocal in opposing the BDS “bullying” tactics that evidently got to Lorde very quickly.
Their supportive statements against BDS advocate Roger Waters might have made us all warm and fuzzy, but they unfortunately, don’t represent the norm.
Nick Cave, Roger Waters war over BDS, Israel (i24 News)
There’s no denying that a passive boycott of Israel exists in the music world. Many artists, who aren’t necessarily pro- or anti-Israel, simply don’t want to get involved and be exposed to the onslaught that Lorde faced. When they book a tour, their agent knows not to weigh the offers from Tel Aviv.
And over the years, as Israeli promoters became more savvy about the effects of BDS campaigns, they began to provide comprehensive briefings to artists’ representatives of the nature of what they can expect when they announce a show in Israel.
There is no way that Lorde and her management weren’t aware of the storm they were heading into by booking a show in Israel. But a few angry emails in theory pale in comparison to the onslaught of “cancel your show” diatribes in practice.
Like Elvis Costello (2010) and Lauryn Hill (2015) before her, to name a couple, Lorde succumbed to the pressure and whoever happened to have her ear at the decisive moment.
But Lorde’s decision also dredges up another, more worrisome dimension for Israel – losing a generation.
There is no shortage of aging rockers who don’t have a young, merchandise-buying fan base to alienate and will gladly play to a full house in Israel. But artists like Lorde do have that fan base to consider. And when a certain vocal segment starts bombarding them with “Israel is Apartheid” tweets, the weak and uninformed will crumble under the pressure.
And it’s not only because they may not have any natural affinity for Israel. A younger generation of music fans – especially of urban music like hip hop – naturally affiliates with progressive Black Lives Matter-like movements that promote that dreaded American concept of “intersectionality” with oppressed Palestinians.
For them, Israel is an anathema. Some artists are acutely aware of that and deliberately choose to avoid the potential land mine of performing here. Other artists, like Rag Bone Man and Russ, who both very quietly also scrapped already-booked Israel shows recently, only find out afterwards when their social media explodes.
The Lorde cancellation, taken on its own, is only a slight tremor in the very robust concert industry in Israel. As the show’s promoter Eran Arielli noted, “This is not the first cancellation we’ve had, and it won’t be the last.”
However, if it portends a trend of contemporary artists deciding that Israel is not worth the emotional distress or possible financial loss in offending some fans, Israel’s musical future is going to be full of a lot more Ringos. That may be great for baby boomers, but it’s bad for Israel.