New Zealand songstress Lorde recently buckled under pressure from the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and canceled her June concert in Tel Aviv.
In response, Israel-bashers cheered, Israel’s supporters jeered, and the story was covered all over the media.
Contrast that to earlier this year when Radiohead’s Thom Yorke gave his BDS tormentors the proverbial finger and Aussie Nick Cave said BDS harassment bolstered his determination to perform.
In response, Israel supporters cheered, Israel’s bashers jeered, and the story was covered all over the media.
So, exactly which side is winning in the cultural boycott campaign against Israel? The answer is: it depends on how you keep score.
The cultural boycott campaign against Israel was initiated in 2005. It seeks to isolate the country by pressuring international artists to cancel their performances in the Jewish homeland.
The campaign falsely accuses Israel of human rights abuses like institutional racism and apartheid, and then says that if an artist performs in Israel, he or she is a racist and condones apartheid.
When it comes to convincing artists to cancel performances in Israel, boycott proponents are clearly failing. Hundreds of artists such as Aerosmith, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears perform in Israel each year despite these very public attacks on their character.
As musician Alan Parsons recently said, the cultural boycott campaign “is an appeal for a boycott, not a boycott. As long as it is an appeal, it can be rejected.”
Unfortunately, however, assessing success for the cultural boycott solely by pointing to the number of international performances in Israel is akin to a business measuring profit by focusing on gross receipts and ignoring expenses.
The fact is that the cultural boycott is not a zero-sum game.
Where the boycott campaign succeeds is using the popularity of artists to spread slanderous misinformation about the Jewish state. The goal is to make Israel persona non grata in the eyes of the world. Cultural events and artists are vehicles to disseminate their propaganda.
BDS issues calls to boycott in emotionally manipulative sound bites and images that are as powerful as they are misleading. Deceptive slogans like “Apartheid Israel” and “Free Palestine” are easily and often parroted.
By using the name and likeness of artists, the cultural BDS draws the attention of hundreds of thousands of people to these untrue and hateful messages. Social media “sharing” spreads the lies further.
This explains why boycott proponents continue to flood social media with calls to cancel to performers like frequent visitor to Israel Ricky Martin, who adores Israel and would never consider such.
On the night of their smash concert in October 2015, Bon Jovi dedicated their song “We Don’t Run” to Tel Aviv. In the many months prior, however, thousands saw photoshopped images associating Israel with destruction and suffering.
In April 2017, 47 artists signed an open letter falsely accusing Israel of apartheid and urging the popular rock band Radiohead to cancel its scheduled performance in Tel Aviv. The number of signatories was small and mostly comprised of known Israel detractors, such as musician Roger Waters, director Ken Loach and actress Julie Christie. Nevertheless, it still made the news.
Both mainstream and entertainment publications such as Pitchfork, The Washington Times
, Vulture and Yahoo News covered the story and helped circulate the fallacious statement across the globe.
News of Lorde’s cancellation has appeared in dozens of news outlets including industry publications such as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter
and Deadline Hollywood
Typically, Israel’s supporters respond by rebutting false accusations or pointing to the failure of the cultural boycott to gain traction. Organizations and individuals cluck in disappointment or hurl accusations at the artist.
Although it is crucial to refute slander, this keeps the conversation focused on the false charges against Israel and does not press dispassionate onlookers to examine the morality of the campaign or the negative impact it can have on their own lives.
Anger and disappointment at an artist who does not have the fortitude to stand up against a deluge of social media bullying maybe understandable, but it’s not productive.
Instead, we must point the finger of shame where it belongs – at those who seek to separate artist from audience to advance their own political agenda.
We must encourage artists to follow in Nick Cave’s footsteps and “make a principled stand against anyone who wants to censor and silence musicians.”
Radiohead’s lead singer, Thom Yorke, struck the right chord in a Rolling Stone interview when he called out the signatories for their arrogance in trying to tell Radiohead band members what to think and where to work.
Artists do not like being told what to do. People want to make their own decisions about what music they hear and which films they see. Even those among us clamoring for “safe spaces” do not want strangers editing their iTunes playlists.
If artists and Israel supporters alike champion the ideal that it is the individual, not a politically motivated third party, who should decide what he or she wishes to experience, we all win.The author, CEO of Liberate Art Inc., is a 20-year veteran of the entertainment industry, a leading expert on countering the cultural boycott effort against Israel and a professional writer and speaker.